The Facade of Friendship in Edith Wharton’s Short Story, "Roman Fever"

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What is it about female relationships that makes them so complicated? How can two best friends quickly become enemies? Women, more so than men, have a tendency to hide their true feelings, creating tension and resentment that damage their friendships. From an early age, girls feel unspoken rivalries that only escalate throughout their lives. Envying another girl’s new pair of shoes eventually turns into coveting her career or fiancé. Once the delicate balance between friendship and rivalry is disturbed, feelings of jealousy and hatred will emerge to destroy the relationship. Edith Wharton’s short story “Roman Fever” depicts the dynamic between two life-long friends as they reminisce about their youth. The events in the plot gradually undermine their close friendship, exposing their true feelings about each other and the hidden secrets of their past. Through character contrast, inner dialogue, and scenic descriptions, Wharton conveys the envy, hatred, and deception that exist below the surface of their relationship. Underneath the women’s superficial conversation and pleasant memories, the author proves that their friendship is actually a façade for a life-long rivalry. Edith Wharton creates a contrast between the two protagonists, Alida Slade and Grace Ansley, in order to lay the foundation for their mutual jealousy and resentment. At the beginning of the story, the two characters are grouped together as typical middle-aged women, knitting and appreciating the view from the terrace of a restaurant. The author notes the difference in their physical appearance –Grace is smaller and paler, while Alida is fuller and darker; however, she places more emphasis on the women’s conversation and the description of their surroundings.... ... middle of paper ... ... believed that I understood a fair amount about my female peers. But reading “Roman Fever” has shown me that I know nearly nothing about friendships. I began to doubt some of my friends, cautious of the fact that I can never be sure of what they really think or feel. Amidst these troubling doubts, I came to the realization that Wharton had missed the most important aspect of friendship: trust. Alida and Grace were childhood friends, yet neither had trusted the good in their relationship. They allowed the secrets and lies of their past to guide their feelings for twenty-five years, resulting in the end of a possibly salvageable friendship. In real life, I know that I cannot analyze contrasting details nor read into internal thoughts. The only hope I have is to put effort into a friendship and trust that it will be strong enough to overcome jealousy and rivalry.

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