The Age of Innocence: Chapters 9 - 15

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 12529

Many people, especially young adults, struggle with the desire to be "accepted" into their chosen peer group. In post-Civil War America the country was "maturing." Discover the "in crowd" of that era!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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What do you think the term "Gilded Age" means?

  • Did you guess that the term "Gilded Age" refers to the period in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America?

During this time, American society began to amass wealth after the end of the Civil War in 1865, and massive industries, such as coal, oil, banking, and railroads, began to rise out of the ashes. The families amassing this great wealth, such as the Vanderbilts, Astors, Carnegies, and Rockefellers, became the pinnacle of society and other wealthy families flocked to be part of their social circles. They demonstrated their wealth through their mansion-building projects (mostly on the East Coast), collections of art and furniture from Europe, and philanthropy to the "less fortunate."

The term, "Gilded Age," was coined by Mark Twain in 1873 for his book by the same name, to skewer the upper classes' fondness for displaying their wealth by gilding their homes in gold. The name has survived for over 150 years to represent the American upper classes between the Civil War and World War I.

To learn more about upper-class society during the Gilded Age in New York City, read the following two articles.

Read Primer to Gilded Age New York Society, by Evangeline Holland (Edwardian Promenade), and answer the following questions in your notebook or journal. When you have finished answering the questions to the article, you can check your answers by clicking on each question below:

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Read The Four Hundred, by Evangeline Holland (Edwardian Promenade), and answer the following questions. When you have finished answering the questions to the article, you can check your answers below:

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Edith Wharton was raised in the environment of "The Four Hundred" and participated in upper-class New York society before eventually moving to Europe. She drew on her knowledge of society in many of her later novels, written after World War I destroyed the last vestiges of the Gilded Age. These novels create a fictional homage to society as it was during her childhood and early adulthood.

You are now ready to read Chapters Nine through Fifteen in The Age of Innocence. As you read, take notes on society's rules and conventions.

  • What should a person do and not do?
  • What can a man do?
  • What can a woman do as part of upper-class society?
  • What actions are taboo as part of upper-class society?

Use the same copy of The Age of Innocence that you used for the previous lesson. You can use a print copy or the online copy of The Age of Innocence, from Project Gutenberg.

When you have finished reading and taking notes, move on to the Got It? section to explore the details of your reading more closely.

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