Edith Wharton is known as one of the first Americanwriters writing about the issue of divorce and remarriage. “The other two”short story presents an insightful perspective of the nature of these issues inthe early nineteenth century. Unliketoday, divorce and remarriage were shock value and negative things in the mindof people back then.
At first, Wharton focuses on social prejudice againstwomen, especially the aversion to women who unfortunately got divorce andremarried like Mrs. Alice Waythorn. ). She describes: “In the Wall Streetphrase, he had “discounted” them. He knew that society has not yet adapteditself to the consequences of divorce, and that till the adaption takes placeevery woman who uses the freedom the law accords her must be her own socialjustification” (Edith Wharton- The Other Two, p.451). Even Wharton explored theissues of divorce and remarriage from varying angles with many contradictoryconclusions such as portraying Alice as a shallow female, who took fulladvantage of divorce law to get to the social ladder.
She describes: “AliceHaskett’s remarriage with Gus Varick was a passport to the set whoserecognition she coveted” (Edith Wharton- The Other Two, p.451). Through storyof Alice’s marriage life, the writer shows us some changes of the society inaccepting the idea of divorce and remarriage as well as political acceptancewith hesitancy. She describes “society, while promptly accepting her, hadreversed the right to cast a doubt on its own discrimination” or “Her bestfriends would have preferred to see her remain in the role of an injured wife, whichwas 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 stepwith his eyes open, replied oracularly: “Yes-and with your ears shut.
” (EdithWharton- The Other Two, p.451) The changesof psychology from main character, Mr. Waythorn, shows how complexity of theissues are. At the beginning of the marriage, he had no trouble with his wife’spast, he actually found Alice as a “He has the sense of having found refuge ina richer, warmer nature than his own….his enjoyment of the pleasant room and agood dinner just beyond it” (Edith Wharton- The Other Two, p.452).
Then thingsgradually changed when he was constantly thrown into the company of her twoex-husbands. How intense and awkward yet polite interaction between Waythornand Alice’s “other two” were. It seems that Waythorn just can’t reconcile thefact that Alice had two marriage before him. He experiences the insecuritiesand underlying tensions and occasional awkwardness while still has to be in appropriatemanners when running into each other in the same social circle. Wharton wrote: “Ashis door closed behind him, he reflected that before he opened it again, itwould have admitted another man who had much right to enter it as himself, andthe thought filled him with a physical repugnance”, or when he met Varick atthe train: “The men were so close together that it was impossible to ignore thesmile of recognition” (Edith Wharton- The Other Two, p.453), and “He and Varickhad some same social habit, spoke the same language, understood the sameallusion” Edith Wharton- The Other Two, p.457).
As time passingby, the insecurity were increasing: “As Waythorn mused, another idea struckhim: had Haskett ever met Varick as Varick and he just had met? Therecollection 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” (EdithWharton- The Other Two, p.454). And “With grim irony Waythorn compared himselfto a member of syndicate. He held so many shares with his wife’s personalityand his predecessors were his partners in the business” (Edith Wharton- TheOther Two, p.456). Then hefinally finds him could trust into interaction of his wife with the other two exessince he realizes that neither of them could be a threat of his marriage andaccepts it as a matter that he should overcome the complexities of day-to-daylife.
Wharton wrote “In his own room he flung himself down with a groan. Hehated the womanish sensibility which made him suffer so acutely from the grotesquechances of life. He had known when he married that his wife’s former husbandswere both living, and that amid the multiplied contacts of modern existencethere 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, despitehis wife’s lying and with the presence of her two exes at his house, Waythorncould laugh over with his wife over their ridiculous situation: ” She glanced aboutfor Waythorn, and he took the third cup with a laugh”. The laughis so irony, we can see how bitter it is.
By that way, Wharton wanted to showus that it takes so many effort to find happiness in a marriage, especiallysuch complex one between Mr. and Mrs. Waythorn. It is about finding a commonground with your partner and working hard through the difficulties.