Gender Roles In Edith Wharton's Short Story 'Roman Fever'

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Gender roles are how society defines men and women. There are many different categories. Some women are "homemakers," others are "rebels," some are "bookworms," and some are "brilliant." In Edith Wharton's short story, "Roman Fever," the females begin as two different stereotypes and end as something unexpected. Even the title, "Roman Fever" has an unforeseen meaning, proving that things are not always what they seem. Even the most sheepish woman can be a Lioness, and the most confident woman can be completely insecure. The story is set entirely on a patio in Rome. The main characters are described as, "…two American ladies of ripe but well-cared-for middle age… with the same expression of vague but benevolent approval (Wharton, "Roman Fever," p377)." This description shows the reader that these women come from money, are
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Both women sit engaging in small-talk believing that they know their friend as well as she knows herself. Mrs. Slade sits thinking, "Grace Ansley was always old-fashioned (Wharton, p378)." While Mrs. Ansley finds herself describing her friend, "Alida Slade's awfully brilliant; but not as brilliant as she thinks… (Wharton, p380)." These descriptions of one another seem definitive. These women seem confident that they know the other. However, the narrator notes, "So these two ladies visualized each other, each through the wrong end of her little telescope (Wharton, p381)." Here again is an example of the narrator's use of foreshadowing. Wharton never allows the reader to get too comfortable with the surface versions of these women, and yet she seems to reinforce the stereotypes until the last lines where the whole house of cards comes crashing down. Just like in the opening lines where the women have "vague expressions," here the narrator is out-right telling the reader that the impressions these women have of one another are

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