Copyright

The Other Two Summary

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Looking for a light take on the state of a marriage? ''The Other Two,'' a short story written by Edith Wharton, might fit the bill. In this lesson, we'll summarize the story of the Waythorns' marriage, published in 1904.

Summarizing The Other Two

Who, exactly, are 'the other two?' That's exactly what you'll find out as you read further.

When our story opens, we're sitting with Mr. Waythorn in the downstairs of the home he shares with his new wife, Alice, and Lily, her daughter from a previous marriage. The Waythorns are newlyweds and Mr. Waythorn is excited to have his new family under one roof. Yet, the child's sickness caused their honeymoon to be cut short and the pair have returned home to care for the young girl.

Mr. Waythorn quite likes the child and recalls how the mother's care of and love for her was one of the reasons he first fell in love.

Reminiscing

While he's waiting for his wife to come down to dinner, we get a sneak peek inside Mr. Waythorn's mind as he recalls when he and his new bride first met. He acknowledges that he's been sort of a boring man, and was drawn to his wife's zeal and energy.

As we discover, Mrs. Waythorn used to be Mrs. Haskett, even though she and Lily's father had already divorced by the time this story unfolds. She had also remarried the popular and well-to-do Mr. Gus Varick and divorced him as well.

Meeting Mr. Waythorn

When Alice first mentioned Mr. Waythorn, her friends showed some skepticism about a third set of nuptials. Many suggested that she should perhaps remain single or that the new relationship had come along too quickly. Mr. Waythorn, himself, heard these rumblings and told the naysayers that he entered the relationship 'with his eyes wide open.' To which, some replied that, hopefully, his ears were shut.

Mr. Waythorn took all these things in stride, noting his wife's resilience and his great pleasure in having found a woman in whom he could confide and grow old with.

Coming Downstairs

In the midst of Mr. Waythorn's memories, his new bride reappears downstairs. She has a look of worry on her face. Mr. Waythorn thinks perhaps it is the condition of the child, until she presents him with a letter written by her first husband's lawyer.

As it turns out, Mr. Haskett wants to come visit his ill daughter. Because of her sickness, the child is unable to travel to see him. Despite Mrs. Waythorn's concerns, her new husband agrees that it's in the child's best interest. They proceed with dinner and a restful evening.

A New Day

Although Mr. Waythorn agrees to the arrangement at first, he is less pleased by the idea the following morning. To add insult to injury, he finds himself beside his wife's other ex-husband, Mr. Varick, on the train to work. The two men, who work together, make small talk before parting ways, only to bump into each other once more later in the day. Mr. Waythorn can't help but wonder if Mr. Varick had concerns or jealousies over his wife's prior husband as well.

When Mr. Waythorn returns home that evening, he changes his clothes and encounters his wife, who is described as 'fresh and radiant.' The child's illness has improved. The pair discuss their days over dinner and enjoy an evening drink. The nurse, forgetting that it's Mrs. Waythorn's second husband who takes liquor in his coffee, serves the same type of drink to Mr. Waythorn. Everyone is embarrassed by the mistake, but it is not brought up.

Mr. Haskett's Visits

Mr. Waythorn becomes more comfortable with his wife's ex-husband visiting their daughter, partly because he never has to see the man. However, one day he arrives home and, having forgotten about the visits, finds the man sitting in his library. The encounter, again, causes the man to think about his wife's life before he came along.

The pair have a conversation about the girl's nurse, where the ex-husband reveals that he and his former wife had spoken about the girl. It seems Mrs. Waythorn has lied to Mr. Waythorn, after indicating she has never encountered her former husband, leaving that duty to the girl's nurse. Subsequently, the nurse is fired from her position.

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