Date of Award
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Sociology and University Honors
Newland Archer, Fantasy, Misogyny, Feminist, The Age of Innocence, May Welland
In this thesis, I’ll be analyzing Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence through a feminist lens, with a focus on the character of Newland Archer. Specifically, I'll examine who Archer is beyond a surface level, looking at his thoughts and fantasies and exposing his twisted, misogynistic outlook. I'll explore how his delusions affect the lives of the women around him, and how his behavior is reflective of the larger dynamic between men and women in society. Because the novel is written in close omniscient third person, the reader can both assess and align with Archer's mentality; the gap between the objectivity of the real narrator and the subjectivity of Archer's thoughts provides a chance to study him. Through this dual perspective, we are able to see how Archer creates a false fantasy narrative of his life, positioning himself as a Romantic hero in a tragic story. His patriarchal power allows him to enact his fantasy narrative onto the main female characters, May Welland and Ellen Olenska, severely damaging their lives. Archer can free himself from judgement for treating these women horribly by justifying his own actions within the framework of his fantasy. Classic feminist texts, as well as recent feminist interpretations of the novel, will help to provide further context for this analysis and will demonstrate how Archer's attitude aligns with much of the common toxic behavior of men today. This will show that despite the narrative that Archer pushes, he is a simple misogynist and nothing more.
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Comstock, Sonia, "Gender, Fantasy, and Misogyny in The Age of Innocence: A Character Study of Newland Archer" (2022). University Honors Theses. Paper 1242.