In Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever,” the setting takes place in the romantic city of Rome, on the balcony of a casual Roman restaurant. Two wealthy American widows, Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade, are sitting together carrying on a conversation from afternoon to evening. From the restaurant, the two women are overseeing the ruins of the ancient city of Rome.
Grace Ansley and Alida Slade’s conversation from afternoon to evening, the colosseum, the ancient ruins, and Grace Ansley’s knitting all have important meanings. The afternoon light is the last hours of friendship and kindness that the two ladies display for each other. When the two ladies finally start getting deeper into their conversation they begin to build an envious relationship that takes place at dawn. The evening darkness is Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley’s entry to the dark secrets and rivalry that they have for each other. The colosseum is symbolic for the battlefield where Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade fought for the man that they loved. Mrs.Slade and Mrs. Ansley continue the gladiatorial tradition. In this battle, Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley use their life of lies, daughters and husbands as weapons to criticize on each other. The ruins of the romantic city of Rome are also significant. The ruins is like Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade’s decaying relationship. In the end their friendship collapses. In “Roman Fever”, Grace Ansley is knitting with crimson silk throughout most of the story. There are many different ways in which knitting is used. Mrs. Ansley knitting is a way for her to cover up her agitation and the guilt of her past. The knitting represents the complicated, twisted relationship and life that these women have. The crimson silk is symbolic for passion and love.