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The novel The Reef, by Edith Wharton, follows Wharton's characterization techniques by describing a young widow and socialite, Anna Leath, as a woman whose marriage had bound her to a very rigid social code of etiquette that is mainly triggered and then monopolized by the Old New York society. As a part of this set, Anna is basically part of the first clan of New Yorkers in the early 20thcentury, who ran New York City with their ties to their Dutch ancestors and former rulers of the land.
Anna had been living the fantasy world of the New York aristocracy and disguised her natural wonder and curiosity of life by following their rules. Her widowhood came as a shock, but gave her a small inkling into all that she had repressed in favor of continuing living to the expectations of marriage. When she encounters her long lost live, George Darrow, she experiences an awakening much like Edna Pontellier in Wharton's novel The Awakening.
However, Anna's awakening comes too late, as her infused traditions had already taken a good part of her behavior, and her past fears resurface again. She is in a love conundrum: She is insecure, unsure, and does not feel safe enough, brave enough, nor bold enough to sustain a relationship with George. She abandons her chances at happiness because tends to revert to her comfort zone, which is the strictness of her nature. In the end, there are no winners in her story. She loses her chance, and life goes on with that risk already taken. Anna is basically the epitome of awakening sexually, mentally, and psychologically but not being wise enough to understand the changes that come with such awakenings.
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