Roman Fever: A Brilliant Display

Roman Fever: A Brilliant Display

Length: 1193 words (3.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Exposing Gender Stereotypes in Roman Fever

Definitive criteria for judging the success or failure of a work of fiction are not easily agreed upon; individuals almost necessarily introduce bias into any such attempt.  Only those who affect an exorbitantly refined artistic taste, however, would deny the importance of poignancy in literary pieces.  To be sure, writings of dubious and fleeting merit frequently enchant the public, but there is too the occasional author who garners widespread acclaim and whose works remain deeply affecting despite the passage of time.  The continued eminence of the fiction of Edith Wharton attests to her placement into such a category of authors: it is a recognition of her propensity to create poignant and, indeed, successful literature.  The brevity of her "Roman Fever" allows for a brilliant display of this talent in it we find many of her highly celebrated qualities in the space of just a few pages.  "Roman Fever" is truly outstanding: a work that exposes the gender stereotypes of its day (1936) but that moves beyond documentary to reveal something of the perennial antagonisms of human nature.

            From the story's first sentence, upon the introduction of two women of "ripe but well-cared-for middle age," it becomes clear that stereotypes are at issue (Wharton 1116).  This mild description evokes immediate images of demure and supportive wives, their husbands' wards.  Neither woman is without her "handsomely mounted black handbag," and it is not until several paragraphs into the piece that Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley even acquire first names (1117).  Thus, without even disclosing any of the ladies' thoughts to the reader, Wharton has already revealed a great deal of their personal worlds.  They live in a society which expects women to act largely as background figures, thoroughly engaged with furthering their husbands' careers and the constant struggle to remain pretty.  Indeed, little else is desired or even tolerated3/4and Grace Ansley and Alida Slade appear, at first glance, to conform to this image perfectly.

            As the workings of the characters' minds are revealed, the extent to which they have internalized these values becomes apparent.  Each, in their brief description of the other, mentions that her acquaintance was quite beautiful in her youth.  Alida recalls how much she enjoyed having been married to a famous lawyer; she misses being  "the Slade's wife" (1119).  Startlingly, now that their husbands are dead, we find that the women consider themselves to be in a state of  "unemployment" (1118)!

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Roman Fever: A Brilliant Display." 13 Dec 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Irony and Symbolism in Roman Fever Essay

- The short story, “Roman Fever” illustrates the shocking relationship between two women, Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade, by a chance meeting in Rome. As the story opens the two women are sitting on the terrace of a Roman restaurant that has an astonishing view of the Colosseum and other Roman ruins. While the women sit in silence and enjoy the tranquil view from the terrace they notice their daughters down below running off to spend a romantic evening with two young men. This triggers Mrs. Slades memories of her and Mrs....   [tags: Roman Fever]

Research Papers
834 words (2.4 pages)

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

- 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....   [tags: Roman Fever]

Research Papers
1592 words (4.5 pages)

Change in Roman Fever by Edith Wharton Essay

- Change in Roman Fever by Edith Wharton Chance (or coincidence) has an ambiguous role in the outcome of different situations; it can work in or against one’s favour. As in real life, chance in literature has considerable influence on the circumstances of the characters and where those circumstances lead. In two particular literary works, Roman Fever and A Small, Good Thing, chance happenings have grave results on the lives of the characters concerned. In Roman Fever, old friends meet by chance and reveal disturbing secrets about the past; while in A Small, Good Thing a boy is injured on his birthday placing his parents in a desperate situation....   [tags: Coincedence Edith Wharton Roman Fever Essays]

Research Papers
1958 words (5.6 pages)

The Relevance of Edith Wharton’s Roman Fever to the Modern World Essay

- The Relevance of Edith Wharton’s Roman Fever to the Modern World According to the World Health Organization, “of the 75 million children under five in Africa a million and a half die each year of pneumonia.” As distressing and sad as this statistic is, it points out the great danger pneumococcus still is to young people in the developing world. It’s in the developed world, but at a time before antibiotics, at a time when acute respiratory ailments posed an even greater but still preventable threat to the younger set that concerns us here and that inspires a deeper look at the full implications of respiratory disease....   [tags: Roman Fever Essays]

