Why does the main character in "The Other Woman" make so much of the contrast between light and dark, the mind when asleep and the mind in the waking state?

The main character in “The Other Woman” makes much of the contrast between light and dark as well as the mind when asleep and the mind in the waking state to separate his two realities: his present position as a respectable government official married to a judge’s daughter and his past affair with and thoughts about another woman. The narrator associates his wife with light and waking and the other woman with darkness and elusive sleep.

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In the short story “The Other Woman,” an unreliable narrator describes a brief affair with another woman before marrying his fiancée. Despite repeated insistences that he never loved and no longer thinks about the other woman, he demonstrates that indeed he still is quite obsessed with her. He emphasizes contrasts between light and darkness, day and night, and sleep and waking states to separate his two realities: infidelity with the other woman and marriage to his fiancée/wife.

He associates light with his fiancée. As the daughter of a judge, she occupies a high social status and has many admirers. He describes interactions that take place with her and her peers in the daylight or in lit rooms during the evening. Even his public persona—as the fiancé of a judge’s wife, a recently promoted government official, and a decorated poet—is lauded in well-lit situations.

In contrast, he links his interactions with and thoughts of the other woman with darkness. Once, when he is unable to sleep, he climbs out of bed and looks out the window at the clear night and moon:

He wanted to dream of the woman who was to be his wife, to think out lines for noble poems or make plans that would affect his career. Much to his surprise, his mind refused to do anything of the sort.

Instead, he grows distracted by thoughts of the other woman, a lower-class wife of the owner of a cigar/newspaper stand:

At night, when the city was quiet and when I should have been asleep, I thought about her all the time. After two or three days of that sort of thing the consciousness of her got into my daytime thoughts.

Also, the protagonist plans physical interactions with the other woman only at night. For example, one evening when returning home from the theater, he stands “in the darkness” outside of the other woman’s apartment building and jealously imagines her with her husband in bed. After he returns home, he tries

to think of the woman I loved, but her figure had also become something far away, something with which I for the moment seemed to have nothing to do. I rolled and tumbled about in the bed. It was a miserable experience.

Sleep is not an escape for him; his obsession with the other woman intensifies at night and obscures his view of his fiancée.

Near the end of the story, the narrator insists:

Twice now I have said that after that evening I never thought of the other woman at all. That is partially true but, sometimes in the evening when I am walking alone in the street or in the park as we are walking now, and when evening comes softly and quickly as it has come to-night, the feeling of her comes sharply into my body and mind.

He feels free to think about the other woman when he is awake at night and his wife is asleep in another room. When he closes his eyes, he sees the other woman; when he opens his eyes, he sees

again the dear woman with whom I have undertaken to live out my life. Then I will sleep and when I awake in the morning it will be as it was that evening when I walked out of my dark apartment after having had the most notable experience of my life.

He associates his wife—"an awakening woman”—with the mind in a waking state. He insists that when he wakes in the morning, thoughts of the other woman “will be utterly gone.”

Yet can the reader really believe him? Throughout the story, he repeats, phrases like "I am in love with my wife,” “Am I telling the truth?”, and “I have tried to make everything clear.” He sounds like he is trying to convince the reader and himself that his two realities are separate and that he is a faithful husband.

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