The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. The Age of Innocence centers on an upper-class couple's impending marriage, and the introduction of the bride's cousin, plagued by scandal, whose presence threatens their happiness. Though the novel questions the assumptions and morals of 1870s New York society, it never develops into an outright condemnation of the institution. The novel is noted for Wharton's attention to detail and its accurate portrayal of how the 19th-century East Coast American upper class lived, as well as for the social tragedy of its plot. Wharton was 58 years old at publication; she had lived in that world and had seen it change dramatically by the end of World War I.
Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was a brilliant, clever American writer known for such works as The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome. She became the first woman to win a Pulitzer when she was awarded the 1921 Prize for her novel The Age of Innocence. A member of the New York elite, Wharton funnelled her experiences into vivid portrayals and critiques of high society, while deftly exposing the painful tension between personal desires and societal norms. Wharton died in Paris in 1937 at the age of 75, having written 85 short stories, 16 novels, 11 works of nonfiction, and 3 books of poetry.Laura Ciolkowski is Associate Director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality and Adjunct Associate Professor of English & Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Her work on Victorian literature and culture has been published in numerous academic journals, including Studies in the Novel, Victorian Literature and Culture, Genders, and Novel: A Forum on Fiction.