The novel is about how individuals tackle the status-quo of New York society in the late ninetenth century. The reader is presented with a series of characters, which when placed against eachother create such a paradox it is impossible to miss. For a woman to question her "place" in society was unthinkable during the ninetenth century. This does not mean it did not happen. Wharton is brillant in her creation of Newland, May Welland his intended, and the Countess Olenska. It is through these characters that Wharton questions the social status-quo between men and women. There are several minor characters that she uses to give the story more depth, but more so to add to her commentary. Ultimately the novel asks the bold question without actually asking it...if something is so important to you do you "rock the boat" or do you conform to what is expected of you. We must remember in answering this question the cost is going to be high, no matter what the outcome. Wharton's novel pushes the reader to confront a difficult topic, and in doing so allows the reader to assess their own truth.