The Prevalence of Immortality and Mortality in Age of Innocence.
Immortality and mortality are usually ideas found in Greek mythology, yet I believe some inspection should be made when reading Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence regarding how the members of the New York society is to be perceived. The stark contrasts between mortals such as Ellen Olenska versus the seeming immortals amongst the society such as May Welland provide just some of the clues that Wharton left for us to digest.
We start encountering forms of immortality when reading on the subject of Catherine Mingott's appearance. Her "immense accretion of flesh- in some way "[presented] to her mirror an almost unwrinkled expanse of firm pink and white flesh- (47). As a result we see that in spite of Catherine's very old age, she manages to elude wrinkles, which is a symptom' for immortality. Catherine Mingott is not unaccompanied in the evasion of aging. Mrs. Van der Luyden's "portrait by Huntington" is still "a perfect likeness though twenty years had elapsed since its execution" (71). This point is further underscored by Wharton by illustrating Mrs. Van der Luyden's youth is so unnatural that, "she always, indeed, struck Newland Archer as having been rather gruesomely preserved in the airless atmosphere of a perfectly irreproachable existence, as bodies caught in glaciers keep for years a rosy life-in-death" (71). Her husband's, Mr. Van der Luyden, immortality is showed later when he is described as Ellen's "protecting deity- (138).
Our protagonist's, Newland Archer, fiancé and future wife, May Welland, also exhibits many signs of immortality throughout the novel. Upon her entrance to the Beaufort's ballroom, .
"in her dress of white and silver with a wreath of silver blossoms in her hair, she looked like a Diana just alighting from the chase" (84). One of the more unmistakable examples to support my claim comes during the scenes throughout the archery tournament.