Roman Fever and Other Stories
Literary Realism: Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever”
In the short story, “Roman Fever,” Edith Wharton portrays a daily life situation between two wealthy middle-aged women talking in Rome. The morals and struggle of upper-class women to succeed and stand out at that time period are revealed in the story. This story fits with the literary movement of Realism due to the realistic portrayal of common everyday life for women in society. It demonstrates hypocritical friendship, the rivalry between high-class women, betrayal among “friends”, and the superficial ideas of middle-aged women.
Realism’s primary concern is championing the “small” lives of unexceptional human beings and representing the necessity for socioeconomic reforms outside the text in the “real” world (Hirsch 676). “Roman Fever,” an example of realism, reflects the real lives of high-class women in the eighteen hundreds. It starts with two American ladies who had known each other for a very long time, sitting at a restaurant table. Grace Ansley and Alida Slade were both widows. They had married Horace Ansley and Delphin Slade respectively. From the beginning of the story, it is shown that their friendship is not very sincere. Mrs. Slade thought Mrs. Ansley was old-fashioned (Wharton 874). Mrs. Ansley, on the other hand, thought that Mrs. Slade had an overall sad life. She considered it to be filled with failures and many mistakes to the point that she pitied her (Wharton 875). Most of her life, Mrs. Slade had envied Mrs. Ansley for her sweetness. She truly hated her, and their friendship was nothing more than a mask. They had both fallen in love with the same man. Delphin Slade was an example of a successful man in society. He was a famous cooperate lawyer and probably desired by many women at the time so it is very probable that these two friends would fall in love with him. It was not morally correct but can happen in a real-life situation. People can pretend to be friends with one another and be the complete opposite as much as they could love the same person. Human error is natural.
Another thing that is noticeable in “Roman Fever” is how these two women competed against each other like most humans do. They each wanted the perfect man, the perfect children, and the perfect life. They judged their success based on the person they married and the children they had. Since Mrs. Slade had married Delphin, she considered herself to be the winner of the competition. She was proud of the false letter she sent to Mrs. Ansley in order to get her out of the way. However, she was disappointed at the fact that her daughter was not brilliant like Barbara. She described her daughter as an angel, but Barbara was an angel with rainbow wings (Wharton 877). Mrs. Slade’s feeling of triumph had finally collapsed when she found out that her groom to be had not only met with Ms. Ansley that night but that he had also given Ms. Ansley a child (Wharton 881). Even with these terrible revelations, none of them really won. It does not have a happy ending, which is a more realistic point of view. Life is full of surprises, and not all of them are good.
Betrayal, for example, is a terrible thing to find out yet can happen to any individual anytime if they are not careful with whom they trust. Mrs. Slade was betrayed by two people in the story. She was betrayed by Delphin and Grace. Ideally, it would have been better for Mrs. Slade to leave Delphin and find a man who truly loves her and respects her. Realistically though, divorce was not well looked at and she had more than one motive to stay with him besides love. It was greed and envy that led her to marry him. She wanted to keep Delphin and defeat Grace no matter what happened. Even though it may be sad, people do marry others because of economic interests and social status. Mrs. Ansley was not innocent either. She had betrayed Mrs. Slade regardless of the connection they had. She had fallen in love with him passionately enough that she did not care to lose a friend in order to have a night with him. People usually think about their own benefits before thinking of others.
One last detail reflected in the story is the idea that women did not serve for much more than “knitting” at an older age. Women were suppressed to marry young and have children. They were not encouraged to follow a profession such as writing. They were supposed to stay home and dedicate themselves to their children or keep themselves occupied by cooking, laundry, cleaning, knitting, and any other house activity. In other words, “Of all the crossroads in the life of a woman, becoming a mother is one of the most powerful and most political. Raising a daughter in a society that has been largely constructed by white men and is still, for the most part, run by them and their desires is a political act” (Jones 218). Men had a lot of control over their wives, and Edith Wharton also portrayed this in some of her writing.
Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever” described many aspects of day-to-day life not limited to wealthy women, but can also be found in every human being. Realism tries to show the most truthful representation of the world and “Roman Fever,” does this very well. It demonstrates how humans are not morally perfect and how we can make mistakes that harm ourselves and other people as well.
Alexa Stephens Truth and Envy in Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever”
Edith Wharton published an enticing tale of two older women looking back on their pasts titled “Roman Fever” in 1936, only a year prior to her own death. The short story took place in Rome with both women looking out onto what is called “Memento Mori”, or reminder of human mortality. After years of not seeing each other, Mrs. Grace Ansley and Mrs. Alida Slade decided to share a well over due lunch. After civil conversations about the lives they led, the two begun to delve deeper into certain issues that have developed decades before. Twenty-five or somewhat years ago, Grace had been having an affair with Alida’s fiancé, Delphin. When Alida became aware of the situation, she forged a letter under Delphin’s name in hopes to lure Grace out into the cold where she would wait for Delphin until she fell ill and died. However, Grace wrote in response to Delphin and met him where they engaged in sexual activity. That night, Grace fell pregnant with Delphin’s child. The dramatic climax and surprise ending in “Roman Fever” fed into the worldly idea that the truth will always prevail, and that envy can be a cruel and terrifying thing.
To touch on the idea of envy, throughout the entire story, there is a hint of jealousy between the two women. More so, this jealousy is prominent in Alida. She spoke of how her daughter bored her, and how she would much rather have had a daughter like Grace’s. She said, “I always wanted a brilliant daughter… and never quite understood why I got an angel instead” (123). Alida went on about how her daughter, Jenny, was nothing like Grace’s beautiful daughter. Alida, at one point, even undermines Grace by believing there is an underlying motive to why the two daughters spend time together. Alida thought to herself, “Jenny has no chance beside her. I know that too. I wonder if that’s why Grace Ansley likes the two girls to go everywhere together? My poor Jenny as a foil…” (123). The apparent jealousy is so strong in Alida that she carried it over into her daughter’s life. Grace probably had other means in mind as to why the two girls should hang out together, none of which had anything to do with using Jenny as a foil. The envy that Alida carries over Grace’s daughter is somewhat troubling to the reader. She mentioned how she would love to have a daughter like Barbara, while her own daughter should have been the light of her life. Alida most definitely wanted Barbara to be her own. As it turns out, Alida’s jealousy over Barbara played a key stroke in this short story since Barbara is found out to be the product of Grace’s and Delphin’s affair. Meaning that Barbara, in a sense, could have been Alida’s child had Grace not have seen Delphin that one night twenty-five years prior; had Alida never wrote that letter under Delphin’s name calling upon Grace to come to the Colosseum. In some ways, Alida is the reason that Delphin and Grace had a sexual encounter, meaning that she is the reason Barbara was ever born.
The end of the tale carried out envy to a larger level. As the story moved on, Alida’s jealousy became more and more apparent, and in effect, more and more dramatic. At one point near the end, it was revealed that the letter Grace received from Delphin was actually written by Alida In her heat of envy and anger when she found out of the affair, Alida basically plotted the death of Grace. Under Delphin’s name, she requests Grace to meet her at the Colosseum after dark alone. Alida knew that Grace would have waited hours for Delhpin to show, and ultimately would have fell ill and died. Also in telling Grace that she was the one who wrote the letter, she was trying to gain an upper hand. James Phelan wrote in his article, “Alida wants to triumph over Grace”. Alida wanted Grace to know that she knew everything, and that Grace knew very little. More of Alida’s jealousy came out when she explained why she wrote the letter. “’You do understand? I’d found out – and I hated you, hated you. I knew you were in love with Delphin – and I was afraid; afraid of you, of your quiet ways, your sweetness… your … well, I wanted you out of the way, that’s all” (126). Alida was afraid that Grace had the ability to steal her fiancé from her, as if people could be stolen. She needed to find a way to cement her place with Delphin, and with Grace in the picture, Alida felt as though she never had a fighting chance.
