Roman Fever and Other Stories

Alexa Stephens Truth and Envy in Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever” College

Edith Wharton published an enticing tale of two older women looking back on their pasts titled “Roman Fever” in 1936, only a year prior to her own death. The short story took place in Rome with both women looking out onto what is called “Memento Mori”, or reminder of human mortality. After years of not seeing each other, Mrs. Grace Ansley and Mrs. Alida Slade decided to share a well over due lunch. After civil conversations about the lives they led, the two begun to delve deeper into certain issues that have developed decades before. Twenty-five or somewhat years ago, Grace had been having an affair with Alida’s fiancé, Delphin. When Alida became aware of the situation, she forged a letter under Delphin’s name in hopes to lure Grace out into the cold where she would wait for Delphin until she fell ill and died. However, Grace wrote in response to Delphin and met him where they engaged in sexual activity. That night, Grace fell pregnant with Delphin’s child. The dramatic climax and surprise ending in “Roman Fever” fed into the worldly idea that the truth will always prevail, and that envy can be a cruel and terrifying thing.

To touch on the idea of envy, throughout the entire story, there is a hint of jealousy between the two...

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