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The Way of the World

by William Congreve

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Discuss the theme of social criticism in the way of the world?

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Even of the title of the play makes it clear that this is going to make fun of the way folks act, the way folks socialize.  Most of the conflicts between characters are built around social conventions and mores of the time.  Fainall, who is allowed to exist thanks only to his wife's inheritance, thinks he is a champion manipulator, but in reality, he too is being manipulated to fit in with societal norms, for example in providing Mrs. Fainall with an "inoffensive" second husband.

Foible, whose name clearly is not indicating anything, is also an important mechanism for the social criticism of the play since she sees many of the characters in their more private moments, those that they would hide from the public if they could.

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