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The Age of Innocence | Chapter Summaries

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Timeline of Events

  • January, early 1870s

    Newland Archer and May Welland become engaged. Ellen Olenska appears at the opera.

    Book 1, Chapter 1
  • Two days later

    Newland defends Ellen's right to divorce, claiming women should have the same freedoms as men.

    Book 1, Chapter 5
  • A few days later

    Society snubs Ellen Olenska by refusing to attend a dinner in her honor.

    Book 1, Chapter 6
  • Soon thereafter

    Mrs. Archer and Newland appeal to the van der Luydens, who agree to back Ellen.

    Book 1, Chapter 7
  • Eight days later

    Newland tells Ellen he will help her navigate society. She cries and confesses her loneliness.

    Book 1, Chapter 9
  • Two weeks later

    Newland convinces Ellen not to divorce, based on his unspoken assumption she is an adulteress.

    Book 1, Chapter 12
  • About two weeks later

    Newland visits Ellen at Skuytercliff. He goes to Florida to be with May and her family.

    Book 1, Chapter 15
  • The week before Lent

    May urges Newland to end their engagement if he loves another, which he denies.

    Book 1, Chapter 16
  • A few days later

    Newland and Ellen confess their love. News arrives that his wedding is in four weeks.

    Book 1, Chapter 18
  • Soon after Easter

    Newland sleepwalks through his wedding to May, consumed with thoughts of Ellen.

    Book 2, Chapter 19
  • August, a year later

    Newland watches Ellen but doesn't speak. May remarks Ellen might be happier with her husband.

    Book 2, Chapter 21
  • A few weeks later

    Newland sees Ellen in Boston. Ellen promises to remain as long as their relationship stays proper.

    Book 2, Chapter 24
  • The next day

    M. Rivière, Count Olenski's envoy, asks Newland to convince Ellen's family she mustn't return to the count.

    Book 2, Chapter 25
  • Four months later

    The Beauforts are on the verge of bankruptcy. Mrs. Manson Mingott has a stroke and summons Ellen.

    Book 2, Chapter 27
  • Two days later

    After lying to May, Newland picks up Ellen. Newland is upset when Ellen refuses to be his mistress.

    Book 2, Chapter 29
  • Some days later

    Mrs. Manson Mingott gives Newland private orders to convince the family Ellen must live with her.

    Book 2, Chapter 30
  • The next day

    Newland and Ellen plan to consummate their relationship. May has an important talk with Ellen.

    Book 2, Chapter 31
  • The next day

    May stops Newland's confession by announcing Ellen has just decided to return to Europe.

    Book 2, Chapter 32
  • Two weeks later

    Newland realizes society thinks he is Ellen's lover. May reveals Ellen left because of May's lie.

    Book 2, Chapter 33
  • Twenty-six years later

    Newland's son arranges a visit with Ellen, but Newland's son enters alone and Newland walks away.

    Book 2, Chapter 34

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Book 1, Chapter 1 One January evening during the late 1870s, Newland Archer, a prominent young member of New York's high society, arrives ... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 2 Newland Archer is embarrassed to realize the strange woman is May Welland's cousin, "poor Ellen Olenska." The gossips cl... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 3 Each year, Regina Beaufort gives a ball. Her lavish ballroom partially "compensate[s] for whatever was regrettable in th... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 4 Custom dictates that Newland Archer and May Welland now embark on a series of "betrothal visits." They first call on Mrs... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 5 Newland Archer lives with his widowed mother and unmarried sister, who adore and respect him as the man of the house. Th... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 6 The unsettling matter of Ellen Olenska causes Newland Archer to reflect on his own impending marriage with a newfound se... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 7 Mrs. Archer and Newland Archer make an appeal on behalf of Ellen Olenska to Louisa van der Luyden, whom Newland Archer h... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 8 Newland Archer had known Ellen Olenska when she was a precocious, artistic, and unconventional child. Born to "continent... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 9 Newland Archer is intent on advancing his wedding date, but Mrs. Welland refuses, and after a day of customary betrothal... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 10 Newland Archer tells May Welland about sending Ellen Olenska flowers, but not about visiting her. He proposes a number o... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 11 As a junior partner at the prestigious law firm of Letterblair, Lamson and Low, Newland Archer is charged by his boss, M... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 12 As Newland Archer walks through the "Bohemian" neighborhood to Ellen Olenska's house, he reflects on the cultural abyss ... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 13 The onstage parting of two lovers in a play Newland Archer attends reminds him of Ellen Olenska, as it recalls her "myst... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 14 Walking out of the theater, Newland Archer encounters his friend Ned Winsett, who is surprised to learn his kind and hel... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 15 Newland Archer calls on Ellen Olenska at Skuytercliff, where he encounters her walking through the snowy woods. Sensing ... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 16 Newland Archer surprises the Wellands with his unexpected arrival at their house in St. Augustine, Florida. He begs off ... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 17 Newland returns to New York and learns Ellen Olenska visited his mother while he was in Florida. She makes it clear she ... Read More
Book 1, Chapter 18 Upon seeing the roses, Ellen is incensed, asking, "Who is ridiculous enough to send me a bouquet?" She sends them to Ned... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 19 Newland and May are married soon after Easter. Newland complies "resignedly" with all the predictable formalities of the... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 20 May and Newland begin their married life together with the requisite three-month tour of Europe. She is uninterested in ... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 21 Back in New York, Newland settles into a comfortably busy routine much like he had before the wedding. It all seems to b... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 22 Professor Emerson Sillerton and his wife, Amy, are holding a party for the Blenkers, the unconventional family Ellen is ... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 23 Energized by the prospect of seeing Ellen, Newland experiences only a brief prick of conscience when he lies to May abou... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 24 Ellen explains that she moved to Washington because of its reputation as being home to "more varieties of people and of ... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 25 After his meeting with Ellen, Newland Archer feels a "tranquility of spirit." He feels "tender awe" at the moral strengt... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 26 As is her habit, at Thanksgiving dinner during the second year of Newland Archer's marriage, Mrs. Archer bemoans the deg... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 27 The next day, Mr. Letterblair tells Newland Archer that Julius Beaufort is on the verge of bankruptcy because of his "bu... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 28 At the telegraph office, Newland Archer encounters Lawrence Lefferts, who remarks that Mrs. Manson Mingott must be in gr... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 29 Newland Archer is giddy and talkative when he picks up Ellen Olenska in May's carriage. She didn't expect to see him and... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 30 Arriving at home on foot, Newland realizes that he forgot his promise to May to meet her at his grandmother's house. Her... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 31 Newland is relieved that Ellen intends to live with her grandmother, because it is easier than his plan, which was to le... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 32 Newland Archer attends the opera Faust, just as he did on the night two years previously when he first met Ellen Olenska... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 33 Ellen Olenska leaves New York prior to her departure for Europe. While she is away, Newland is made to examine the legal... Read More
Book 2, Chapter 34 The narrative resumes almost 26 years later, as Newland Archer sits at home reflecting on his life. His and May's three ... Read More
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