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12 April 2010

The Age Of Innocence; and why I love it's ending ~spoiler alert~

"And [I] walk your memory's halls, austere, supreme/ A ghost in marble of a girl you knew." Edna St. Vincent Millay

Thirty years after looking down into his wife's triumphant, frightened eyes; thirty years after the news of her pregnancy broke and bound up his heart, the widowed Newland Archer sits on a Parisian bench, below the window of the woman he'd loved and lost.

Will he go up to her? Will they find a way to be together after so long a separation? I don't think so. Madame Olenska had become a part of the private world to which he retreated. The world of beauty and letters and transcendent love. She belonged to the inner life which sustained him through a long marriage to a woman who could not hope to be his true mate; through the mundane trivialities of daily family life and New York society.

Approaching her home, he realized that the desperate, clutching, painful process of turning the dream of his beloved into the reality of relationship; would invade and lay waste to his private landscape. And for what? In his memory's halls she reigns supreme, his lovely girl in marble. How can the real Madam Olenska, aged thirty years possibly measure up? And how can Newland at fifty, measure up to the ardent lover of twenty? He is wiser, richer, yes. But also coarser, more plebeian and more frightened.

It is not only the memory of Ellen, the girl, he preserves by staying put on the bench beneath her window; but that of Newland, the boy. He preserves the illusion of the man he could have been, if only.