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Roman Fever A Critical Analysis of Edith Wharton’s Literary


RomanFever:A Critical Analysis of Edith Wharton’s Literary Contribution

EdithWharton’s Roman Feverbrings out several figurative dimensions that comeas a result of knitting. Women are initially portrayed to be lesslikely to makean effortbeyond knitting, a monotonous act. The 1934 story sets a stage thatblasts apart images of stereotypical mundane middle-aged women. Oneof the interestingissues that needcritical analysis concerns the setting in which the story getsits foundation.Particularly, relative realism’s possible presence or absence isworth understanding. As documented by Bowlby (2016), literary realismfocuses on the representation of the world as it appears (rather thanas it needs to be). Emphasizing authentic details, the role of theenvironment is shaping the traits of characters, and drawing themfrom differentsocial levels. In RomanFever,Wharton begins by offering descriptions of two American ladies whoare apparently well-off. As they dine, the womenare narrated to be overlooking a Roman restaurant’s terrace that islofty (p. 478). The book by Edith Wharton’s uses the concept ofrelative realism to expound on the current society viewpointof women as people who cannot do anything else apart from casualjobs.

Whartonproceeds to mention a headwaiter whose decision to bow depictshospitality to the women, prompting them evento remainfor dinner (p. 479). The author continues to associate visits toRoman Coliseum with sickness by asserting that all the gold comesfrom the heaven overheadand that the eventuality of this removal was anunexpectedexperience of darkness on the Seven Hills (Wharton 489). Therefore,the setting of Wharton’s RomanFevercan be perceived to be realistic because it emphasizes the presentand describes the landscape with accuracy, emphasizing description –rather than invention. However, the work falters in such a way thatthe story’s setting suits a mainly upper-class audience – asdepicted by the character of the two women, who have been influencedby the surrounding environment.

Apartfrom the setting, the centralconflict in Wharton’s RomanFeveris worth examining. Specifically, Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade areperformersfighting for Delphin Slade, the same man with whom the women were inlove while young (Sweeney, P. 7). The author achieves the objectiveof attracting the attention of audiences by providing descriptions ofthe winter experiences the two women had while staying in Rome. Fromthese outcomes, the author seeks to sensitize readersregarding issues surrounding love or relationships and the role ofprevious experiences in shaping future states of interaction. What isworth criticizing is that the author concentrates on an upper-classgroup, failing to examine some of relationship-related to theexperiences, perceptions,and attitudes that individuals in the middle and lower classes arelikely to depict.

Stylisticfeatures are also achieved and presented vividly by Wharton.Specifically, the Coliseumof Rome is used to symbolize a well-developed society thatcharacterized ancient times. Representing Rome’s culture, theColiseumforms a monument of the Romans’ passion and customs (Bauer 683).Similarly, the Coliseumto Mrs. Ansley is used to symbolize abeautifulmoment of passion that deviates from the New York society thatportraysashaving been Victorian upper-class. Imperative to note is that Whartonuses such symbols to depict the extent to which one may oftenmisjudge a close person but fails to highlight possible differencesthat could arise while interpreting these symbols in variouscontexts. Overall, the work is insightful because Wharton succeeds indemonstrating that power struggle among individuals in the upperclasses continues to existand that adversities such as grudges, betrayal and deception arelikely to emerge among peopleaffirmed to be similar in type,age,and proximity.


Bauer,Dale M. “Edith Wharton’s ‘Roman Fever’: A Rune of History.”College English, 50.6(2014):681-693

Bowlby,Rachel. “‘I Had Barbara’: Women’s Ties and Wharton’s ‘RomanFever.’” Differences:A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 17.3(2016):37-51

Sweeney,Susan E. “Edith Wharton’s Case of Roman Fever.” WretchedExotic: Essays on Edith Wharton in Europe.New York: P. Lang, 2015. Print.

Wharton,Edith. “Roman Fever.” TheSeagull Reader: Stories.Ed. Joseph Kelly. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. 478-491.Print