In what way is the story wry?
Wharton is able to preserve a wry treatment of the subject of divorce. Ironically, then, Alice forgets how Waythorn takes his coffee, and thus puts cognac into it for him, in the way that Varick prefers his (paragraph 72). To avoid embarrassing Waythorn, Alice lies by denying that she had seen Haskett when he first comes to see Lily, her daughter. Wharton has Waythorn think of Alice as being “ ‘as easy as an old shoe’—a shoe that too many feet had worn”—a domestic image that is comically reductive as it also points out that divorced people do not lose their humanity just because they get divorced (paragraph 143). Life itself overtakes custom because people themselves have common interests. Thus, Waythorn deals with Varick in an important financial venture that will be profitable not only to Varick but to Waythorn’s firm. Haskett complains to Waythorn about Lily’s governess, a matter of household employment in the Waythorn residence that Haskett has a concern in because of his interest in Lily. Life goes on.