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“The Roman Fever” is a story highlighting two women, Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley. It takes an in – depth angle in how the lives of these two women change with the passage of time. Mrs. Slade is a corporate lawyer’s widow; a petite middle – aged, high colored and well cared – for lady. She is a mother to a teenage daughter, having lost a son early on. Alida Slade is the epitome of the typical celebrity wife, having married a well – to – do lawyer. This however took a somewhat dull turn after the demise of her husband, something that bitterly stuck in her mind. Her lifestyle and position in the social scene had to take a step – down now she was a widow. She had been accustomed to hosting her husband’s foreign associates and friends every now and then, but this was no longer the case.
By her own admission, she had little left to hinge on except her daughter Jenny who turns out to be an overly – independent young woman (much to her mother’s subtle frustration). She wishes Jenny was a little bit needy of her support, or even to fall in love with a boy so as to warrant her mother’s support in hard times. Grace Ansley is the mother of the comely Barbara. She is an old – fashioned (at least in Mrs. Slade’s view), middle – aged woman and widow to Horace Ansley.
The two women have shared intimate lives right from childhood and paint quite a story to share. Raised in the mid – century’s American opulence, there was bound to be the subtle rivalries between these two subjects. The fact that both of them were intimate right from childhood but know so little about each other apart from the obvious characteristics and lifestyles goes o to highlight this fact. Inevitably, there was bound to be some form of silent competition between the two women.
Mrs. Ansley has the opinion that Mrs. Slade’s life is a sad one, tinged with a trail of mistakes.
It so happens when Mrs. Slates husband’s career blossomed further into wall street that the two pals drifted apart somewhat. They only renewed their acquaintances following the death of their husbands, coincidentally occurring only months apart. From this point, it is where the author sheds some light on the huge disparity of modern lifestyles of Barbara and Jenny’s generation against that of Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley, and their mothers. The older generation women were more adventurous, sometimes even risking catching nasty colds in the course of their romantic escapades, while the likes of Mrs. Slade had a somewhat guarded teenage.
As is the case with our two subjects, one cannot fail to notice that they got married through a sense of convenience. Mrs. Ansley got married barely months after Mrs. Slade, exposing their silent competition. Throughout the story, there is no mention about the love women might have had for their husbands or vice versa, enhancing the notion that the upper class people of that era were used to some kind of arranged marriages rather as opposed to modern – day “love first” marital unions. In any case, women got married while barely through their teens, so presenting such a limited knowledge of love and its intricacies. As a result, they end up turning into a shadow of their husbands. This is Mrs. Slade’s main undoing because after the death of her husband she is at a loss on what to do with her life.
The story takes a dramatic twist when Mrs. Slade brings up an old story about the Colosseum. Apparently, Mrs. Ansley had secretly met Mrs. Slade’s then fiancé at the Colosseum, and the incident had been kept a closely – guarded secret by Mrs. Ansley.
Of course she had no idea that Mrs. Slade was well aware of the escapade. In a jealous rage, she had written a letter to Mrs. Ansley in the impersonation of her fiancé asking to meet with her at the Colosseum – a destination to secret lovers who did not wish to be discovered went and had carnal knowledge. She did it with the hope that her fiancé would not show up and as a result Mrs. Ansley would catch a chill while waiting for her secret date. This of course would keep her bed – ridden for a while Mrs. Slade cemented her relationship with her fiancé.
In an interesting turn of events, Mrs. Ansley is shocked that Mrs. Slade is fully aware of the incident, having instantly burnt the letter after reading it. Shockingly, Mrs. Slade confesses to having authored the letter. But she is also in for a rude shock when Mrs. Ansley points out that Mrs. Slade’s fiancé actually showed up! Incidentally, Mrs. Ansley replied to the fake letter, which Mrs. Slade had not anticipated. She counters this bit of news with defiant pride, stating that she had her husband for over twenty years while a letter (burnt letter, really) was all Mrs. Ansley had. The joke is on her when the latter retorts that she may not have that one letter, but Barbara was the one thing she got from that Colosseum visit.
In this story, the author has gone to great lengths to portray cultural contradictions via use of narrative voices. The authorial voice is void in this piece. She also highlights cultural orientations and their effect on modern – day life. The Colosseum in the story represents the ancient roman culture full of persecutions and sexual extremities. The use of the Colosseum in the story epitomizes the impact that ancient culture and folklore bear on modern – day livelihoods. That American women would go all the way to the Roman ruins to make love is a sign of ancient Roman treachery engrained in the Western civilization. The story of two upper class women’s quest for authority highlights man’s natural instinct cutting across various environments.
The author has used Mrs. Slates forged letter portrays treachery too. The mere fact that the two women share the same table while harboring such a dark past is a key pointer. How are two close friends the fiercest of rivals?
The passionate ancient Roman lifestyle takes a center stage in this narration. Great Aunt Harriet’s plot to arrange her sister’s death takes a stark similarity to Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley’s rivalry, even though the former did not intend such a dramatic outcome against Grace.
Marriage is regarded as an apt means of social superiority rather than a fruitful loving social engagement. Barbara and Jenny’s pursuit of the same man does not seem to bother their mothers even though it is a repetition of their own twisted history. The two women’s release of the long – standing secrets depict the “violence” synonymous with ancient Roman lore. By the American women disregarding their own harmonious culture and embracing the destructive foreign culture, the author has strived to highlight how repressive patriarchal cultures are infectious, just like the Roman fever.