Literary Elements of Wharton’s ‘Roman Fever

The short story, “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton, reveals numerous popular literary elements. Some of the most prominent examples of literary elements are irony, symbolism, and foreshadowing. All three elements create the feel and atmosphere of the short story. They add illustration, mystery, and humor to the storyline. The irony in “Roman Fever” begins when the two daughters refer to their mothers as “young things”. This is verbal irony because their two mothers were described as aged and matronly, so the daughters were obviously mocking their mothers (Petry 1).
When Alida Slade reveals that she wrote the letter to Grace Ansley telling her to meet Delphin at the Colosseum instead of Delphin himself, it is situational irony because all along, Grace thought that Delphin had wrote her the letter and had believed it for twenty five years. All that time, Alida had the idea that she had tricked Grace, but when Grace informed her that Delphin had actually showed up at the Colosseum that night, it is situational irony again. When Alida tries to regain her superiority again, she says “I had him for twenty-five years.
And you had nothing but that one letter that he didn’t write. “, which is situational irony because Grace then reveals that Delphin was Barbara’s actual father, which Alida did not expect. Another thing that made it ironic was that she realized that Delphin had fathered a child that she felt superior to her own (Phelan 1). Wharton incorporated many symbols into “Roman Fever”. The one that sets the story off is the knitting, which at first seems like a minor element. In fact, it is the first matter to receive attention in the story, brought about by the daughters.

They say to leave the “young things to their knitting”, which is said sarcastically, as if their mothers are intellectually, emotionally, and physically incapable of doing any other activity besides something as simple as knitting. This was supposed to make the two mothers appear as stereotypical middle aged women (Petry 1). The crimson of the silk that Grace takes out of her bag symbolizes passion (Petry 1). The black of her handbag symbolizes the gloom of guilt (Selina 1).
Also, the knitting is a symbol of the weaving of lies that went on between Grace, Alida and Delphin, which explains why Alida does not like to knit (“Explanation of: “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton”). Another symbol is the threat of getting sick. All through the story, the women mention Roman fever, which was going around while they were both in Rome as teenagers. Grace and Alida were both afraid of catching it. Alida hoped that Grace would get it while waiting for Delphin at the Colosseum, and although Alida’s complete plan did not work, Grace did eventually catch Roman fever (“Explanation of: “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton”).
The setting of Rome is also a symbol, because the ruins that surrounds the city. It symbolizes the ruined relationship between Grace and Alida (“Explanation of: “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton” 1). Also, it is also a symbol because Rome is a famously feminine city, so it added to the independent femininity of the story (Voeller 1). Foreshadowing is a key element in “Roman Fever”. It starts at the beginning with the description of the women. Grace Ansley is described as small, pale, and unsure of herself. Alida
Slade is described as higher in color and confident. These two details indicate that Alida would be intimidating to Grace, and that her personality is more domineering (Petry 2). When Wharton writes, “Half guiltily she withdrew from her handsomely mounted black handbag a twist of red crimson”, it foreshadows that Grace is slightly afraid of Alida and she has some secrets that Alida does not know about. Towards the beginning, Wharton also mentioned that Alida Slade is not fond of knitting, which was unusual for someone of her age at that time.
This shows that she is different from your average middle-aged woman, and that she and Grace do not have many things in common about their personality (Petry 1). When Alida Slade and Grace Ansley are looking at their daughters having fun in the moonlight, and Grace says “And perhaps we didn’t know much more about each other”, it shows that some drama is about to occur, and that she knew she had things that Alida did not know about her, and also that perhaps Alida felt the same way (Selina 1).
Roman Fever” demonstrates countless excellent cases of irony, symbolism, and foreshadowing. Different kinds of irony make “Roman Fever” entertaining during dialogue. Symbolism gives the story deeper meaning in small actions, for instance knitting, and setting details. Foreshadowing in the story baffles and intrigues. In conclusion, these are the three vital literary elements in Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever”. They capture the reader from the playful beginning to the jaw dropping end.

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