Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Newland Archer

Newland Archer, a young lawyer who is a member of New York’s high society. Married to May Welland, a girl from his own class, he falls in love with Ellen Olenska and for a time considers running away with her. He never does so because he is bound by his ties of marriage and convention.

Countess Ellen Olenska

Countess Ellen Olenska, a New York girl of good family who has married a Polish nobleman but now wishes a divorce from him. Intelligent and beautiful, she comes back to New York, where she tries to fit into the life she had known before her marriage. She falls in love with Newland Archer. When the young attorney, persuaded by her family, urges her not to seek a divorce, she leaves for Europe without him. Years later, Archer’s son visits Ellen in Paris.

May Welland Archer

May Welland Archer, Newland’s wife, a typical New York socialite with all the restrictions and forms adopted by that class. She triumphs over Ellen Olenska and saves her marriage with the announcement that she is to become a mother.

Mr. Welland

Mr. Welland and

Mrs. Welland

Mrs. Welland, May’s parents. Rich, conservative, puritanical, they are somewhat shocked by the discovery that their relative, Ellen, plans to divorce her husband. Clannishly, however, they give in her honor a party at which they announce the engagement of their daughter to Newland Archer.


(The entire section is 619 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Lewland Archer is the most fully developed character in the novel. He is a representative Wharton male character: a man with a finer...

(The entire section is 291 words.)