Newland Archer, an affluent lawyer in 1870s New York, is engaged to May Welland, a beautiful but conventional socialite. Newland begins to question the life he has planned for himself after the arrival of May’s cousin, the exotic and sophisticated Countess Ellen Olenska.  
Ellen is seeking a divorce from her abusive husband, a Polish count, who has made her a social outcast and greatly displeases her family, who are afraid of scandal.  
As Newland grows to care more and more deeply for Ellen, having convinced her not to press for a divorce, he becomes increasingly disillusioned with the society to which he belongs and the idea of entering into a passionless marriage with May.

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