Lesson Plan - Get It!
View this photo of Young Edith Wharton from WBUR Boston's NPR News Station on flickr.
Based on the picture, do you think Edith Wharton was a woman who followed the conventions of upper-class society? Why or why not?
In 1921, Edith Wharton was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for literature with her novel, The Age of Innocence.
As a member of the upper class, she drew on her knowledge of her social circle for the characters, settings, and plots in her novels. Although she fictionalized her accounts, many real-life people can be found masquerading as her fictional characters. In fact, Wharton even combined traits of her family and friends to create characters, which is why learning about her biography is helpful for getting more insight into The Age of Innocence. To learn more about Edith Wharton's life, read Edith Wharton: Portraits of People and Places, by Eleanor Dwight (National Portrait Gallery). As you read, answer the following questions in the notebook or journal you are keeping for the series. When you've finished responding to the questions, you can check your answers by clicking on the questions below:
Wharton often drew on her knowledge of upper-class society to inform her fictionalized representations of the Gilded Age era in her novels. As you read Chapters Sixteen through Twenty in The Age of Innocence, take notes on any details from this section that Wharton may have experienced in her own life and social circle. Use the same copy of the novel that you have used for the previous lessons in this series. You can use a print copy or the online version of The Age of Innocence, from Project Gutenberg. (If you overlooked, or would like to review, the previous lessons, find the Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar.)
When you are finished reading and taking notes, move on to the Got It? section to explore the material from these chapters more closely.