Short Essay #2
19 July 2012
Edith Wharton’s “The Other Two”: A literary analysis.
In Edith Wharton’s story “The Other Two” readers explore the life of Mr. Waythorn, an upper-class Wall Street gentleman, as he narrates the intricate dilemma he’s thrust into shortly after he and his new bride Alice Waythorn arrive home. In this predicament, Mr. Waythorn inadvertently encounters the two ill-thought of former husbands of his new wife. These encounters, however, slowly force Mr. Waythorn to swallow a hard and bitter reality. One in which he is the last of three men to be played a fool. As the story progresses a spotlight is shone over Mrs. Waythorn’s muddied past. The veracity of her motives and overall character quickly come into scrutiny. Wharton asks the readers to determine, if the reason behind Mr. Waythorn’s obliviousness that of his own delusions or Alice’s masterful example of societal subterfuge.
Wharton’s delivery of a suspenseful tale is brilliantly done by depicting the exploits of a cunning seductress through the eyes of her current prey. At first glimpse, the newly wedded Alice Waythorn is victim of being the mother of a child stricken with typhoid fever. Wharton’s introduction of Alice, in this manner, is conceivably a ploy at evoking a premature sense of sympathy from the reader. Mr. Waythorn himself is able to sense something a bit odd about Alice’s affection, but rationalizes the concern by comparing “Pros and Cons” which can be witnessed in the following passage: She was very fond of Lily-her affection for the child perhaps been her decisive charm in Waythorn’s eyes but she had the perfectly balanced nerves which her little girl had inherited, and no woman ever wasted less tissue in unproductive worry (1026). Though it seems callous at first glance, this indirect coldness to her daughter is perhaps Alice’s way of preparing her for adult life. Womanhood, at the time, came with a frigid role to play in...