Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence is set against an exclusive society background in which she reveals how Newland Archer is often the victim of, rather than the key player in, the events. The plot is constructed on a pattern of ironic misunderstandings: for example, Newland is unaware that Ellen's decision not to sue for divorce was for his and May's sake rather than to conceal her past. Furthermore, Newland remains largely blind to the manipulations of a wife he persists in seeing as innocent and naive.
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