National Endowment for the Arts - The Big Read
The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence

by Edith Wharton

No novel worth anything can be anything but a novel ‘with a purpose,’ and if anyone who cared for the moral issue did not see in my work that I care for it, I should have no one to blame but myself.


Edith Wharton, 1908 (Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Edith Wharton’s masterpiece, The Age of Innocence, presents the reader with two haunting questions. First, how can a novel with “innocence” in its title be so filled with feverish longing and smoldering desire? Second, how can a love story this passionate express itself with such respectable restraint? The answer to these questions can only be Wharton’s particular genius for portraying the mysterious contradictions of the human heart.

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