Monday, May 27, 2013

Slippery Slopes

"But he now went into the club writing-room, wrote a hurried telegram, and told the servant to send it immediately.  He knew that Mrs. Reggie didn't object to her visitors' suddenly changing their minds, and that there was always a room to spare in her elastic house."

-The Age of Innocence, Chapter 14

  Oh Newland. . . this reminds me of myself going with the "kids" to get "them" some ice cream, but quite certain I won't have any at all.


The road to self-deception is a slippery one, and I wonder at this point how aware Newland is of his feelings for Ellen Olenska. He makes this choice to book this trip because Mrs. Reggie just happens to live in the same neighborhood as the family where Ellen Olenska is staying for the weekend, citing to Newland that she had to "run away." Newland doesn't know from what, and if knew what was "good" for him, he'd have let the girl run.

But, he doesn't. And because of that, we have more book to read.

So, do we judge? Do we cheer? Do we wave our arms as we read, warning Newland to stay away, sit at home, look at pictures of May Welland and accept the docile life happily spread out before him by Society? He isn't married yet. Should he turn over a few more rocks? The problem is, Ellen Olenska is married. True, it is a miserable marriage and the brute is still back in Europe turning over countless rocks and planting a plethora of wild oats.

Hence the tragedy. Wharton can sure spin a heart-wrenching timeline.

Back to our own Newland moments. How often do we hop on the internet for "just a few minutes" to check on something. . . and two hours later are still there? Why do we set ourselves up? Is it because we overestimate ourselves? True honesty is a valuable commodity, and we trade in it fairly regularly with others. It is with ourselves that it becomes a rarer exchange. That doesn't need to translate into a steady stream of self-flagellation. Quite the opposite. How different could Newland's path have turned if his internal monologue reflected the simple truth: he wanted to see Ellen. Then, though the moral quandary would have remained, perhaps the internal struggle would have been less severe.

Here Newland, let me show you how it's done:

I'm going to the ice cream shop today. I'm taking the kids with me. I'm getting ice cream. And I'm letting them get some too. Why? Because I really like ice cream, that's why.

That's me, taking the stairs instead of sliding down that slippery slope. And that feels better.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post! Oh, to save ourselves the grief of lying to ourselves!