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Contrasting Friendship

“The two ladies, who had been intimate since childhood, reflected how little they knew each other” (256). This is how, author, Edith Wharton shows the relationship of two characters, Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade, in the short story “Roman Fever.” These two women who are supposed to be friends, led envious lives of each other, and because of the way they lived they were very contrasting and conflicting characters. In the end, I believe Mrs. Slade was guiltier for her actions and in fact the whole incident would have never happened if it weren’t for her.

Before there widowhood these two ladies led very envious and superficial lives. In describing her friend Mrs. Slade says, “Mrs. Horace Ansley, twenty-five years ago, had been exquisitely lovely…though, of course, still charming, distinguished…far more beautiful than her daughter. Horace Ansley was just the duplicate of his wife. Museum specimens of old New York. Good-looking, irreproachable, exemplary” (256). In return, when Mrs. Ansley was asked about or spoke about Mrs. Slade she would reply, “Alida Slade’s awfully brilliant; but not as brilliant as she thinks. Mrs. Slade had been an extremely dashing girl; much

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more so than her daughter who was pretty, of course, and clever in a way, but had none of her mother’s—well vividness” (258). These two ladies had a friendship based upon nothing but there own jealous and arrogant behavior; as if the only reason they spoke was in spite of one another. As Wharton describes them, “ these two ladies visualized each other, each through the wrong end of her little telescope” (258). Wharton realized that these fragments composed the only true communication about their friendship and therefore told the real story of Mrs. Slade and Mrs.Ansley. They were arrogant and self-centered women and the only thing their friendship was based on was that of out-doing one another.

Nothing seems to be going on in this opening of the story, yet nothing could be farther from the truth. The two women have been involved in a battle for the past twenty years, whether they were aware of it or not. I believe the only thing that got these two women back together was them running into each other after their husband’s deaths, back in Rome. If it weren’t for that coincidence there never would have been any more animosity towards each other. While discussing the beauty of the landscape in Rome, Mrs. Ansley states, “After all, it’s still the most beautiful view in the world. It always will be, to me” (255). It is then, after Mrs. Ansley stresses the “me” in her statement, that Mrs. Slade finally, after all these years unravels the whole incident pertaining to Mrs. Ansley’s case of roman fever. Mrs. Slade tells her life-long friend that it was she that sent her the note from Mr. Slade, asking her to meet him at the Colosseum. Mrs. Slade

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was jealous and wanted to keep Mr. Slade no matter what the cost, so she sent the letter to get her friend out of the way for a few weeks

It was like a shot to the heart for Mrs. Ansley that a friend would do that. According to Mrs. Slade, “I did it as a sort of joke—at the idea that you were waiting around there in the dark”(263). But, the joke was on Mrs. Slade because it was then that Mrs. Ansley revealed her that indeed she did not wait, she had responded to the note and Mr. Slade did in fact meet her at the Colosseum. At the end of the story, Mrs. Slade realizes that her plan all those years ago failed, and that Mr. Slade and Mrs. Ansley did meet that night, because Mrs. Ansley answered the letter, but Mrs. Slade still felt she ultimately won the war.

Mrs. Slade had thought she won the war because as she says on page 263, “I oughtn’t begrudge it to you, I suppose. 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” (263). It was then that Mrs. Ansley finally decided to shut Mrs. Slade up of her arrogant, superficial talk and she nonchalantly turned to Mrs. Slade and said, “I had Barbara” (263).

In the end, I believe, it was Mrs. Ansley who had the ultimate revenge. While Mrs. Slade had planned to get rid of Mrs. Ansley that night, Mrs. Ansley not only answered the letter, and had a night of passion with Mrs. Slade’s husband,

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but she also had his child. Each time Mrs. Slade tried to make Mrs. Ansley feel like she meant nothing, Mrs. Ansley came back with a harsher reality for Mrs.

Slade. Throughout the whole story, I believe Mrs. Slade is ultimately at greater fault because she was the one who brought up the letter and she wouldn’t let it

go. She felt she had to top Mrs. Ansley each time. Though both women were at fault, in a way, Mrs. Slade had no one to blame for the consequences but herself.

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