Course Hero Logo

The Age of Innocence | Study Guide

Edith Wharton

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Age of Innocence Study Guide." Course Hero. 1 Sep. 2017. Web. 29 May 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, September 1). The Age of Innocence Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "The Age of Innocence Study Guide." September 1, 2017. Accessed May 29, 2023.


Course Hero, "The Age of Innocence Study Guide," September 1, 2017, accessed May 29, 2023,

The Age of Innocence | Characters

Character Description
Newland Archer Newland Archer is a fashionable young man concerned with taste, form, and custom. He is first engaged to and later marries May Welland, all the while struggling with his romantic feelings for her unconventional cousin, Ellen Olenska. Read More
Ellen Olenska Ellen Olenska disrupts New York society by returning from her life abroad and living conspicuously, despite the scandalous rumors that she has committed adultery and wants to divorce her husband. She is May Welland's cousin, and Newland Archer spends his engagement and the early years of his marriage consumed by his desire to be with Ellen. Read More
May Welland May Welland is Newland Archer's fiancée and later his wife. With her beauty, carefully cultivated innocence, and commitment to social conformity, she is the ideal woman of Victorian-era New York society. Read More
Mrs. Manson Mingott Mrs. Manson Mingott is the relatively unconventional yet socially powerful matriarch of the Mingott clan and the grandmother of May Welland and Ellen Olenska. Homebound by her obesity and of dubious parentage, she is nonetheless an authority within New York's high society. Read More
Mrs. Archer Mrs. Archer is Newland Archer's widowed mother, with whom he lives prior to his marriage. She is retiring by nature and possessed of a "serene unimaginativeness," but is interested in travel, fiction, and the goings-on in society.
Bill Archer Bill Archer is the youngest child of May and Newland Archer. May dies after caring for him when he was sick with pneumonia.
Dallas Archer Dallas Archer is the eldest child of May and Newland Archer. He is an architect and is engaged to Fanny Beaufort.
Janey Archer Janey Archer is Newland Archer's unmarried sister, who lives with their mother. Outwardly similar to her mother, she is given to making fanciful comments that betray her inner longing for romance.
Mary Archer Mary Archer is the middle child of May and Newland Archer. She is, like her mother, conventional, simple, and athletic, and is married to one of Reggie Chivers's sons.
Reverend Dr. Ashmore The Reverend Dr. Ashmore is rector of St. Matthew's Church. He is favored by New York's high society for his condemnation of societal trends.
Fanny Beaufort Engaged to Dallas Archer, Fanny Beaufort is the charming and popular daughter of Julius Beaufort and his second wife Fanny Ring. Fanny insists Dallas visit her friend Ellen Olenska while he is in Paris with his father, Newland.
Julius Beaufort Julius Beaufort is a powerful banker of questionable lineage and scandalous habits, whose dishonest speculations cause him to go bankrupt. His last name in French reads handsome-strong, and his first name indicates that like the first Caesar, Julius, he may be deeply flawed and might even be martyred. Nonetheless he is destined to rule a new class of New Yorkers.
Regina Beaufort Regina Beaufort (her first name means "Queen") is the well-bred wife of the philandering Julius Beaufort and a grandniece of Mrs. Manson Mingott. Her lavish annual ball is a highlight of the New York social calendar, but after her husband's bank folds, she is rejected by polite society and befriended by Ellen Olenska.
Dr. Bencomb Dr. Bencomb's patients include Mr. Welland and Mrs. Manson Mingott. He diagnoses Mrs. Manson Mingott with a stroke, but at her insistence changes the diagnosis to indigestion.
Miss Blenker The Blenkers are an eccentric and bohemian family, living on the fringes of polite society. When Newland Archer goes to the Blenker house in search of Ellen Olenska, young Miss Blenker tells him Ellen has been called away to Boston.
Mrs. Carfry Mrs. Carfry lives in London and befriends Mrs. Archer and Janey Archer while they are abroad. On his honeymoon, Newland Archer meets M. Rivière at a dinner hosted by Mrs. Carfry.
Dr. Agathon Carver Dr. Agathon Carver is the founder of the spiritual Valley of Love Community in upstate New York. He is a friend of Medora Manson's.
The Reggie Chiverses The Reggie Chiverses are a young married couple and a well-respected part of New York society. They have many sons, one of whom marries Newland Archer's daughter, Mary.
The Morris Dagonets The Morris Dagonets are a young married couple and a well-respected part of New York society.
Duke of St. Austrey The Duke of St. Austrey is an English aristocrat related to Louisa van der Luyden, whose shabby dress and quiet manner contradict his aristocratic position. After speaking to the Duke at a special dinner held in his honor at the van der Luydens', Ellen Olenska tells Newland Archer she knew him in Europe and finds him horribly dull.
Victor Faust-Capoul Victor Faust-Capoul is the actor who sings the role of Faust in the opera performances that bookend the novel.
Miss Harle Miss Harle is the sister of Mrs. Carfry. The two women, who live in London, befriend Mrs. Archer and Janey Archer while they are abroad.
Sillerton Jackson Sillerton Jackson is an older man with comprehensive knowledge of New York's social scandals, past and present, as well as its complicated family alliances. His reputation for discretion makes people trust him.
Miss Sophy Jackson Miss Sophy Jackson is Sillerton Jackson's sister, who lives with him.
The Miss Lannings The Miss Lannings are two old women who are the sole living members of the aristocratic Lanning family.
