Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 875
Sibyl Chase loves being married. She is as much in love with the idea of being a bride as she is with her husband, Elyot, and perhaps more so. On the first night of their honeymoon, Sibyl had gone into raptures over Elyot, but she did not forget, or let him forget, that she knew he had loved his first wife Amanda madly. She is now certain that the breakup of that marriage had been Amanda’s fault and that she had been a mean-tempered and probably a wanton woman. When Sibyl tells him that she knows how to handle a husband, how to make him happy, Elyot fears that she means she knows how to manage a husband. He is a trifle disturbed.
Unknown at first to the Chases, Amanda is honeymooning at the same hotel with her new husband, Victor Prynne. Victor has much the same ideas about marriage as does Sibyl. He intends to take care of Amanda, to make her forget that dreadful brute to whom she had been married. The fact that Amanda never asked to be taken care of is unimportant. Victor will teach her to be a suitable wife.
When Amanda and Elyot see each other again, each wants to move out of the hotel before their respective mates knows about the presence of the other couple. Sibyl and Victor, however, who are not accustomed to making abrupt changes without reason, refuse to leave. Amanda and Elyot thereupon decides that they are not culpable when they talk together again and recall their happy times together. Both try for a time to avoid the issue uppermost in their hearts and minds, but at last Elyot breaks off the polite conversation to say that he still loves Amanda. They fall into each other’s arms.
Amanda tries for a time to make them consider Sibyl and Victor, but Elyot easily convinces her that those two will suffer more if they all live a lie. After making plans to go to Paris, Amanda and Elyot leave without a word of explanation.
Because they had fought so violently and so often in their married days, Amanda makes Elyot promise that whenever they start to bicker they will use a password and each keep quiet for two minutes. In Amanda’s flat in Paris, they are often forced into quick use of the magic password, for they are torn equally between love and hate. Amanda’s conscience bothers her a little, but Elyot can easily soothe that nagging little voice with love, logic, or a flippant remark. Sorry that they had wasted five years of separation after their divorce, they agree to marry each other again as soon as Sibyl and Victor will divorce them. Elyot is annoyed when he learns that Amanda had spent those five years in having little affairs with various men, but he sees no reason for her being annoyed at his own transgressions.
Their quarrels occur over nonsensical things for the most part. At the root is often Amanda’s concern for the moral questions involved in their past and present relationship. When Elyot brushes these aside with worldly and flippant comments, Amanda comes back to him more passionately than before.
The last explosion occurs when Amanda mentions a man of whom Elyot had always been jealous. Without knowing quite how the quarrel got out of hand, they find themselves throwing things at each other and slapping each other viciously. The magic password fails to work. As each slams into a different bedroom, neither is aware that Sibyl and Victor had come into the room at the height of the rumpus and settled themselves quietly on the sofa.
The next morning, Sibyl and Victor have a very sensible discussion concerning the situation of the night before. Sibyl weeps copiously, not so much from sorrow as from custom; it is the right thing for an injured wife to do. Each blames the other’s mate for the sordid scene in Amanda’s apartment. When Amanda and Elyot join them, they are very polite with each other and with Sibyl and Victor. At first the situation is like a morning call for coffee. When Amanda and Elyot admit that they are sorry, that it was all a mess and a mistake, Sibyl and Victor agree that the culprits are not contrite enough. Elyot, in particular, seems crass about the whole thing, particularly to Victor, who wants to thrash him. Elyot sees no use in heroics; he honestly admits that his flippancy is only an attempt to cover real embarrassment.
Initially, Amanda and Elyot refuse to speak to each other, but as Sibyl and Victor continue to be proper and to mouth little platitudes about morals and the sanctity of marriage, Elyot winks at Amanda. While the injured spouses make and reverse plans for divorces, the sinners pay less and less attention. At last, Sibyl and Victor begin to quarrel, each accusing the other of weakness in still loving such a wicked and worldly person as Amanda or Elyot. When Sibyl gives Victor a resounding slap, he in turn shakes her soundly. In the middle of the quarrel, Amanda and Elyot pick up their suitcases and tiptoe out the door together.