Roman Fever is one of the most popular short stories by Edith Wharton. Twisted plot and unexpected ending are distinguishing qualities of Wharton’s prose, and they are presented in this short story as well. The plot describes a meeting of two ladies who spend vacations in Rome with their daughters. From the beginning of the narration the author describes two ladies like friends. Through the development of the plot the main conflict of the story is revealed. Mrs. Slade, one of the main characters is envious to her companion, Mrs. Ansley. Two ladies start comparing their daughters, who are approximately of the same age, and Mrs. Slade gradually realizes that she is envious to passion and liveliness of her companion’s daughter. By the end of the story led by hatred and envy Mrs. Slade makes a confession that she sent a fake letter, pretending her own future husband Dolphin, inviting Mrs. Ansley for a date in Rome. In response Mrs. Ansley makes another confession. She uncovers that she wrote a letter to Dolphin in response and they really had a date. Trying to calm herself Mrs. Slade says that she had her husband, Dolphin, for many years and Mrs. Ansley had only one date and fake latter. Then Mrs. Ansley uncovers one more truth about this date. She says: “I had Barbara”¯ meaning that Barbara is Dolphin’s daughter. The ending of the story is unexpected and provoking. The story which is started like a description of peaceful time spend of two old friends ends in revelation of shocking family secret.
I had a mixed feeling after reading this story. From the one side I was greatly surprised by hypocrisy and envy which made the core of relations between two main characters. From the other side I had a feeling that life was fair to both of them. Mrs. Slade sends a fake letter to Mrs. Ansley in a hope to Mrs. Anslye makes a long and vain travel to Rome. Mrs. Slade decides to uncover the truth to Mrs. Ansley aiming to hurt her. This way true attitude between these two women is discovered. They do not share sincere and honest relations. They are haunted by envy and jealousy to each others. Mrs. Slade is jealous of things Mrs. Ansley has. She is also jealous of Mrs. Ansley and her own husband and by the end of the short story the readers see that she was right in her suspiciousness. Mrs. Slade does not think about other people. She makes a cruel joke to Mrs. Ansley but she is not ready herself to face the results of her actions.
Unexpected ending has several meanings. The author uses it in order to pass several important messages to the readers. First of all people who build relations in lies and hypocrisy, same as Mrs. Slade did, finally put themselves at risks to meet even greater lies and hypocrisy from the side of other people. A letter sent by Mrs. Slade to Mrs. Ansley resulted in the adultery of her husband. Moreover, Barbara, a daughter of Mrs. Ansley, comes to be the daughter of Mrs. Slade’s husband. Mrs. Slade, who easily made evil to others, did not think about possible consequences of her actions. Finally, the results of her actions are fairly repaid by her friend Mrs. Ansley and her husband.