The Envious Role in “Roman Fever”

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The fine line between the fear of the unknown and what is known can sometimes become blurred. In the short story “Roman Fever”, Edith Wharton does just that by telling the story of two ladies who were ‘childhood friends’. Both are recently widowed, and encounter each other in Rome by coincidence while traveling abroad with their daughters Jenny and Barbara. One of the ladies, Alida Slade, has long suspected that her intimate friend, Grace Ansley was involved with her fiancé many years ago and has been harboring some sort of dark secret about that liaison. As the story unfolds, Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley wonder about the familiar situation they have found themselves and their daughters in while in Rome. The similarity between the two…show more content…
These elusive comments eventually substantiate the dramatic conclusion between the two friends, although the reader may miss many of the comments because of their subtlety. Alida mentions a story about Grace’s Great-aunt Harriet that Grace’s mother had once told them. As Grace is commenting on the tale, Alida stops her mid sentence and purposely adds, “but she really sent her because they were in love with the same man”, (Wharton 1372), as if to nudge Grace’s confession along. As the conversation progress, so does the underlying tension. Alida’s comments to Grace become short and terse, almost to the point where she is bluntly stating her true feelings; something Alida has never done with Grace. Alida wants Grace to admit to the affair with Delphin and when she does not, Alida clearly says, “ You had been out late sight-seeing, hadn’t you?”(Wharton 1373) Grace still does not admit to the affair and Alida finally plays her trump card, telling Grace that is was she who wrote the letter that proposed the secret meeting, not Delphin. An outside source, James Phelan, point of view claims “Alida seeks to injure Grace and establish her own power over her by telling Grace about the forgery” (343). In other words, Alida knows telling Grace will put the feelings of being jealous and envious out of the way, even if it was momentary, making Alida feel better about herself. Alida craves the

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