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Roman Fever by Edith Wharton

By xweeds1 Nov 17, 2011 1364 Words
Friends? Not Really

Trust is often defined as, reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing. It takes years to build trust but seconds to break it. Trust is the main aspect of any relationship. If a relationship lacks trust and a person finds out that his or her friend cheated or lied, it just changes everything in one’s life. The short story “Roman Fever” written by Edith Wharton revolves around the lives of two friends, Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley, who knew each other for too long to call themselves each other’s best friend. They had same events occurring in their lives in the same period of time that kept them both together. One evening in the Rome they find out some deep secrets about each other that changes everything in their lives. Edith Wharton used the magic of foreshadowing in such a beautiful way that it keeps the reader’s mind twisting about what is going to happen next. She leaves the trail by telling the readers small hints, such as: “"It always will be, to me," … "Oh, yes, I remember," murmured Mrs. Ansley, with the same undefinable stress—,” at another point, “Mrs. Ansley echoed her laugh in a faint murmur. "Babs is an angel too"” and “Mrs. Slade nodded. “But she really sent her because they were in love with the same man—" and "Yes. It wasn't easy to get in … it was managed, often. Lovers met there who couldn't meet elsewhere. You knew that?"”

As the story starts the two women are sitting at a restaurant’s vast terrace and knitting. Mrs. Slade compliments the view by saying "After all, it's still the most beautiful view in the world." And Mrs. Ansley replies "It always will be, to me," assented her friend Mrs. Ansley, with so slight a stress on the "me". Mrs. Ansley puts stress on “me” because it was the full moon night and she had spent this night with love of her life and Mrs. Slade’s fiancé. The time spent at “The Colosseum” was the only unforgettable moment in her life. At another point Mrs. Slade reminds her friend: "It's a view we've both been familiar with for a good many years. When we first met here we were younger than our girls are now. You remember!" and Mrs. Ansley murmured, with the same undefinable stress— "Oh, yes, I remember". Mrs. Ansley keeps her tone indefinable as she’s being sarcastic because her friend has no idea what she is thinking at that moment. She’s actually lost in the memories of that night she spent with Mrs. Slade’s fiancé. She loved her fiancé and that night is all she had with him and today again, she’s sitting and looking at the view of the colosseum. Both points are wonderfully foreshadowed by Wharton but the readers have no idea what Wharton is up to when they read the story for the first time. These points come to a readers head and make him/her smile after reading the whole story.

As the story goes on and two ladies are busy talking about their old days and customs of their time, they start talking about their daughters and Mrs. Slade complains of her daughter: I always wanted a brilliant daughter... and never quite understood why I got an angel instead." And Mrs. Ansley echoed her laugh in a faint murmur. "Babs is an angel too." Wharton, very wisely tells her readers everything in this sentence. Mrs. Ansley says "Babs is an angel too" because she knows that Barbra is from same father as Jenny, Mr. Delphin Slade. The night spent with Mr. Slade at the colosseum resulted in Ms. Grace’s pregnancy. Mrs. Ansley’s mother knowing the customs of the society took an advance step and married her daughter to Mr. Horace Ansley before the people of the society would come to know about her daughter’s pregnancy before marriage and she gave birth to Barbra, daughter of Mr. Delphin Slade. But of course proud Mrs. Slade is unaware of the fact that both the girls are sisters. This foreshadowing is presented in such a great way that a reader takes it as a mother’s compliment for her daughter but in real Wharton has told Mrs. Ansley’s heart out because Mrs. Ansley is happy from her core that she has a daughter from the man she loved.

The story reaches a point where Mrs. Slade is fighting with herself on whether she should tell to Mrs. Ansley that she knows she went to see her fiancé on the night when she caught fever or not. She takes a start from talking about how ill Mrs. Ansley got that winter when Mrs. Slade was engaged. Mrs. Slade makes a point about Mrs. Ansley’s aunt Harriet. After Mrs. Ansley tells that her aunt used to send her young sister out to the Forum after sunset to gather a nightblooming flower for her album. Mrs. Slade declines by nodding and says: "But she really sent her because they were in love with the same man—" Mrs. Slade brings their love with the same man because she wants to tell Mrs. Ansley that she knew about Mrs. Ansley’s love for her fiancé. Mrs. Slade wanted to see her friend’s reaction when she mentioned the love with same man but when Mrs. Ansley didn’t responded as she wanted her to; she started talking about the secret lovers meetings at the colosseum: "Yes. It wasn't easy to get in, after the gates were locked for the night. Far from easy. Still, in those days it could be managed; it was managed, often. Lovers met there who couldn't meet elsewhere. You knew that?" Mrs. Ansley declined that she didn’t knew about these kinds of meetings. It broke Mrs. Slade’s cumulative anger of twenty five years because she knew that she loved Mr. Delphin and went to meet him that night. The reason she was so sure was the letter that Mrs. Ansley got from Mr. Delphin but it was written by Mrs. Slade. She tells Mrs. Ansley that the letter she received was written by her and that’s all she has from Mr. Delphin but she gets a shock when Mrs. Ansley tells her that he had arranged everything and she did meet Mr. Delphin that night because she wrote him back and he came to see her. Wharton plays with her readers mind in this part of the story by the great foreshadowing and reader can’t help but cling to the story to know what happens next. The amazing foreshadowing come to an end when beaten Mrs. Slade tries to win the argument by saying: “After all, I had everything; I had him for twenty-five years. And you had nothing but that one letter that he didn't write." Mrs. Ansley replied after taking a step toward the door of the terrace, “I had Barbra” and moved ahead of Mrs. Slade toward the stairway. At this point reader come to know why Mrs. Ansley put stress on “me” and why she kept her indefinable stress in her tone. A reader also finds why Mrs. Ansley kept telling Mrs. Slade that both girls were similar and had no difference. Finally the reader finds out what it was that made Mrs. Slade think that she is superior to Mrs. Ansley and why she thought that Mrs. Ansley was unkind. The story tells us that how dishonesty and weak integrity in relationship and friendship can cause failure to one’s life. Mrs. Slade’s weak trust on her friend, Mrs. Ansley made her write a letter and dishonesty of Mrs. Ansley made her write back to Mr. Delphin, who’s two-faced behavior caused failure to his wife after twenty five years of his act, when she finds out that the daughter of

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