Engaged to marry docile May Welland, Newland Archer falls madly in love with the nonconformist Countess Olenska, an older woman with a reputation, but his allegiance to the social code of their set makes their love an impossibility
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: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, published in 1920, won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize. The story is set in upper-class New York City in the 1870s. The Age of Innocence centers on an upper-class couple's impending marriage, and the introduction of a woman plagued by scandal whose presence threatens their happiness. Though the novel questions the assumptions and morals of 1870s' New York society, it never devolves into an outright condemnation of the institution. Not to be overlooked is Wharton's attention to detailing the charms and customs of the upper caste. The novel is lauded for its accurate portrayal of how the 19th-century East Coast American upper class lived, and this, combined with the social tragedy, earned Wharton a Pulitzer Prize â the first Pulitzer awarded to a woman. The title is an ironic comment on the polished outward manners of New York society, when compared to its inward machinations.