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The Other Two (Short Story) Summary & Study Guide Description
The Other Two (Short Story) Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis tohelp you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz onThe Other Two (Short Story) by Edith Wharton.
The following version of this story was used to create this study guide: Wharton, Edith. “The Other Two.” The Descent of Man and Other Stories. New York: Scribner, 1904. Pages 71-105.
The story takes place in New York City, around the year 1900. Mr. Waythorn is a successful business/finance manager. He is in his late thirties, and he has very recently married Alice, a woman in her mid-thirties. Alice has been married twice before. She married her first husband, Mr. Haskett, when she was 17 years old. They had a daughter together and eventually divorced. She later married her second husband, Gus Varick, and they eventually divorced as well. Now, Alice lives with her third/current husband, Mr. Waythorn. Alice’s daughter, Lily, lives with them. Lily is 12 years old, and she contracts typhoid soon after Alice and Mr. Waythorn marry.
Lily’s father, Mr. Haskett, has visitation rights. Usually, Lily visits him at his home, but since she is infirm, Mr. Haskett begins to make his weekly visits at the Waythorns’ home. Mr. Waythorn and Alice are somewhat uncomfortable with this arrangement, and they generally avoid Haskett. Meanwhile, Mr. Waythorn’s business partner—Mr. Sellers—becomes ill with gout. As a result, Waythorn has to take on one of Sellers’ recent business projects. By chance, the client of the project is Alice’s second husband, Gus Varick. Waythorn and Varick are already acquainted, and they have had a civil rapport. However, Waythorn feels somewhat uncomfortable and insecure due to this new proximity with Varick.
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As Haskett and Varick become more present in the Waythorns’ lives, Mr. Waythorn becomes fixated on the fact that Alice has never told him any significant details of her past marriages/divorces. Lily eventually recovers from her illness. Haskett exercises some of his custody rights, such as when he requests that the Waythorns hire a different teacher for Lily. The Waythorns encounter Varick at several different social functions; these encounters cause the Waythorns some private consternation, but they do their best to act polite and undisturbed in public. As far as Mr. Waythorn can discern, Haskett seems to be a devoted father to Lily, and Varick appears to be generally genial. (However, the story implies that Varick might have been sexually unfaithful to Alice during their marriage.)
In the story’s final scene, Varick and Haskett both happen to arrive at the Waythorns’ home at approximately the same time, for different reasons. (Haskett is visiting Alice, and Varick wants to discuss the business deal.) The Waythorns are uncomfortable that both of Alice’s ex-husbands are now in their home. The story then ends somewhat abruptly, as the Waythorns attempt to react to their unexpected guests with outward civility.