Edith Wharton gives an accurate picture of the society and customs of New York. The dullness of the characters in their absolute captivity, the artificial and false standards, the drudgery of routine, the gradual rigidity of passion, the numbness of feeling, the loss of life — these are all perfectly relevant. She calls it a kind of symbolic universe, where real things are never said, never done, never even thought about, but simply represented by symbols that are always at will. Wharton’s contradiction of her upper-class society is fully explained in The Age of Innocence, which is both negative and positive. The themes of The Age of Innocence are intriguing. Wharton mercilessly mocks the high society and its conservative and ludicrous moralism with which she grew up, but she also affirms some of the values in such a society. These values include decency, honesty, responsibility, and so on.
Wharton’s affirmation of the real society is actually a kind of submission to the huge pressure of the society, a kind of helplessness, inability to solve, and nowhere to breakthrough. Thus, in such a contradictory society, the fate of the individual is doomed to tragedy. In a sense, Wharton extends from the helpless real world to the ideal spiritual world. The real world is full of limits and contradictions, but the spiritual world she created has infinite possibilities. But in her spiritual world, The Age of Innocence, everything returns to vanity. The fortunes of the Beauforts in the novel epitomize the alternation of old and new In New York. He had no noble blood, and at first, he rose to the upper classes by the strength of his fortune. But his position was untenable, and he was mercilessly exterminated when he violated the established business principles of New York society. The ebb and flow of Beaufort’s personal fortunes represented the constraint of social morality and family values on commerce. At the end of the novel, Beaufort’s daughter Fanny returns to the group and is welcomed and loved. The marriage between Dallas Archer and Fanny at the end of the novel represents the way of life of the new generation at the turn of the century, and also shows the inexorable advance of society, with the former firmly gaining the upper hand in the battle between business and family. The enormous influence of commerce permeates into every aspect of society, promotes and speeds up the development and fission of society, and also reformulates social ethics.