Research Papers
1466 words (4.2 pages)

Essay on Rivalry and Etiquette within Roman Fever by Edith Wharton

- In social gatherings women were considered the head of the family, via social events. Women had strict social etiquette to which the upper classes had to bid by. However, there were a few occasions in which young ladies stepped outside of the social norm. Like in “Roman Fever” two women appear as social friends if not siblings forming a rivalry between them, competing for the hand of Delphin Slade. These expressions of rivalry pushed young women into secret affairs that rivals used to ruin the competitions reputation within society....   [tags: social gatherings, upper classes, ]

Research Papers
2028 words (5.8 pages)

Roman Fever and Hills Like White Elephants Essay

- Many times in life things are not as they seem. What may look simple on the surface may be more complicated deeper within. Countless authors of short stories go on a journey to intricately craft the ultimate revelation as well as the subtle clues meant for the readers as they attempt to figure out the complete “truth” of the story. The various authors of these stories often use different literary techniques to help uncover the revelation their main characters undergo. Through the process of carefully developing their unique characters and through point of view, both Edith Wharton and Ernest Hemingway ultimately convey the significant revelation in the short stories, “Roman Fever” and “Hills...   [tags: Comparative]

Research Papers
2111 words (6 pages)

Essay on Analysis Of Edith Wharton 's ' Roman Fever '

- Friendships are not often without imperfection, and intentionally or unintentionally, they can often be tainted with dark secrecy. This holds especially true between two lifelong “friends” after they discover each other’s actual feelings in an unfortunate evening on a balcony in Rome in Edith Wharton’s short story, “Roman Fever.” Grace Ansley and Alida Slade are two upper-class women that consistently lather up their comments with social niceties, so as to mask their true feelings towards each other....   [tags: Sociology, Love, 175, Social class]

Research Papers
1242 words (3.5 pages)

Roman Fever Essay

- Roman Fever Roman Fever" is an outstanding example of Edith Wharton's theme to express the subtle nuances of formal upper class society that cause change underneath the pretense of stability. Wharton studied what actually made their common society tick, paying attention to unspoken signals, the histories of relationships, and seemingly coincidental parallels. All of these factors contribute to the strength and validity of the story of Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley. "Roman Fever" at first strikes the reader as the simple, rather dull story of two middle aged women sitting on a veranda....   [tags: Papers]

Research Papers
614 words (1.8 pages)

Roman Fever Essay

- Last Word When it comes to the art of conversation men and women employ different strategies when carrying on same sex conversations. In the short story “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton, the two main characters appear to be having a battle of wits. While on holiday in Rome two people become reacquainted with each other. Both parties have lost their spouse. The dialogue opens with one speaker making light conversation. This person is simply making nonchalant statements, possibly seeking a reply with a mutual agreement about the topic....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
680 words (1.9 pages)

Essay Roman Fever and John Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums

- "Roman Fever" and "The Chrysanthemums"  - A Comparison         The two short stories have different characters, plot and setting and yet they have a common ground in which human beings are deeply involved.  In short, the setting of each work powerfully suggests a rather calm, dull and peaceful mood at a superficial level; however, the main characters are struggling from the uncontrollable passions and exploding desire at heart.  First of all, in "The Chrysanthemums" the Salinas Valley is depicted as somewhat dull, like "a closed pot."  In addition, its geographical setting represents an isolated atmosphere, and, furthermore, Elisa's actions of handling  chrysanthemums can be translated i...   [tags: compare, contrast]

Free Essays
316 words (0.9 pages)

Related Searches

            But just as it begins to seem as if these women have wholly adopted their societally prescribed personas, one begins to see deviations from the stereotype.  "Alida Slade's awfully brilliant; but not as brilliant as she thinks," decides Mrs. Ansley (1119).  One had begun to expect these "ripe but well-cared-for" women capable only of suitably "feminine" mediocrities, but this comment reveals an insightful intellect hidden beneath the personality's surface.  Mrs. Slade, worrying that Mrs. Ansley's daughter "would almost certainly come back engaged to the extremely eligible Campolieri," and concerned that her own daughter may be serving "as a foil" for the young Ansley's beauty, reveals the grim seriousness with which a woman was forced to take marriage (1121, 1120).  One begins to realize the lengths to which females put themselves in order to conform to a decidedly cartoonish gender role as Wharton begins to expose the shortcomings and paradoxes of this sexual stereotype.