The string of envy and jealous rage led into the idea that the truth would always prevail. Alida was determined to be ahead of Grace with every step she took, however, it turned out that Grace was never even walking the same path. “The story, in effect, shows the lingering effects of the past on the Present,” Phelan wrote. “More specifically, as the tensions surrounding the events of twenty five years ago slowly get resolved, we also recognize that both Alida’s and Grace’s knowledge of those events has been partial.” As mentioned above, Grace never knew that Alida was actually the one who wrote the letter, and Alida saw that as her advantage. Alida thought the affair between Grace and her fiancé ended there. However, Grace revealed at the end of the story that she wrote back to Delphin, and that night at the Colosseum he had arrived to meet her there. Alida, in yet another fit of rage and envy, said, “At the end of all these years. After all, I had everything; I had him for twenty-five years. And you had nothing but that one letter that he didn’t write” (128). Alida believed again that she had the last laugh, the last word, and the upperhand. She believed that the truth had been revealed, and that was that. But in a shocking ending, Grace replied, “I had Barbara” (128). The truth was finally uncovered and Alida was left with envy over the daughter made from her fiancé’s and best friend’s affair. “As the story closes, Grace realizes that she has the upper hand, having not only slept with Delphin, but also given birth to the daughter whom Alida so covets” (Petry 166). All of the time Alida spent trying to convince Grace that she knew all of the truth, and that she held all of the power, turned out to be an unforgiving mistake. Grace, despite not knowing about the letter, knew what had actually happened that night at the Colosseum, and what she left there with to have forever. These two women never knew the whole story, until it all came out twenty-five years later over lunch in Rome.
This short story displayed an overall theme of how cruel envy could be, and also represented the idea that the truth would always come out in the end. Both Alida and Grace lived the majority of their lives believing that their side of the story was the only side, which turned out to be wrong on both their parts. Most of Alida’s actions were fueled by her jealousy; whether it be over Grace’s personality, her looks, or her daughter. Alida’s envy almost led to Grace’ intentional death. Grace knew nothing of Alida’s involvement in the affair and never even thought to share to her what had went on. Somehow, it all became clear and it would be fair to believe that Alida’s jealousy never ended, and probably never will. As for Grace, it is clear that she came out on top, whether she chose to view it that way or not.
Petry, Alice Hall. “A Twist Of Crimson Silk: Edith Wharton’s ‘Roman Fever’.” Studies In Short Fiction 24.2 (1987): 163-166. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.
Phelan, James. “Progressing toward Surprise: Edith Wharton’s ‘Roman Fever.’.” Experiencing Fiction: Judgments, Progressions, and the Rhetorical Theory of Narrative. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2007. 95-108. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 120. Detroit: Gale, 2009. Literature Resource Center. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.
Wharton, Edith. “Roman Fever.” The Norton Production to Literature. 11th ed. Ed. Kelly J. Mays. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2013. 118-128. Print.
The New Age of Divorce and Social Darwinism in ‘The Other Two’
Published in 1904, Edith Wharton’s “The Other Two” explores the infancy of divorce within New York’s middle-class society by utilizing the concept of the futile struggle to escape social forces that are out of one’s control. In addition to that, the story presents consequences of this change in social system in the form of social Darwinism, which is observed through the characteristics of Waythorn’s wife, Alice.
Wharton uses Alice’s divorces with Haskett and Varick in order to reveal the true nature of society’s attitude towards the notion of divorce. It was a relatively new concept at the time to have gained society’s approval, especially that of a woman instigating the separation. However, with her amiable personality, Alice is easily given the image of “the injured wife” – the victim of the whole tribulation – and naturally “took on an air of sanctity.” Certainly, her luck had played a role in this helpful outcome as her first husband Haskett was never met by her friends and acquaintances, and so “it was easy to believe the worst of him”; and her second husband Varick was known to have possessed a temperament that resulted in even his “staunchest supporters” admitting “that he was not meant for matrimony.” A woman seeking divorce would be obliged to give up all the advantages of matrimony, such as wealth and security. So, not only does the public empathize with Alice’s separation, but also perceives her as courageous and independent, thus making her automatically worthy of “a diploma of virtue”.
