Roman Fever and Other Stories

The New Age of Divorce and Social Darwinism in 'The Other Two' 12th Grade

Published in 1904, Edith Wharton’s "The Other Two" explores the infancy of divorce within New York’s middle-class society by utilizing the concept of the futile struggle to escape social forces that are out of one’s control. In addition to that, the story presents consequences of this change in social system in the form of social Darwinism, which is observed through the characteristics of Waythorn’s wife, Alice.

Wharton uses Alice’s divorces with Haskett and Varick in order to reveal the true nature of society’s attitude towards the notion of divorce. It was a relatively new concept at the time to have gained society’s approval, especially that of a woman instigating the separation. However, with her amiable personality, Alice is easily given the image of “the injured wife” – the victim of the whole tribulation – and naturally “took on an air of sanctity.” Certainly, her luck had played a role in this helpful outcome as her first husband Haskett was never met by her friends and acquaintances, and so “it was easy to believe the worst of him”; and her second husband Varick was known to have possessed a temperament that resulted in even his “staunchest supporters” admitting “that he was not meant for matrimony.” A woman seeking...

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