26 pages 52 minutes read

Edith Wharton

The Other Two

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1904

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Important Quotes

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“She was very fond of Lily—her affection for the child had 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.” 

(Part 1, Page n/a)

From Mr. Waythorn’s point of view, Alice has learned the skill of not wasting emotion worrying about her daughter if there is no need. But the husband will soon learn that much of Alice’s seemingly “natural” instincts are in fact carefully developed skills that she has learned from her three marriages in order to please her husbands. She knows she must always show that the primary focus of her attention will always be her husband.

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“When she had appeared in New York, nine or ten years earlier, as the pretty Mrs. Haskett whom Gus Varick had unearthed somewhere-was it in Pittsburgh or Utica?—society, while promptly accepting her, had reserved the right to cast a doubt on his own discrimination. Inquiry, however, established her undoubted connection with a socially reigning family, and explained her recent divorce as the natural result of a runaway match at seventeen; and as nothing was known of Mr. Haskett it was easy to believe the worst of him.” 

(Part 1, Page n/a)

Society has great power and resources to delve into a person’s background and discover if he or she can qualify to be part of the elite or not. Although society appears to accept Mrs. Haskett because of her relationship to Varick, it is clear that is not enough. Investigations are made to see if Mrs. Haskett will fit in with society or not. Because it is found that she has ties to social royalty, “a socially reigning family” (Part 1), she is approved despite her divorce. Everyone assumes the worst of Mr. Haskett since the normal inclination of society gossip is to assume the worst. Also, it is most likely the former Mrs. Haskett herself encouraged this interpretation to give herself a better reputation, in society’s narrow eyes.