Yet, it appears that society has unconsciously installed a limit to the number of times a woman can remarry, rather than get divorced. “…when it was known that she was to marry Waythorn there was a momentary reaction. Her best friends would have preferred to see her remain in the role of the injured wife.” Whether Alice’s friends would have felt the same way if she were to divorce for a third time, instead of marry for a third time, is an ambiguous question open for suggestion. However, what can be irrefutably noted is that society has its own ideas of divorce and marriage, whereby the public’s opinions of an individual’s personal life choices are concerned. Even Waythorn receives criticism for announcing his marriage to the “popular” Alice whose past divorces are obviously no private matter to New York’s middle-class community.
It is therefore evident that society romanticizes Alice’s situation as a divorcee. Her friends had been pleased with Alice’s second separation and getaway from an unhappy, “stormy” marriage which places her in a position of the helpless victim in a marital conflict. This idea of her that society established is linked to the image of purity: “A New York divorce is in itself a diploma of virtue”. Perhaps this sentence indicates that at the time, only in New York would a divorce result in a certificate of virtuousness; and Alice’s marriage to Waythorn would remove her from this persona of a sanctified victim. It is this certification of Alice’s righteousness that society does not want to relinquish.
After Alice marries Waythorn, Alice’s personality is brought to light: first as a “fresh” and “elastic” woman of “unperturbed gaiety” which appropriately balances his “gray” and uninteresting character and lifestyle. Then, after befriending her two former husbands and beginning to doubt the true causes of the termination of Alice’s previous marriages, Waythorn finds his wife disturbingly compliant to the extent where he compares her to the saying: “as easy as an old shoe” – “a shoe that too many feet had worn. Her elasticity was the result of tension in too many different directions”.
Although this illustration of Alice’s “adaptability” is relayed in a reproachful manner, it can be concluded that by the end of the story, her docility is not a harmful trait at all but in fact, merely a part of her versatility. She has simply accommodated herself to suit each of her husbands’ varying personalities. She is, in her own way, democratic: by adjusting herself to please all her husbands. This feature reflects the concept of social Darwinism, which is the notion that humans, like animals and plants, compete in the struggle for survival, or in a more common term: survival of the fittest.
In order to survive, Alice left her old husbands and even her old ways. She surmounts her obstacles and leaves unemotionally attached to her past. This consequently results in her flexibility, which causes her to naturally appease everyone and therefore giving Waythorn the impression that she does not possess an identity or any “will” of her own. So, just as how the theory of social Darwinism delineates, Alice demonstrates the capability of a woman to survive in a meddling society by adapting to new situations that benefit her.
In the end, Edith Wharton proved to her readers that it is possible for divorces to lead to satisfaction and end in mutual understanding. The brotherly companionship formed by Haskett, Varick and Waythorn served as a healthy example for the 19th century’s new age of divorce ; highlighting the idea of adjustment which leads to eventual maturity.
