In Eugene O’Neill’s first play, A Wife for a Life, two men, Jack and a fellow prospector known only as The Older Man, are in love with the same woman, a young lady by the name of Yvette. There’s just one problem, however: she happens to be married. As Jack tells the story, she’s the daughter of a poor French couple who forced her to marry a man they mistakenly believed would be a good match for her. Poor Yvette was much too young and much too innocent to know her own mind, and so she went along with her parents’ wishes.
As it turned out, the marriage was a mistake right from the start, with Yvette’s husband, a vicious, drunken brute of a man, treating her abominably. Jack claims that the man loved her but then adds in a telling phrase “in his fashion.”
Despite everything, Yvette’s decided to stand by her man, as proved by the letter that Jack produces from his pocket to show to The Older Man, who in actual fact, unbeknownst to Jack, is Yvette’s husband. In the letter, written and sent to Jack the day he was leaving, she says that she must be true to both herself and her husband and will, therefore, stay with him. This proves her innocence and noble-mindedness; it also proves to her husband that, contrary to his suspicions, Yvette has been loyal and faithful to him.