Horn, Katrin (2020):
"“Every One Knew”: Epistemologies of the City in Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence." Edith Wharton Review 36.2: 148-164.
Journal Article

New York looms large in much of Edith Wharton's work, maybe never more so than in The Age of Innocence. The city is not just the space in which the stories unfold or the social context which frames the central drama. Rather, “New York” serves as the central source of knowledge for characters and readers alike. Whether in the form of private gossip or society journals, news travels fast, judgement is swift, and knowledge about everyone's intimate affairs is ever present. The Age of Innocence is hence marked by the stark distinction between the reticence of its main characters—who live in an “atmosphere of faint implications and pale delicacies,” share “mute message[s],” and rely on “silence to communicate all [they] had to say”—and the eloquence of the city. By detailing this contrast between the novel's main characters and its setting, this article addresses gossip and other forms of communal, networked, or anonymous knowledge not only as an element of plot, but as narrative strategy in The Age of Innocence. It thus combines an exploration of Edith Wharton's distinct style with an analysis of New York's central role in her writing.