When reading Edith Wharton’s “The Other Two” it is easy to make immediate assumptions. Many will assume that Alice is the antagonist of the story because of the controversy surrounding her previous marriages. Others may argue that there was nothing wrong with Alice whatsoever, she was simply a victim of her previous marriages and does not deserve to be defined by her past. However, Alice’s situation is not that black and white. Mr. Waythorn’s thoughts about his new wife are pulled in conflicting directions. The first being his idea of Alice as a perfect wife and the other is the idea that she is that she may have caused her past divorces. Waythorn’s conflict is caused by his perception of his wife when she is with him and the way her ex-husbands act when he is forced to interact with them.
In the beginning of the story Mr. Waythorn is waiting for his new wife, Alice to come down for dinner. Immediately, it is evident that Mr. Waythorn thinks highly of his new wife, thus creating the illusion of perfection. It is clear that Waythorn is excited to have dinner with his new wife at his home for the first time since their honeymoon. He discusses for several lines about how much he adores her poise and grace despite the obstacles she has endured. “It was their first night under his own roof, and he was surprised at his thrill of boyish agitation.”(Wharton, 815) Waythorn is clearly stuck in the “honeymoon stage” and refuses to see the bad in his new wife. “Waythorn seems well aware of his own anxious nature, but he marries without concern about his wife 's past marriages, even when friends advise him to be cautious.”(Neary) At this point in time it was a scandal for a woman to be divorced much less being divorced twice. However, Mr....
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...m. He had fancied that a woman can shed her past like a man. But now he saw that Alice was bound to hers both by the circumstances which forced her into continued relation with it, and by the traces it had left on her nature.” (Wharton 825).
Waythorn’s constant battle between believing he is in a happy marriage with the perfect woman, and believing his wife will never be able to distance herself from her past, is still yet to define a winner. Rather it comes to a compromise. Waythorn understands that his wife was a key factor in her previous divorces and no longer places the blame solely on her ex-husbands. Waythorn also attributes Alice’s skills as a wife to her experience in her previous marriages. While their marriage may not necessarily be classified as happy, they do seem to like each other and Waythorn seems to put his battling opinions of his wife to bed.
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