Life is Never as it Seems
Edith Wharton challenges the notion of knowledge and understanding, even of one’s own personal experience, in her short story “Roman Fever.” The application of Jackie Royster’s scenic analysis to Wharton’s “Roman Fever” perpetuates the idea that an understanding of the reality of human life and existence is never attained by any individual due to the nature of human discourse and tendency to assume. To employ Royster’s tactics one must start with a depiction of the story or scene at hand. “Roman Fever” takes place on a balcony restaurant in the heart of Rome. Two women, Grace Ansley and Alida Slade met years ago in Rome as young women transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. Since then, their lives have constantly been interwoven. For years they lived across from each other in New York. Their daughters are friends and both of their husbands are deceased. The women watch the sunset over Rome and begin to delve into their lives together over the years. They discuss with each other and privately reflect on Roman experiences, love, social status, family, and even perceptions of each other. Over the course of the scene, it is revealed that Ansley had an affair with Slade’s fiancé, and eventual widower, long ago. Through a series of deceptive occurrences the women dealt with this event in different ways and each were cognizant of only half of the story; neither woman was completely aware of the full context of the affair. Along with the unfolding of this event the women share a series of assumptions that they make about the other, most of which are based on pure observation or appearance. The root of Wharton’s suggestion that life is never as it seems to the individual is manifested in the rhetorical issue that the story presents to the reader. The rhetorical issue outlines a narrative in which individual perspectives and motives, both Ansley’s and Slade’s, disallow the two to have a true dialogue in which the members listen to and understand each other. The words the share are carefully selected to only reveal certain aspects of the truth of their character. Even then, the woman listening and watching her companion react to her own speech fails to reflect on the opposite woman’s life, experience, and words. The two are fully enveloped in their own perspectives, so much so that active listening as key component to rhetoric is completely lacking. The women, despite their extensive and long history together, are not open to each other’s perspectives and as a result do not know or understand the truth of their human experiences. Therefore, a lack of listening and invasion of personal, egocentric thinking prohibits the individuals from true dialogue and knowledge of a comprehensive reality. Royster highlights the importance of personal reaction as a part of the process of fleshing out suggestions, like those Wharton makes on the human experience. After reading the short story a second time, over a year later than the first reading, I found it impossible to ignore the commonality of the relationship between Ansley and Slade. Too often people grow, work, go to class, and even live with individuals that they know very little of. One may believe that they understand or personally connect with the other, but in truth their version of reality is immensely skewed. Personal objectives and the emphasis on individuality or independence, especially among young women, puts pressure on the individual to focus solely on one’s own strengths, weaknesses, and goals. The other people that surround the lives of these individually driven personas act as false companions and a means to egotistical ends. I think that it is clear that Alida Slade is so consumed with this self-motivated way of thinking that she cannot and will not ever truly listen to and dialogue with Grace Ansley. Furthermore, a key principle to revealing life beyond the surface of appearance is the ability to set aside the personal agenda that refutes active listening. Slade cannot grasp this concept in the story, but rather, embraces her selfishness and fails to disband her envy for Ansley. The root of her envy lies in the realization that Ansley was in love with Slade’s fiancé. She claims that “I found out – and I hated you, hated you. I knew you were in love with Delphin…I wanted you out of the way…” (Wharton 17). This envy, or hatred, is a major factor in the relationship of these two women as their lives unfold. Slade, never able to truly forget the jealousy and hatred she held for Ansley upon this realization, fosters hardened feelings for her long-time companion. The initial jealously motivated Slade to become selfish and do all in her power to be rid of her competition. Slade does not consider the outcome or consequences that Ansley may have to suffer through due to her selfishness. She falsifies a letter to Ansley, hoping that she will go to the Colloseum at night and become humiliated when Delphin does not meet her there as promised in the letter. She hopes that this humiliation and failure would trigger Ansley to give up on Delphin and no longer be an obstacle for Slade. Selfishly she considers these benefits to herself, but does not think twice about the pain she causes Ansley. She even claims “I remember laughing to myself all that evening at the idea that you were waiting around there in the dark…” (Wharton 19). As Ansley is shaken to silence, shock, and saddened words by the truth Slade shows no remorse or regret for her childish and self-centered actions in the past, but reflects carelessly without sparing the feelings of Ansley. The lack of shame attributed with this behavior further proves that the selfishness that Slade emits prohibits any true relationship to form between her and Ansley. Again, a lack of active listening disallows the women from a revelation of the reality of their situation as they briefly discuss their daughters, Barbara