Edith Wharton is known as one of the


Edith Wharton is known as one of the first American
writers writing about the issue of divorce and remarriage. “The other two”
short story presents an insightful perspective of the nature of these issues in
the early nineteenth century.

       Unlike
today, divorce and remarriage were shock value and negative things in the mind
of people back then. At first, Wharton focuses on social prejudice against
women, especially the aversion to women who unfortunately got divorce and
remarried like Mrs. Alice Waythorn. ). She describes: “In the Wall Street
phrase, he had “discounted” them. He knew that society has not yet adapted
itself to the consequences of divorce, and that till the adaption takes place
every woman who uses the freedom the law accords her must be her own social
justification” (Edith Wharton- The Other Two, p.451). Even Wharton explored the
issues of divorce and remarriage from varying angles with many contradictory
conclusions such as portraying Alice as a shallow female, who took full
advantage of divorce law to get to the social ladder. She describes: “Alice
Haskett’s remarriage with Gus Varick was a passport to the set whose
recognition she coveted” (Edith Wharton- The Other Two, p.451).

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      Through story
of Alice’s marriage life, the writer shows us some changes of the society in
accepting the idea of divorce and remarriage as well as political acceptance
with hesitancy. She describes “society, while promptly accepting her, had
reversed the right to cast a doubt on its own discrimination” or “Her best
friends would have preferred to see her remain in the role of an injured wife, which
was becoming to her as crepe to a rosy complexion.” People still looked at Mr.
Waythorn, her third husband with pity: ” People shook their heads over him,
however, and one grudging friend, to whom he affirmed that he took the step
with his eyes open, replied oracularly: “Yes-and with your ears shut.” (Edith
Wharton- The Other Two, p.451)

      The changes
of psychology from main character, Mr. Waythorn, shows how complexity of the
issues are. At the beginning of the marriage, he had no trouble with his wife’s
past, he actually found Alice as a “He has the sense of having found refuge in
a richer, warmer nature than his own….his enjoyment of the pleasant room and a
good dinner just beyond it” (Edith Wharton- The Other Two, p.452). Then things
gradually changed when he was constantly thrown into the company of her two
ex-husbands. How intense and awkward yet polite interaction between Waythorn
and Alice’s “other two” were. It seems that Waythorn just can’t reconcile the
fact that Alice had two marriage before him. He experiences the insecurities
and underlying tensions and occasional awkwardness while still has to be in appropriate
manners when running into each other in the same social circle. Wharton wrote: “As
his door closed behind him, he reflected that before he opened it again, it
would have admitted another man who had much right to enter it as himself, and
the thought filled him with a physical repugnance”, or when he met Varick at
the train: “The men were so close together that it was impossible to ignore the
smile of recognition” (Edith Wharton- The Other Two, p.453), and “He and Varick
had some same social habit, spoke the same language, understood the same
allusion” Edith Wharton- The Other Two, p.457).

 As time passing
by, the insecurity were increasing: “As Waythorn mused, another idea struck
him: had Haskett ever met Varick as Varick and he just had met? The
recollection of Haskett perturbed him, and he rose and left the restaurant,
taking a circuitous way out to escape the placid irony of Varick’s nod” (Edith
Wharton- The Other Two, p.454). And “With grim irony Waythorn compared himself
to a member of syndicate. He held so many shares with his wife’s personality
and his predecessors were his partners in the business” (Edith Wharton- The
Other Two, p.456).

    Then he
finally finds him could trust into interaction of his wife with the other two exes
since he realizes that neither of them could be a threat of his marriage and
accepts it as a matter that he should overcome the complexities of day-to-day
life. Wharton wrote “In his own room he flung himself down with a groan. He
hated the womanish sensibility which made him suffer so acutely from the grotesque
chances of life. He had known when he married that his wife’s former husbands
were both living, and that amid the multiplied contacts of modern existence
there were a thousand chances to one that he would run against one or the other”
(Edith Wharton- The Other Two, p.457). Indeed, at the end of the story, despite
his wife’s lying and with the presence of her two exes at his house, Waythorn
could laugh over with his wife over their ridiculous situation: ” She glanced about
for Waythorn, and he took the third cup with a laugh”.

     The laugh
is so irony, we can see how bitter it is. By that way, Wharton wanted to show
us that it takes so many effort to find happiness in a marriage, especially
such complex one between Mr. and Mrs. Waythorn. It is about finding a common
ground with your partner and working hard through the difficulties. 

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