26 pages 52 minutes read

Edith Wharton

The Other Two

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1904

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.


Subversion of Gender Roles

The story opens with a husband confident in his status. He is wealthy, works as a high-powered New York stockbroker, and, recently married, he delights in the “joy of possessorship. They were his, those white hands with their flitting motions, his the light haze of hair, the lips and eyes” (Part 2). He considers Alice Waythorn as the greatest of his possessions. The story opens with “Waythorn, on the drawing-room hearth, waited for his wife to come down to dinner” (Part 1), showing Waythorn anticipating the appearance of both his wife and his dinner, his twin luxuries. He happily considers how his wife conforms to her expected role of anticipating and serving his needs, dedicated to devoting herself to his comfort and his sense of ease with utmost attention to respectability.

But such comfort is denied as the story subverts expectations. As Waythorn is forced into uncomfortable situations with both of Alice’s ex-husbands, he is repeatedly characterized as stereotypically feminine with his “womanish” (Part 3) and “unstable sensibilities” (Part 1) as he is easily unnerved by the “other two” and his wife’s seemingly indifference to the awkwardness of the situations. In fact, Alice seems to be characterized in more traditionally masculine ways as she is the one who seems to be in control, maneuvering the various social alliances always in her favor.