and Jenny. Ansley does not appreciate her own daughter Jenny because in her opinion Barbara is a far more interesting individual. Slade admits that she would rather be Barbara’s mother. She speaks of her daughter as if she has been cheated stating, “I always wanted a brilliant daughter…never quite understood why I got an angel instead” (Wharton 12). Slade wants what she cannot and does not have. Barbara is exciting, fresh, and vivacious, while Jenny is dedicated, simple, and boring. The only person that Slade considers in this thought process is herself and her own source of pride. Ansley dismisses the conversation by claiming that Slade “overrates Babs” (Wharton 12). Ansley believes her companion to be brilliant, yet in retrospect she denotes Slade’s life as one full of disappointment. She pities the woman but never works to reveal the root of Ansley’s unhappiness amidst her privileged life. If Ansley had done so, then in hearing Slade’s desire for Babs she may have realized sooner that Slade is not unhappy with the way her life turned out, but rather consumed by jealousy for the way Ansley has been blessed. Of course, it follows, that this jealousy is rooted in the realization that Ansley held the heart of Slade’s husband. My immediate reaction to this is that if Ansley realized the truth in Slade’s words, and the hatred that her companion holds for her, she would be less likely to sympathize with Ansley’s constant disappointment. Additionally, the assumptions that Slade makes about Ansley disallow her to know the truth of Barbara’s lineage. Slade assumes that Ansley is dull, simple, and predictable. She sees no reason to suggest dishonor or scandal in the life of her companion, though finds Barbara’s vivacity enthralling when contrasted with her mother’s supposed reverence to social convention. This assumption leads her to believe that her deceptive tactics in eliminating Ansley as competition for her lover were successful. According to her perspective, the fact that Barbara is the result of Ansley’s passionate affair with Slade’s fiancé never crosses her mind. If it had, the assumptions she makes about Ansley would be shattered and the innate spirit of her fun-loving daughter would be better understood. Ansley ignores the words and actions of her companion of the years due to the assumption that she won the prize by marrying Delphin. Following the examination on Ansley and Slade’s personal reactions to the effects of the rhetorical issue at hand and, subsequently, my personal reaction to the rhetoric, one is prompted by Royster to consider the cultural lessons extrapolated by the text. It is clear that the two women have consistently failed to view life from the other’s perspective. This is a result of their equally self-motivated goals and actions and failure to participate in active listening. Culturally, this suggests that people propelled by egocentric values and backgrounds are not likely to understand life in a comprehensive manner. Instead, the failure of the human condition manifests itself as an inability to truly empathize, rather than sympathize, with another. Empathy allows humans to feel and know what another feels and knows. According to Wharton, the structure of dialogue in which self-motivating influence muddles revelations of the truth prevents complete understanding and instead leads to an incomplete view of reality. Therefore, no matter how much one experiences or knows, the life they lead is not truly defined solely by what it seems to them alone. A comprehensive definition of the happenings and reasons for any given life is not fully rendered until all perspectives are accounted for. The cultural lessons suggested by “Roman Fever” is one that outlines a structure of human interaction that promotes individualistic assumptions, limits true discourse, and leaves much for one to question. The notion that one cannot fully understand his or her own life is a daunting one. Even at the end of the story, when the truth of the affair is revealed to both parties, do Ansley and Slade finally understand each other or know the truth of their lives? This argument suggests that they do not, as this is one singular event, and still not a comprehensive study of perspectives. Additionally, by accepting the suggestion made in this text, one lacks a solution to the problem at hand. Knowing that life is never as it seems, can one properly or fully live life or connect with another human being? Is it impossible to avoid the assumptions that humans perpetuate amidst a need for independence and individual success? Finally, if it is possible to overcome these assumptions will life no longer be concealed under a false reality, or will a lack of listening remain as the prohibiting force in human communication? These questions will emerge in the minds of Wharton’s readers as they delve into her short story and proposed rhetorical issue. Jackie Royster’s scenic analysis of Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever” allows readers to reflect upon the notion that due to the nature of human interaction and self-motivated assumptions, knowledge and experience can never fully reveal the truth of an individual’s life. Wharton makes an explicit move to challenge the way in which people interact by suggesting that this interaction is failing to foster honesty and progress to the human condition. One is left with the realization that life, as often noted, is truly a mystery. One may claim to know much, and yet, there is a perspective, an idea, or a lifestyle that they know nothing about which bears meaning on their own life. Ironically, this lack of knowledge and understanding is even true among the closest of companions.Works CitedRoyster, Jacqueline. “When the First Voice You Hear is Not Your Own”. D2L. Marquette U. Web. 20 April 2011. Wharton, Edith. Roman Fever and Other Stories. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964.
