26 pages 52 minutes read

Edith Wharton

The Other Two

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1904

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Story Analysis

Analysis: “The Other Two”

The critic R. B. Lewis referred to Wharton’s “The Other Two” in Edith Wharton: A Biography as “the most nearly perfect short story Edith Wharton ever wrote and a model in the genre of the comedy of manners” (134). This “comedy of manners” satirizes society’s preoccupation with respectability through the character of Waythorn. He will do anything to avoid being mocked by society; he always wants to act properly while appearing to be completely at ease. It’s not easy for him to keep his emotions under control, especially as the situations in the story grow increasingly absurd. Like many of Wharton’s other novels and stories, the setting for “The Other Two” is upper-class New York society during the late 19th century. By telling the story entirely from the husband’s limited point of view, the author is able to skewer the values of this society, spotlighting the society’s obsession with social prestige as well as the social pressure on women to “excel” at marriage.

The story begins with Mr. Waythorn, who “waited for his wife to come down to dinner” (Part 1). The passivity of this pose marks Waythorn’s character throughout the story.