The Way of the World

The Way of the World

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The Way of the World Act 2, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mirabell and Fainall, also walking in the park, have just seen Mrs. Fainall and Marwood and head towards them. Before the men are within earshot, Marwood jokes that Fainall has come to see his wife. Mrs. Fainall retorts that Fainall must be coming over for Marwood, since Mirabell is with him.
Marwood and Mrs. Fainall launch cheap parting shots at one another to try and unsettle the other before the men join them. They each point out the man who would make the other the most uncomfortable.
Themes
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
The married couple greets each other with pet names, like “my dear” and “my soul.” Then, Fainall tells his wife that she looks ill. Mirabell gallantly says that Fainall is the only man who could think so, but Fainall responds that he’s just concerned for her health.
The Fainall’s pet names are for appearance’s sake and not said with feeling. Fainall insults his wife while making it look like concern for her. Mirabell’s better manners—and, generally, his underlying goodness—show through.
Themes
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Mrs. Fainall ignores her husband’s remark and addresses Mirabell, telling him that she wants to hear more about the subject he was discussing last night before Wishfort asked him to leave the cabal.
Mrs. Fainall is Mirabell’s ally and is sending him a signal that she wants to speak with him about his plans by bringing up the topic in an indirect way.
Themes
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Mrs. Fainall then adds that she doesn’t want to walk with her husband, joking that by not walking with him she’d be avoiding a scandal. She and Mirabell walk off together, leaving Marwood and Fainall alone.
That Mrs. Fainall calls it a “scandal” to be seen walking with Fainall alludes to the fact that she and her husband don’t spend much time together, so being seen with him in the park would have raised eyebrows. That a husband and wife walking together would be a scandal is a twist that the Restoration audience—interested as it was in marriage and deceit—would have enjoyed.
Themes
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
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