Egocentrism Inhibits Camaraderie in “Roman Fever”
Throughout Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever,” Mrs. Alida Slade experiences the consequences of an inflated ego as she fails to fully understand her companion, Mrs. Grace Ansley. She is consumed with egocentric priorities, like superiority, deception, and jealousy. While Slade’s egocentrism can be interpreted as purely superficial vanity, this story proves it to be a deterrent to true friendship in “Roman Fever” in its entirety, by making honesty, equality, and selflessness nonexistent qualities in her relationship with Ansley.One core aspect of any friendship is a sense of equality and shared experience with the other individual. Despite the fact that they live parallel lives, Slade’s egocentrism pushes her to believe that she is in fact superior to Ansley. The two “…had been intimate since childhood…” and “…lived opposite each other – actually as well as figuratively- for years”. These two women have both known a privileged New York lifestyle, love and loss of a husband, and motherhood. Slade recognizes these similarities, but fails to attribute the likeness to equality. Instead, she constantly places herself on a high pedestal. She reflects that “she felt her unemployment [the death of her husband] more than poor Grace ever would”. Here, it is evident that Ansley has more self-pity than empathy for the suffering of others. She casts the Ansley’s possible pain aside, under the assumption that the change was much more detrimental for her. Also, in her reflection she describes her companion as “poor Grace”. In context, this phrase does not indicate sympathy or compassion, but rather it takes on a patronizing tone. Slade describes her as “poor” in a way that belittles Ansley and suggests that the circumstances of death cannot come as a shock to one that already lives a life of disappointment.Furthermore, the assumption that Ansley leads a life that is dull or disappointing is one that stems from Slade’s egocentric attitude of superiority. According to her, a life of fullness and happiness is one that constantly dabbles in high society affairs. Slade and her husband are an “exceptional couple” that frequently traveled “on legal business to London, Paris or Rome…”. She views her relationship with her husband as something far better than the average marriage. Using the elite phrase “exceptional” to describe it, she highlights the idea that she truly believes that she is superior to most people, including Ansley. Also, she often refers to the busy and expansive life she lives as the wife of a successful lawyer. Unlike Ansley, she travels the world, mingles with people of high authority, and is even complimented by the high society folks. These aspects of her life give her reason to believe that Ansley’s life can just not compare to the excitement that she knows and loves. In her thought process, Slade takes the similarities between herself and Ansley and completely disregards them, because she is under the delusion that her lifestyle is far more superior to any other. As this holds true, at least in her mind, she cannot find true common ground with Ansley in order to form a deeper bond with her.Another deterrent to true friendship that Slade’s egocentric attitude invokes is selfishness. A key principle to having a friend or true companion is a sense of selflessness and ability to think of others before oneself. Slade cannot grasp this concept in the story, but rather, embraces her selfishness and fails to disband her envy for Ansley. The root of her envy lies in the realization that Slade was in love with Ansley’s fiancé. She claims that “I found out – and I hated you, hated you. I knew you were in love with Delphin…I wanted you out of the way…” (785). This envy, or even hatred, is a major factor as the lives of these two women unfold. Slade, never able to truly forget the jealousy and hatred she held for Ansley upon this realization, fosters hardened feelings for her long-time companion. The initial jealously motivated Slade to become selfish and do all in her power to be rid of the competition. Slade does not consider the outcome or consequences that Ansley may have to suffer through due to her selfishness. She falsifies a letter to Ansley, hoping that she will go to the Colloseum at night and become humiliated when Delphin does not meet her there as promised in the letter. She hopes that this humiliation and failure would trigger Ansley to give up on Delphin and longer be an obstacle for Slade. Selfishly she considers these benefits to herself, but does not think twice about the pain she causes Ansley. She even claims “I remember laughing to myself all that evening at the idea that you were waiting around there in the dark…”. She shows no remorse or regret for her childish and self-centered actions in the past, but reflects carelessly without