Edith Wharton is an American creator who wrote ‘Roman Fever’, a short story that was featured in magazine Liberty earlier than being considered for a final short story series of Wharton’s The World Over. The story is concentrated on a pair of middle-aged American women and their daughters who are on a trip to Rome. It is the place the rivalry between the two women and how their conflict has influenced their lives and these of their daughters is explored. The long-held secrets are revealed over the course of the time out that raises issues concerning all the beliefs that they have been hiding about their conflict and their lives. The story explores a range of themes such as marriage, hypocrisy, societal norms and expectations, female relationship, an evolution of relationships and society. The setting forms crucial part of the story because it exhibits the place, time, social and cultural conditions, and the psychological situations that are related to the central ideas of the author.
The story is set in Rome City, which is a central meeting area for Christians in Europe and the rest of the world. However, there are many references to New York which is the home of the ladies and some other places where high societal life would take them. Rome is where the conflict between the two women intensifies as Mrs. Ansley finally revealed her long-held secret (Wharton 7). Further, it is the place where Alida and Grace found their love within the ruins of the Roman Forum and Coliseum, and it is also where the daughters have gone with their suitors.
The story started in the late afternoon, and it progresses slowly to the night. It signifies the relationship between the two ladies as there rivalries continuous to grow as the night wears.The setting sun in the late afternoon symbolizes the relationship that is having a steady decline. It is also the time that the secret about the letter that Delphin Slade, Alida’s late husband sent to Grace is revealed by Alida after many years, which shattered the relationship between the two women further (Wharton 14). The revealed secret indicates that indeed Grace’s daughter was fathered by Delphine due to the letter.
The story portrays a culture where children should not be born outside wedlock. In Roman Fever, after Grace realizing that she is having a pregnancy of Barbara Ansley, she wanted to get married earlier so that to cover up her misfortune. Both women are devastated by the death of their husband and Alida comment about the repercussions. Alida had a socialite life before the death of Delphin, as she was a wife of a famous corporate lawyer and now she could not be able to raise her children alone (Wharton 17). Further, Alida was the center of attention based on her comments regarding the status of her husband and the passing compliments she received while in lavish parties. Moreover, Alida used to show off to Grace about their wealthy family, and this made Grace to become worried as Alida was preventing her from strengthening her relationship with Delphin.
Grace demonstrated more emotion and compassion after learning that the letter that she cherished for a long time was not actually from Delphin (Wharton 12). Further, her face to streak with tears after realizing that her relationship was indeed terminated by Alida and not by Delphin himself as she has been believing. It illustrates how Grace used to care so much for Delphin which made her not to believe that he could betray their love at some point.
A clear understanding of story‘s setting would provide an opportunity for the reader to capture the central ideas that the author intends to portray. In the ‘Roman Fever,’ the setting has illustrated how Rome is a special place in the heart of the characters and how the conflict between the two women worsen as the nights progresses. Further, the socialite life of Alida is an indication of a wealthy family that she had before the death of her husband. The psychological setting helps to understand the emotions and compassion that Grace encountered after realizing that the letter was designed by Alida to separate her from beloved Delphin.
Wharton, Edith. Roman Fever and Other Stories. Simon and Schuster, 2013.