My name is Robin Oliveira. I live in Seattle. I am the author of three books, My Name is Mary Sutter, I Always Loved You, and Winter Sisters, all historical fiction. I hold an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. I’m researching my next book and came across your name while perusing the Edith Wharton Society Web site. The book will not be non-fiction, but fiction.
I have a question and I’m wondering whether or not you can either direct me to someone who is an expert on The Age of Innocence, or whether or not you have considered the following question. I realize I’m imposing, and if you are too busy to address my question, thank you for your time, and I understand.
I’ve been studying The Age of Innocence in preparation for my new book. I’m very interested in the role of rumor in the narrative. There are many ways in which rumor works in the novel, but I’ve run into an interesting, almost niggling example. In my close reading of the text, I’ve noticed that Wharton gives three separate descriptions of Countess Olenska’s arrival in NY.
One, she appears suddenly and without warning: chapter II: Archer knew that she had suddenly arrived from Europe a day or two previously… “
Two, her uncle Mingott went to NY to retrieve her: chapter II: “I believe Lovell Mingott went out to get her….” This is Lefferts.
(Both can’t be true, since Archer is so close by now to the Mingott family that he would have known whether or not Mingott went out to get her. Mingott’s absence and errand would have been known to NYC society.)
And third, all NY knew she was coming: I can’t at this moment, pinpoint it in the text, but there is a reference that says it was known to everyone that she was coming.
MY question is whether or not this inconsistency in the text is something Wharton scholars have discussed to your knowledge? If so, have they concluded that Wharton was deliberate in placing three different explanations of Ellen’s arrival as a subtle machination of rumor in the novel? Or, perhaps it is a way to increase the mystery around the Olenska character? Both seem possible to me. Less possible is that Wharton was careless. The novel is so meticulously crafted that as an author, I doubt she was, but I’m wondering.
Have you an understanding/opinion?
Thank you very much for your time,