sparing the feelings of Ansley. The lack of shame attributed with this statement further proves that the selfishness that Slade emits prohibits any relationship to form between her and Ansley.Slade’s selfishness is not mutually exclusive to this situation. This attribute of her egocentrism is also manifested in her opinion of Barbara and Jenny, the daughters of Grace and Alida. She does not appreciate her own daughter Jenny, because I her opinion, Barbara, is a far more interesting individual. Slade, under the belief that she is superior to Ansley, also admits that she would rather be Barbara’s mother. She speaks of her daughter as if she has been cheated something. She states “I always wanted a brilliant daughter…never quite understood why I got an angel instead”. Here, she selfishly covets the kind of daughter that she does not have, but Ansley does. Though she does refer to her own daughter as “an angel,” it is clear that Jenny simply does not qualify as good enough in her mother’s eyes (782). Slade wants what she cannot and does not have. Her own life is not satisfactory unless every aspect of it is comparatively superior to Ansley’s. Barbara is exciting, fresh, and vivacious, while Jenny is dedicated, simple, and boring. She figures that with the loss of her husband and son, she deserves a daughter that will keep her on her toes and give her a reason to flaunt and brag about her life. Jenny’s perfection and simplicity cannot possibly measure up to the vivacity of her former high society life, while Barbara could introduce a new round of adventures to Slade. This is all she considers when voicing her inappropriate feelings to Ansley. The only person that Slade considers in this thought process is herself and her own source of pride. Selfishness, as another facet of egocentrism, blinds the carrier from the feelings and opinion of others. One cannot truly develop a healthy relationship without taking on selflessness in an attempt to put the success and happiness of others before one’s own. Another aspect of egotistical thinking is lies and deception in an attempt to get ahead. Honesty is a basic core value that all friends share, but the egotistical individual overlooks honesty and replaces it with deceit. Slade’s dishonest behavior from her youth is clear and vivid. She admits to falsifying the letter to Ansley from Delphin, but she is still not redeemed in the truth. First off, she went through a lot of trouble in order to trick a supposed friend into believing that her affection for a man was reciprocated and that he wanted more from the relationship than what was already established. These ideas, presented in the letter, were nothing but dishonestly from Slade. This act of deceit is not one that is simply forgiven or brushed away, for it was life changing for all the parties involved. Her deception resulted in an affair, illegitimate daughter, and unnecessary friction between the two women. True friends are not as vindictively manipulative and spiteful, even if they are not always completely honest with each other. Secondly, even in her admittance to the truth, Slade fails to admit her mistake. Instead of apologizing for the deceit, she admits to it, and then continues to pity herself and defend her actions. Slade says “well, girls are ferocious sometimes, you know. Girls in love especially” (786). This comment is made in an attempt to prove that her actions are in fact justifiable. She cannot comprehend that she should feel ashamed for her lies, but instead continues to believe that her dishonesty was well-deserved and acceptable behavior under the circumstances. Her inability to understand that she was in-fact in the wrong, even though she admits the truth now, proves that the idea of dishonesty as a destructive force to relationships is not something that her egocentrism can comprehend. Honesty and the guilt of deception are not truly present in Slade; therefore she cannot and will not connect with Ansley on the emotional level necessary to qualify them as true friends.In “Roman Fever” many aspects of egocentrism are manifested within one of the characters, Alida Slade. Egotistical attitudes are a common thread in the human psyche that constantly tears apart relationships and inhibits deep understanding. One cannot truly attain friendship if egocentrism has taken residence in his or her being. Slade exemplifies this idea through her inability to truly connect with Grace Ansley. The character’s egocentric traits of deception, superiority, and selfishness prove to be deterrents to true a true emotional connection or sense of camaraderie between her and Ansley.Following the examination on Ansley and Slade’s personal reactions to the effects of the rhetorical issue at hand and subsequently, my personal reaction to the rhetoric, one is prompted by Royster to consider the cultural lessons extrapolated by the text.