“Roman Fever” tells a story of two middle-aged women as they contemplate their past adventures and discuss the possible future of their daughters. Mrs Ansley and Mrs Slade have been neighbours for many years. They consider each other friends, yet still know little about each other. Edith Wharton, the author of the short story, manages to create truly dynamic characters and put them in a serene setting of glorious Rome. Mrs Slade and Mrs Ansley can be perceived as direct opposites to each other. On the other hand, Mrs Slade’s inner thoughts provide readers with an opportunity to see the vulnerable side of her character. The external behaviour of Mrs Slade is a reflection of her inner struggles to stop continuous comparisons of her life to that of Mrs Ansley. Despite the obvious envy Mrs Slade feels towards her friend, she possesses an extreme sense of self-awareness to admit it to herself.
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Mrs Slade has a gift of being extremely self-aware. She often compares herself to Mrs Ansley and admits to herself that she envies the other woman. Mrs Slade has a hidden wish for her daughter to be more vibrant and desirable. She often compares Jenny to Barbara, Mrs Ansley’s daughter, continuing the cycle of self-hatred. For instance, Mrs Slade mentions that “Babs would almost certainly come back engaged to the extremely eligible Campolieri” (Wharton 121). She also assumes that she is the only one who has worries. Mrs Slade fails to admit that Mrs Ansley happens to be in a similar position, being a widow and having a daughter the same age as Mrs Slade. However, these misinterpretations of reality do not stop Mrs Slade from being extremely aware of her vices and fears. While she watches Mrs Ansley knit, she starts to think about the other woman’ placid future. However, she quickly stops herself and asks herself if she could ever “cure herself of envying her” (Wharton 121). Mrs Slade has the ability to assess her own behaviour and thoughts. As a result, her character seems to be much more deserving of compassion and empathy since she is aware of her imperfections and tries to put a stop to envious thoughts.
Wharton, Edith. “Roman Fever.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, edited by Kelly J. Mays. 12th ed., W. W. Norton & Company, 2016, pp. 116-125.