Gertrude Lefferts Gertrude Lefferts is married to Lawrence Lefferts and is too simple to realize her husband's habit of infidelity.
Lawrence Lefferts Lawrence Lefferts is a young married man whose opinions on form are regarded as definitive by New York high society. He constantly cheats on his unknowing wife, Gertrude Lefferts.
Mr. Letterblair Mr. Letterblair is the elderly head of the law firm Letterblair, Lamson and Low, where Newland Archer works. He has spent his life giving legal advice to the gentility of New York.
Medora Manson Medora Manson is Ellen Olenska's aunt who raised her abroad after Ellen's parents died. She is known for being imprudent and eccentric and is continually marrying and being widowed.
The Selfridge Merrys The Selfridge Merrys are a young married couple and a well-respected part of New York society.
Lovell Mingott Lovell Mingott is Mrs. Manson Mingott's son, known for having the best chef in New York. He and his wife plan a welcome dinner for Ellen Olenska, but New York snubs Ellen by declining to attend.
Mrs. Lovell Mingott Mrs. Lovell Mingott is Mrs. Manson Mingott's daughter-in-law. She and her husband plan a welcome dinner for Ellen Olenska, but New York snubs Ellen by declining to attend.
Nastasia Nastasia is Ellen Olenska's Italian maid.
Van der Luyden Newland Van der Luyden Newland is Newland Archer's best man at his wedding.
Christine Nilsson Christine Nilsson is a prima donna opera singer whose performances in Faust bookend the novel.
Count Olenski Count Olenski is a wealthy Polish count and the husband of Ellen Olenska. After she leaves him for being cruel and unfaithful, his accusations of Ellen's adultery prompt Newland Archer to counsel Ellen against divorce.
Mr. Redwood Mr. Redwood is a senior lawyer at the law firm Letterblair, Lamson and Low, where Newland Archer works.
Miss Fanny Ring Miss Fanny Ring is a notorious woman who, upon arriving in New York, becomes Julius Beaufort's mistress and companion. She marries Beaufort after his wife's death and their daughter, Fanny Beaufort, eventually becomes the fiancée of Newland Archer's son Dallas.
M. Rivière Monsieur (M.) Rivière is a French intellectual Newland Archer first meets at Mrs. Carfry's house in London. Later, he comes to the United States as an envoy of Count Olenski, bearing proposals designed to compel Ellen Olenska to return to the marriage.
Mrs. Thorley Rushworth Mrs. Thorley Rushworth is a married woman who had an adulterous affair with Newland Archer prior to his engagement to May. She is a silly and vain woman who, Newland later realizes, was drawn more to the secrecy of the affair than to Newland himself.
Amy Sillerton Amy Sillerton comes from a prestigious family and is married to the eccentric archaeologist Professor Emerson Sillerton. Society pities her for having to endure her husband's unconventional behavior.
Professor Emerson Sillerton Professor Emerson Sillerton comes from a prestigious lineage and is married to Amy Sillerton. Society disapproves of his unconventional behavior, including his choice of a career in archaeology.
Mr. Skipworth Mr. Skipworth is a senior lawyer at the law firm Letterblair, Lamson and Low, where Newland Archer works.
Bob Spicer Bob Spicer is Mrs. Manson Mingott's discredited and disappeared father, who is rumored to have run away to Cuba with a Spanish dancer a few months into his marriage. His scandalous disappearance forced his wife and daughter to leave New York in shame.
Mr. Lemuel Struthers Mr. Lemuel Struthers, who formerly owned a shoe-polish business, is the deceased husband of Mrs. Lemuel Struthers. Upon meeting his future wife, he took her as a mistress and used her as a model for his business posters.
Mrs. Lemuel Struthers The widowed Mrs. Lemuel Struthers is a recent addition to New York society, which views her as a threat because of her questionable past as well as her scandalous Sunday-evening receptions. Julius Beaufort and Ellen Olenska attend these events, along with a number of artists and musicians, to enjoy music, dancing, drinking, and other activities frowned upon by polite society.
Thorley In the novel's opening scene at the opera, Thorley tries to defend Ellen Olenska's right to divorce until he is told she committed adultery with her husband's secretary.
The Harry Thorleys The Harry Thorleys are a young married couple and a well-respected part of New York society.
Henry van der Luyden Along with his wife Louisa, Henry van der Luyden occupies the apex of New York's social hierarchy. He is a retiring man of genuine aristocratic lineage, who would prefer to spend his time alone at his country estate, Skuytercliff, but who dutifully fulfills his expected role as New York's most important social authority.
Louisa van der Luyden Louisa van der Luyden, along with her husband, Henry, occupies the apex of New York's social hierarchy, despite her retiring nature. A woman of authentic aristocratic lineage, she is distantly related to Newland Archer.
Vicar The vicar is among the guests present at the dinner attended by May and Newland Archer at Mrs. Carfry's house in London.
Mr. Welland Mr. Welland is May Welland's father. A hypochondriac who manages his symptoms through exacting routines, he depends on his wife to shield him from any unpleasantness that might aggravate his condition.
Augusta Welland Augusta Welland is Mrs. Manson Mingott's daughter and May Welland's mother. Her life revolves around careful attention to social customs, as well as protecting her hypochondriac husband from anything unpleasant that might unsettle him.
Ned Winsett Ned Winsett is an intellectual, a failed writer, and Ellen Olenska's neighbor in an unfashionable bohemian neighborhood in New York. He is a friend of Newland Archer, who finds conversation with Winsett to be compelling and thought-provoking.
Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Age of Innocence? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!