Essay on Roman Fever
The climax in " Roman Fever " by Edith Wharton appears at the very end of the story, however the author, she has prepaired subtly for this shocking ending by using a series of foreshadowdings and hints before reaching the climax.
At the first part of the story, the foreshadowings mostly concentrates on Mrs. Ansley. When Mrs. Slade praised the Palatine for its beauty Mrs. Ansley assented" with so slight a stress on the 'me' "and a small break in the middle of the sentence: "It always will be, to me". And then the next "undefinable stress" on "remember": "Oh, yes, I remember". It's rather easy to notice, the author has hinted the readers that Mrs. Ansley must have had an important and forgetable event in Rome. (p.430)
Then the author describes Mrs.Slade bag "as discreetly opulent looking as Mrs. Ansley's". We questioned that why Mrs.Ansley, a small, pale, easily-colored person can possess such opulent a bag which is as grand and impressive as Mrs.Slade who was depicted at the beginning of the story as a woman who is" fuller, higher in color, with a small determined nose supported by vigorous eyebrows". Whether Mrs. Ansley is a meek, gentle person? If we read carefully enough we would notice that in the opening of the story (p.429) Mrs. Ansley "drew from her handsomely mounted black handbag a twist of crimson silk ..." The crimson silk, its color, of course and obviously not suitable for a meek, womanly like her. That kind of color stands for victories and the yearn for victories. We can infer, though not much surely, that Mrs. Ansley is a kind of person who like to be the winner.
Come back to the word "discreetly", we might probably feel that these two women have tried to keep up with each others inwardly. The readers would expect to learn more about the race triggered by the jealousy between them.
The author foreshadows more clearly as the story goes along. The scene when Mrs.Slade's gaze "turned toward the Colosseum" (middle of p.434) is so meaningful. Already the sky has losed its "golden flank" and begins to turn into the "purple shadow", which foreshadows the something is coming to the end for it, an evil and immoral unidentified thing, would show its whole face in a "crystal clear" way. The picture of the conjunction between the afternoon and the evening: "It was the moment when afternoon and evening hang balanced in mid-heaven" also signals that there will be the conjunction or the exchange of secrets, revenges or something between Mrs. Ansley and Mrs.Slade
When Mrs. Salde said: "I was easily frightened because I was to happy. I wonder if you know what that means" followed by Mrs.Ansley faltering and Mrs. Slade's not explaining why she easily frightened when being too happy but coming back to the Roman Fever, Colosseum ..., the readers would feel somehow Mrs. Slade had commited a crime, an immoral act before her marriage so that she feared to lose that happiness. With the tale of Aunt Harriet, we can guess that something rather like the tale would did occur again and involved these two genteel women, two" intimate friends "!
After Mrs. Slade revealed her secret which much shocked Mrs.Ansley, the author conducts the readers to an small interlude describing the sky "emptied of all its gold, dusk spread over it,abrutly darkening the Seven Hills ". Though the natural atmosphere was dull, the there was "steps were coming and going on the terrace", waiters who began their work, "rearrange" tables and chair, "a feeble string of the electric lights flickered out" in the restaurant. However," the the corner where Mrs.Slade and Mrs.Ansley sat was still shadowy and deserted". That corner didn't have any light, even a "feeble" light to brighten and ease the tense, sorrow of the situation. The author wants to clue us that their "friendship" could never be as it had been or its furture, its ending would be as dark and full of dusk as the sky at that time
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