The key to success ofEdith Wharton’s story “Roman Fever” undoubtedly was the neatly and skillfullyuse of the description of setting and symbols, to keep that kind of intrigue throughoutthe whole narration. A special characteristic of Wharton’s work is in thesubtle use of hidden irony.
This irony perfectly combines and complements theway of life of upper class people. Also, the Roman setting and aristocraticatmosphere where the events take place helps to clearly demonstrate the maindiscussed topics such as love, jealousy and deceit. The significance of thesetting in the explanation of the plot plays a big role in terms of making theintrigue between the female “confrontations”. It is clear, that the atmosphere,flashbacks and symbols in “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton helps reader to seethe intrigue around love, betrayal and the real relationship between women. The context is generallysimple, but the shape of story is constructed so one can bury another story, isa uniqueness to Warton’s literary abilities and her knowledge of upper classsociety. The main tale is about two middle aged widows, Mrs.
Ansley and Mrs.Slade, who accidentally meet in Rome. Women knit and recall the common historyand talk about their teenage daughters, Barbara and Jenny.
At some point ofstory, the reader will know that Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley spent some years oftheir life with each other in Rome in the past. Wharton at some instances showsvery well the private thoughts of each woman, which is suitable for thesecharacters, because ladies in society may be not comfortable to discuss suchintimate secrets between each other. Eventually, the covering of politeness goesaway, because the memory makes a focus of one specific incident. They bothremember and feel the past moments about Mrs. Slade’s husband Delphin, who alsohad a romance with Mrs. Ansley.
Women told each other about their betrayals ofthe beyond, which leads to the shocking feels of their today’s life: Barbara is,in reality could the daughter of Delphin. For this reason, it could be saidthat the intrigue in the story is influenced by the symbols of the past and thethat atmosphere during the conversation. As it was written before, the settingplays very important role in this story. The other interesting thing is in thatthe setting changes even if the main characters are not physically moving, andthis feature makes the whole picture even more deep and helps to intrigue thereader. This could be possible to happen if the main heroes discuss the pasttime and if the author skillfully uses flashbacks in the story. The plot of thestory takes place on a terrace in Rome, they are making a dialogue conversatingabout the past and the way everything has changed. Before what they rememberturn into the last thing when they were here together, and the way Grace gotthe Roman fever, which means that she got sick.
She was ill, because of thefact that she went to the Colosseum at night, the reason for this was a false letterwhich was sent by Mr. Slade, ostensibly it is from Delphin. But anyway Delphinand Grace did have a meeting and at the end everything turned over upside downfor both women, after they finally told the truth to each other. From thepassage of the text: “I was just thinking,” she said slowly, “whatdifferent things Rome stands for to each generation of travelers. To ourgrandmothers, Roman fever; to our mothers, sentimental dangers—how we used tobe guarded! — to our daughters, no more dangers than the middle of Main Street.They don’t know it—but how much they’re missing!” The long golden lightwas beginning to pale…” it is simply understandable that just the fact of theRome city has a crucial effect on the whole picture of the story and itsperception. Because Rome is the city of history and love: ancient ruins, the Colosseum,past generations and aristocracy (Wharton 89).
Furthermore, there aresome additional examples of the symbolization that has its own effect on thestories intrigue and the development of the plot. First, it is the Colosseumthat had been mentioned throughout the story several times and where the climaxhappened, even though it was showed by the flashback. In ancient Rome, theColosseum was an arena where people fought each other to the death. In thisstory, the two women intensely fought for the man. It was described that Mrs.Slade and Mrs. Ansley were knitting many times throughout the story.
This issymbolic to the cutting of their life and connecting their fates though. Fromthe text: “Half guiltily she drew from her handsomely mounted black handbag atwist of crimson silk run through by two fine knitting needles” (91). Becauseit was not so comfortable and a little bit awkward dialogue for both sides,ladies mostly started to knit at any times of hesitation and silence, so thisnew level of their “intimacy” glows the further intrigue around the “Roman”dialogue. Such figurative language that was again skillfully used by EdithWharton is very appropriate tool to reveal the whole picture of what ishappening and intrigues the reader to kind of guess the reasons for charactersdecisions and the ending at the whole. The quote: “A full moon night, theywould remember” shows that the night in Colosseum was very symbolic andinfluential to the secret meeting of two lovers (92). The story in generalshows not so typical “love triangle” and its consequences, and what despairwomen can do in the name of their love and feelings. To conclude, I wouldrather say that, taking into account all mentioned facts about the symbolicinfluence of the surroundings and settings on the plot of the story, it couldbe concluded that the themes of love, betrayal and deception were fullyrevealed.
It is clear, that the authors ability to draw the setting with thehelp of symbols and atmospheric pictures, so that the reader can easily imagineit as he saw them himself.