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The key to success of
Edith Wharton’s story “Roman Fever” undoubtedly was the neatly and skillfully
use of the description of setting and symbols, to keep that kind of intrigue throughout
the whole narration. A special characteristic of Wharton’s work is in the
subtle use of hidden irony. This irony perfectly combines and complements the
way of life of upper class people. Also, the Roman setting and aristocratic
atmosphere where the events take place helps to clearly demonstrate the main
discussed topics such as love, jealousy and deceit. The significance of the
setting in the explanation of the plot plays a big role in terms of making the
intrigue between the female “confrontations”. It is clear, that the atmosphere,
flashbacks and symbols in “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton helps reader to see
the intrigue around love, betrayal and the real relationship between women.

The context is generally
simple, but the shape of story is constructed so one can bury another story, is
a uniqueness to Warton’s literary abilities and her knowledge of upper class
society. 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 history
and talk about their teenage daughters, Barbara and Jenny. At some point of
story, the reader will know that Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley spent some years of
their life with each other in Rome in the past. Wharton at some instances shows
very well the private thoughts of each woman, which is suitable for these
characters, because ladies in society may be not comfortable to discuss such
intimate secrets between each other. Eventually, the covering of politeness goes
away, because the memory makes a focus of one specific incident. They both
remember and feel the past moments about Mrs. Slade’s husband Delphin, who also
had a romance with Mrs. Ansley. Women told each other about their betrayals of
the 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 said
that the intrigue in the story is influenced by the symbols of the past and the
that atmosphere during the conversation. As it was written before, the setting
plays very important role in this story. The other interesting thing is in that
the setting changes even if the main characters are not physically moving, and
this feature makes the whole picture even more deep and helps to intrigue the
reader. This could be possible to happen if the main heroes discuss the past
time and if the author skillfully uses flashbacks in the story. The plot of the
story takes place on a terrace in Rome, they are making a dialogue conversating
about the past and the way everything has changed. Before what they remember
turn into the last thing when they were here together, and the way Grace got
the Roman fever, which means that she got sick. She was ill, because of the
fact that she went to the Colosseum at night, the reason for this was a false letter
which was sent by Mr. Slade, ostensibly it is from Delphin. But anyway Delphin
and Grace did have a meeting and at the end everything turned over upside down
for both women, after they finally told the truth to each other. From the
passage of the text: “I was just thinking,” she said slowly, “what
different things Rome stands for to each generation of travelers. To our
grandmothers, Roman fever; to our mothers, sentimental dangers—how we used to
be 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 light
was beginning to pale…” it is simply understandable that just the fact of the
Rome city has a crucial effect on the whole picture of the story and its
perception. Because Rome is the city of history and love: ancient ruins, the Colosseum,
past generations and aristocracy (Wharton 89).  

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Furthermore, there are
some additional examples of the symbolization that has its own effect on the
stories intrigue and the development of the plot. First, it is the Colosseum
that had been mentioned throughout the story several times and where the climax
happened, even though it was showed by the flashback. In ancient Rome, the
Colosseum was an arena where people fought each other to the death. In this
story, 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 is
symbolic to the cutting of their life and connecting their fates though. From
the text: “Half guiltily she drew from her handsomely mounted black handbag a
twist of crimson silk run through by two fine knitting needles” (91). Because
it 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 this
new level of their “intimacy” glows the further intrigue around the “Roman”
dialogue. Such figurative language that was again skillfully used by Edith
Wharton is very appropriate tool to reveal the whole picture of what is
happening and intrigues the reader to kind of guess the reasons for characters
decisions and the ending at the whole. The quote: “A full moon night, they
would remember” shows that the night in Colosseum was very symbolic and
influential to the secret meeting of two lovers (92). The story in general
shows not so typical “love triangle” and its consequences, and what despair
women can do in the name of their love and feelings.

To conclude, I would
rather say that, taking into account all mentioned facts about the symbolic
influence of the surroundings and settings on the plot of the story, it could
be concluded that the themes of love, betrayal and deception were fully
revealed. It is clear, that the authors ability to draw the setting with the
help of symbols and atmospheric pictures, so that the reader can easily imagine
it as he saw them himself.       

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