And, although he may not recognize it, the reader does.
Wharton (like Jane Austen) brilliantly uses the powerful means of dramatic irony in her stories which allow the reader to be placed into a position of superiority. As the reader grasps the inner thoughts of the characters, the characters themselves (poor things) are lost in a state-of- confusion.
In The Age of Innocence, I have the strong urge to shake Newland and shout “Wake up you moron! Don’t you know that you’re in love!”
Here are just a few examples:
…He had the feeling of unexplained excitement with which, on half-holidays at school, he used to start off into the unknown….
…The longing was with him day and night, an incessant undefinable craving, like the sudden whim of a sick man for food and drink once tasted and long since forgotten…
…he could not see beyond the craving, or picture what it might lead to, for he was not conscious….
And these words which scream LOVE from the rooftop:
…He simply felt that if he could carry away the vision of the spot of earth she walked on, and the way the sky and sea enclosed it, the rest of the world might seem less empty.
From The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton