11.07.2019 in Literature

Roman Fever Essay Sample

The Short fiction by Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever” is about two American ladies having a dialogue in a Roman restaurant. The comparison between these two ladies can be done by analyzing their physical attributes, social attributes, psychological attributes and their morals.

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The physical attributes of these ladies, Alida Slade and Grace Ansley, has been described by the author, Wharton, accordingly considering their age, gender, health, race and physical strength and weaknesses. According to race these two women are Americans, it is however obvious that they are women in their middle ages, Alida Slade is described as the one who is fuller, and higher in color, with a small determined nose supported by vigorous black eyebrows and as the lady with high color and energetic brows. On the other hand Grace Ansley is described as the smaller and paler one.

The social attributes of these two ladies has been that they had been living next to each other since childhood and had known each other for so long this is evident in their conversation as  Grace said  to her friend Alida at the restaurant that “When we first met here we were younger than our girls are now”. This statement means that the two families had known each other for so long.

The psychological attributes includes their beliefs, desires, motives, likes and dislikes.

Regarding their morals Mrs. Slade still continues to think of marriage in terms of social hierarchy, just as she had thought about her own marriage to Delphin as the mark of social superiority over her rival, both of these women, Mrs. Slade and  Mrs. Ansley  are not able to keep themselves in check any longer after twenty-five years of silence. In their discussion, they let loose with what Wharton describes as ‘violence.’ Although Alida realizes somehow that her aggression is misdirected, she is powerless to control it.

Not known to themselves, Alida and Grace continue the gladiatorial tradition. They have been seen as relentless and unscrupulous, using their bodies, their husbands, their daughters, and their lives of lies as weapons to compete one another concerning their passions to one man a lawyer “Delphin”, Alida and Grace have been fighting secretly and having internal rivalry for twenty-five years and were determined to kill each other, through the “Roman Fever”.

The implication clearly is that the ladies are physically, emotionally, and intellectually capable of nothing more than the traditionally passive, repetitive and undemanding task of knitting. By having the daughters patronize their mothers in this fashion, the two ladies as Wharton predisposes, wants the readers to understand them as stereotypical matrons

Alida is quite emotional and her palpable annoyance suggests that Grace’s knitting is more than just an evasion tactic a trick. In fact the needles that she was using are effective psychological weapons against a woman who is deliberately tormenting her for having once loved Delphin Slade

Adultery is a character that is evident in Grace, she realizes that she has the upper hand, having not only slept with Delphin, but also given birth to the daughter Alida so covets. Grace’s newly dominant status is signified by changed body language; but more importantly, Grace is no longer associated with knitting. She departs from the restaurant terrace apparently without bothering to pick up her dropped knitting materials. Further, she wraps her throat in a scarf and not a knitted scarf, but one of sensuous fur. And as a subtle underscoring of the reversal of the two women’s roles, it is the defeated Alida who picks up her hand-bag — presumably to do some knitting (of the usual mundane kind).

The tricks that are used by Alida did not humiliate as her rival intended but she treasures the memories for so long.

Mrs. Ansley thinks her ‘awfully brilliant; but not as brilliant as she thinks’. She is not sentimental, she does not like the moonlight, but rather is hard ruthless, unloving, superficial and external. Mrs. Grace Ansley is smaller, paler, less sure of herself, of ‘her rights in the world;’ of Mrs. Slade, who considers her old-fashioned. She is the sentimental one, not the particularly bright, but once beautiful, loving, faithful, and inward-turning.


Mrs. Ansely’s defensive fortification surrounding her secret takes the form of her hesitation to reply, her ‘forgetting,’ and her refusal to speak of her memories, misread by Mrs. Slade as an inability to have memories.

Envy is a character of Mrs. Slade. This is shown by her secret envy and hatred for Mrs. Ansley hatred is brought into focus by her comparison of the two daughters, as young ladies competing for the same man. The jealousy is basically a matter that was about their daughters. The rivalry between them exists mainly in the mother’s minds.

Alida is envious, though prompted in par by her pretensions for Jenny, has much more to do with her past and continuing rivalry with Mrs. Ansley than any real rivalry between the daughters. It is Mrs. Slade who bitterly reflects that Jenny has cannot possibly win out over the brilliant, dynamic Barbara, just as Alida feared Grace’s sweetness and beauty

The author also describes Grace Ansley as always old-fashioned, this is evident when she reiterated to her companion “she thought; and added aloud, with a retrospective smile: “It’s a view we’ve both been familiar with for a good many years.

Mrs. Delphin Slade, for instance, would have told herself or anyone who asked her, that Mrs. Horace Ansley, twenty-five years ago, had been exquisitely lovely and she continued to explain that the lady still charming and distinguished.

The two ladies were very lazy and took most of their childhood till the parental age without a job. Mrs. Slade reflected, she felt her unemployment more than poor Grace ever would.

The envious character of Mrs. Slade is evident as she wished that Jenny, the only daughter of her rival would fall in love with the wrong man, and also that she might have to be watched, out-maneuvered and rescued, very wicked thoughts for a friends daughter.

Mrs. Ansley was much less articulate than her friend, and her mental portrait of Mrs. Slade was slighter, and drawn with fainter touches. “Alida Slade’s awfully brilliant; but not as brilliant as she thinks,”

Like many intimate friends, the two ladies had never before had occasion to be silent together, and Mrs. Ansley was slightly embarrassed by what seemed, after so many years, a new stage in their intimacy, and one with which she did not yet know how to deal.

The two women had always been very irresponsible. In their conversation one of the women Mrs. Slade would say that as she was always used to think,” Mrs. Slade continued, “that our mothers had a much more difficult job than our grandmothers.

Mrs. Slade’s tone grew easier. The author describes her as being unappreciative because in the conversation the author gives her statements as she said to her companion that  “No; I don’t. I appreciate her. And perhaps envy you. Would she never cure herself of envying her! Perhaps she had begun too long ago.

These two women were romantic, this is evident as one of the major theme of the story “love”, as they were conversing, and Mrs. Slade nodded. “But she really sent her because they were in love with the same man”, this brought the enmity between them as one of them Mrs. Slade, wrote a letter intentionally and she said to her friend that “I can repeat every word of the letter that took you there.” Mrs. Ansely’s hands dropped to her knees. The face they uncovered was streaked with tears. The impact of the letter this indicates that the lady is emotional.

Mrs. Slade continued to look down on her. She seemed physically reduced by the blow as if, when she got up, the wind might scatter her like a puff of dust. Mrs. Slade’s jealousy suddenly leaped up again at the sight. 

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