Analysis of Plot in Roman Fever

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Edith Wharton’s Roman Fever develops plot in an interesting way. We see the present situation unfold through the internal dialogue of Alida Slade and Grace Ansley, and the tension that mounts between them. But Wharton also weaves in the past actions of the two friends, showing the years of insecurity, jealousy, and secrecy that lead to their revelations. Alida and Grace spend the entire story sitting on a restaurant terrace overlooking the hills of a Roman village. It has been years since they have seen each other, but there is a building tension between them, subtle at first. When they discuss their daughters’ lives and the romanticism of moonlight, they realize how little they know about each other. We soon see that this tension has always existed between the supposedly intimate friends, as they sit in silence, each reflecting on their view of the other. Alida has always been envious of Grace. They both come from the same social class and had successful husbands, but to Alida, Grace always had something she didn’t. She called Grace and Horace irreproachable and entertained herself with the thought of them being raided. Even in her youth, Alida was jealous of Grace. The letter she forged from Delphin urging Grace to meet him at the Coliseum was motivated solely by her insecurity about her relationship. Long after being widowed, Alida finds herself envious of Grace for new, but similar reasons. She doesn’t like that Grace’s daughter Barbara is more assertive when it comes to men. She wishes that her daughter, Jenny, would fall in love and lead an exciting life, but she knows that Barbara will be the one who marries a wealthy man. Alida despises Grace's contentment with life as she quietly knits. Alida still clings to the prominence she had when her husband was alive, while Grace has learned to accept her new life. Grace’s reflection on Alida is much less detailed, but we see that she pities her and feels her life was "full of failures...
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