            The story's climax3/4Mrs. Slade's confession of forgery and Mrs. Ansley's shocking announcement3/4delivers the coup de grâce to society's outmoded impositions upon females.  The myth of sedate and subservient women is exploded as one realizes them fully possessed of those traits previously held to be the exclusive property of men: cunning, ruthlessness, and deceit.  Wharton's story is groundbreaking in its presentation of two female characters who are not defined, first and foremost, by their sex, but by their species.  "Roman Fever" allows its women to be human, but, alas, all too human.

            Here, however, is the reason behind the piece's continued success.  Not content with simply an exposé of the tribulations of her times,  the author has infused the story with an ageless significance.  Grace and Alida, the two ladies who "had live opposite each other3/4actually as well as figuratively3/4for years," serve also as symbols of the ongoing conflict between those two fundamental divisions of the human psyche: introversion and extroversion (1118).

            Alida Slade, the "fuller and higher in color" of the two, is outgoing and excitement loving, a classic extrovert (1117).  Few social nuances escape her notice, and she always looked forward, when married, to "the impromptu entertaining of eminent colleagues from abroad" (1119).  She finds life as a widow so dull that she wishes her daughter would fall in love, "with the wrong man, even," simply so "that she might have to be watched, out-maneuvered, rescued" (1119).  Grace Ansley, "the smaller and paler one," on the other hand, is a much more solitary, introverted figure (1117).  She is "less articulate than her friend," and her lack of overconcern for others can be seen in her "mental portrait[s]," which are "slighter, and drawn with fainter touches" than Mrs. Slade's (1119).  Indeed, she is sufficiently withdrawn into her thoughts that even as Mrs. Slade begins to steer the conversation to a discussion of that fateful night when Mrs. Ansley went to the Colloseum, we find that "the latter had reached a delicate point in her knitting." "One, two, three3/4slip two," is her only initial comment (1120).

            Wharton's treatment of this theme is fascinating and insightful.  We find that Mrs. Slade, despite her dismissal of Mrs. Ansley as "tame and estimable," chides herself for the fact that she will "never cure herself of envying her" (1118, 1121).  Mrs. Ansley, furthermore, regards Alida's life as "full of failures and mistakes" (1119).  Mrs. Slade has imagined for years that her letter-forging scheme successfully removed Mrs. Ansley from competition for Delphin, but we find that, in reality, in backfired upon her in the worst of all possible ways.  Ultimately it is Grace Ansley, the more reserved of the two, who has the last word and who suffers the smallest defeat.

            The author's interpretation of the conflict between outgoing and solitary personalities amounts to the defusing of another myth.  Mrs. Slade, precisely because of her gregarious nature, is wholly dependent on society to find enjoyment in life.  Alone and in her middle age, she is constantly observing others to glean their view of her.  Despite her self-confident ways, she is trapped within the traditions of society and is thus the more conventional of the two.  Mrs. Ansley is revealed as a character who has become self-dependent and able to overcome societal pressures.  Grace, with her knitting needles and quiet demeanor, establishes the introvert as the more radical character.

            "Roman Fever," then, is a work deserving of its place among acclaimed literature.  Its brevity, rather than stifling artistry, serves instead to showcase the skill of an adept author.  It is a multifaceted story and will doubtless continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

 Works Cited

Wharton, Edith.  "Roman Fever."  1936.  The Heath Anthology of American Literature.  Ed. Paul

            Lauter, et al.  2nd ed.  Vol. 1.  Lexington: Heath, 1994.  1116-1125.

Return to