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 The Way of the World Study Guide (Choose to Continue)

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The Way of the World: Metaphors

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Contracts

A contract represents promises and in many instances in this play it refers to the contract of marriage. The breaking of promises and marriage vows is a central concern, as marriage and infidelity are key themes, and so the contract has the symbolic value of trust and is supported by the power of the law. Whoever is seen to hold the contract, is seen to hold the power and finally in this play the power evidently rests with Mirabell rather than Fainall.

 

Names of characters

The naming of the characters is given some literal significance as with the case of Waitwell the servant and Fainall the deceiver. This has the effect of highlighting how this is a work of fiction and entertainment, as these names are not invested in reality, and also adds to the comedic nature of the play.

 

Waitwell’s disguise

When Waitwell pretends to be Mirabell’s uncle, Sir Rowland, he embodies the irreverent, even carnivalesque element of the play that mocks the aristocracy and temporarily at least undermines the class hierarchies. By deceiving Lady Wishfort so comprehensively, he and the play demonstrate how class barriers are constructs that can be broached and, therefore, the ruling group is open to challenge.

 

However, the disguise is discovered and Waitwell is punished, and by the end of the play the old order is restored. In this way, the deception is contained in the script and leaves only a lingering sense that class divisions are surmountable.




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