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MonkeyNotes Free Study Guide-The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

BOOK II

CHAPTER 27

Summary

It is the next day. The news is circulating that Beaufort will survive his financial crisis. This is a welcome relief to much of New York's social elite, since financial corruption is the worst of the sins and is never forgiven. Since the Beauforts have become an important part of the social round of parties, the rest of the families have strong hopes for their success.

Newland finds out from Mr. Letterblair that the business in Washington has been delayed and that he is not needed there for some time. Still, he thinks he can still use the excuse of work with May since she knows so little of his business. A few days later, he learns that Beaufort has indeed failed and there has been a run on the bank. As Newland is discussing the repercussions with Mr. Letterblair, he gets a note from May telling him her grandmother has had a minor stroke. She asks him to come at once.

When he gets there, Mrs. Welland tells him that the night before, Mrs. Beaufort had visited old Mrs. Mingott and asked her to bail Julius out of his troubles. Mrs. Mingott had told her that was never done and that she needed to stand beside her husband and hide away in disgrace. That morning at three, she had a minor stroke. By the time Newland arrives, she has begun to regain the use of her left side. Newland listens to the women discussing the effrontery of Mrs. Beaufort coming to call like that when she should have gone straight into seclusion like any good woman would. They are interrupted by Mrs. Mingott's request that Ellen Olenska be telegraphed to come at once. Newland is sent to order the telegraph and as he is leaving, he hears May call out that he will have to miss seeing Ellen in Washington after all. Then she tells her mother and the others of his case coming up in Washington and they all agree that he must go despite Mrs. Mingott's health problems.


Notes

The novel is not only about an impossible romance; it is also a portrait of a time and place and the sort of people who made it and were made by it. The title, Age of Innocence, describes the time before a fall. Throughout the novel, people like Mrs. Archer worry over the loss of "society" or the threat to "family" and "form." These threats come from several sources, but most often they are located in the new rich. Julius Beaufort is a representative of this class. Since he married one of the old families, he is accepted socially. However, he is always watched with suspicion. This chapter depicts his downfall. He has engaged in unlawful money speculating practices on Wall Street and has not only ruined himself, but many of the old families who have been regarding him as socially suspect, but financially sound, who therefore placed their trust in him. The depth of the shock is gauged by the fact that old Mrs. Manson Mingott has a minor stroke.

In terms of the love story element of the novel, as opposed to the social theme, it becomes even more clear here that May strongly suspects Newland's romantic interest in Ellen Olenska. Just as he has already given his excuse for making a trip to Washington D.C., Ellen is called to New York to be with her grandmother. As Newland is leaving to send her a telegram, May calls out to him in front of the others that he will have to miss visiting Ellen in Washington, D.C. after all, since they'll be crossing paths. She traps him, in a sense, in his own desperate lies.

CHAPTER 28

Summary

Newland is paying for the telegram to Ellen when he is approached by Lawrence Lefferts. Lefferts makes a remark about Ellen that insinuates her dishonor. The comment almost provokes Newland to violence. He recovers, however, and discusses Mrs. Mingott's health with Lefferts.

That afternoon, Beaufort's failure hits the papers. It becomes known that Beaufort left the bank open, receiving deposits, a full day after he found out he was ruined. Many of the people using his bank were of the old families. Everyone says the Beauforts would be best to go to South Carolina, where Regina Beaufort has a place, and live in seclusion. In the meantime, old Mrs. Mingott has become more tight-fisted with money and more interested in her own health and others' poor health in her family. Mr. Welland becomes a favorite.

Ellen sends a telegram notifying the family of her arrival. Newland volunteers to pick her up. As he is driving away with May, he tells her the case has been postponed. May reminds him of the letter that he told her about, the one saying he was needed anyhow, and he amends his former statement, saying the case hasn't been postponed, only his going. When he leaves, he thinks he sees tears in May's eyes.

Notes

The repercussions of Beaufort's failure are felt here. It is mainly the older women who have invested their money with him, against the advice of the Mr. Henry van der Luyden. As well, Newland plunges deeper into deceit against May, and ends the scene with a practically transparent strategy to stay and greet Ellen.

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