The Way of the World

The Way of the World


William Congreve

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The Way of the World: Act 2, Scene 9 Summary & Analysis

Mirabell and Waitwell are left standing near the pond. Waitwell jokes that Foible forgot to call him by his new name, Sir Rowland. Mirabell encourages him to transform into Sir Rowland soon. Waitwell assures him he will give such a convincing performance that he himself will forget his own identity. He reflects on his strange and eventful day, one in which he has been “married, knighted, and attended,” and predicts that it will be quite difficult to recover an “acquaintance and familiarity with [his] former self.” He suddenly realizes, however, that even when he stops pretending to be Sir Rowland, he won’t even be exactly the same Waitwell because he’s a newly married man and actually can’t be his “own man again.”
Waitwell jokes that in pretending to become Sir Rowland—a man of a different class—he will have an identity crisis. But this joke is then turned on its head with his realization that after he stops pretending to be Rowland he still won’t be the same Waitwell he was before because now he is married. Again and again the play forwards an idea that marriage and its responsibilities to and joining with another is something that changes a person into something new and different. It is precisely this changing that both Fainall and Millamant seek to avoid with their thoughts of maintaining independence, though Fainall does that by lying to his wife and being cold to her while Millamant wants to avoid marriage entirely.
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