Edith Wharton's background was very much like the characters she depicted in the novel. She, like Newland Archer and May, came from old money. Like Newland, she felt pressured into a marriage that was approved by her family and with somewhat unhappy consequences. Unlike Newland who remained in his marriage, though, Edith Wharton divorced her husband.
Wharton actually wrote the novel for herself. She wrote it while she was working on a much more ambitious project. When the novel was published, she was quite shocked by its success. She expected it to have a limited audience, and was surprised by the number of readers who could relate to some of the choices that the main characters made.
While Wharton exposes the flaws of Old New York society, she also portrays some of its strengths as well. At the heart of the story...
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