A human is a social creature. So, good interrelations among people are one of the most essential conditions for reaching happiness. Relations between people in their manysidedness of form, kind and strength of emotional intimacy, make a beautiful mosaic of the mankind’s life. However, throughout centuries, they were a difficult task for every single personality, so as to find mutual understanding, peace, brotherhood and love, and see many good features that make a man so necessary and irreplaceable. In Roman Fever written by Edith Wharton, there is a description of the history of relationships between the two friends, where misunderstandings and egoism poison their lives. It is very interesting and didactic story, because similarities and great difference of its heroes at same time cause complicated situations and complicate the relations between them.
Watching the conversation between the main heroes of the story, one can see that their psychological portraits differ underlining the characteristic features of their characters. Mrs. Slade was temperamental and irascible, while Mrs. Ansley was calm and even-tempered. In the psychological aspect they were real antipodes almost at all points: “She (Mrs. Ansley) was evidently far less sure than her companion of herself and of her rights in the world (Wharton, 2). Analyzing Mrs. Slade’s behavior one can make a conclusion that she was more interested rather in the nondomestic events rather than in taking care of the family; “As the wife of the famous corporation lawyer, every day brought its exciting and unexpected obligation: the impromptu entertaining of eminent colleagues from abroad, the hurried dashes on legal business to London, Paris or Rome, where the entertaining was so handsomely reciprocated” (Wharton, 3). Since, she had nothing but a family after her husband’s death, “There was nothing left but to mother her daughter“(Wharton, 3), her life became so boring that even watching the beauty of the Ancient Rome that she loved so much didn’t help her. ”The new system has certainly given us a good deal of time to kill; and sometimes I get tired just looking—even at this” (Wharton, 1). Her gesture was now addressed to the stupendous scene at their feet. However, Mrs. Ansley made an impression of a careful housewife, the main interest of whom was her family, not the outside events. She preferred calm, monotonous knitting rather than adoring the beauty of Rome. ”Mrs. Slade's eyes rested on her (Mrs. Ansley) with a deepened attention."She can knit—in the face of this! How like her”” (Wharton, 4). So, it’s possible to say that the characters of those women act as foils to one another bringing out other characteristics.
While reading the novel, it seems that the author is trying to thrust a reader an opinion about antagonism of these characters. Nevertheless, this story makes a different impression on the reader concerning these women. In spite of the differences of the characters and the priorities, we get a doubtless impression of their similarity, because the two heroines proved to be dishonest the people, who were not a good example to follow. This thought can be based concerning Mrs. Slade’s example. It’s quite possible that she was in love with her husband in the beginning of the family life. At least as she says about herself: “Well, girls are ferocious sometimes, you know. Girls in love especially” (Wharton, 8). However, out of her words one can make a conclusion that in her life she appreciated the things that she got from her husband more than the husband himself: “It was a big drop from being the wife of Delphin Slade to being his widow. She had always regarded herself (with a certain conjugal pride) as his equal in social gifts, as contributing her full share to the making of the exceptional couple they were: but the difference after his death was irremediable. Yes; being the Slade's widow was a dullish business after that” (Wharton, 3). He gave her the possibility of realization of the need for motherhood and provided her with high social and financial conditions. From the quotation above it is clear enough that she didn’t suffer as much from the husband’s death, as from the consequences of his death; frankly, she couldn’t get such possibilities from her life as she has had earlier, while being his wife. What can be said about Mrs. Ansley? Just as her friend from her life’s story represented by the author, she makes rather a bad impression. The fight between Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley for the Delphin Slade’s love, when they were young ladies, looks like an ultimate fighting, where there are no forbidden actions and the winner is not judged. This can be seen from the words of Mrs. Slade: "You tried your best to get him away from me, didn't you? But you failed; and I kept him. That's all" (Wharton, 8). Though in her love, Mrs. Ansley was quite sincere and her wish to be with her beloved can be understood; it’s important to see their likeness in the fight that seems to be masked at first. We also get to know that after she recovered from the flu and after that date with Delphin Slade she marries another man in a short time. During the conversation she agrees with Mrs. Slade: “I had an idea you did it out of pique—to be able to say you'd got ahead of Delphin and me. And your marrying so soon convinced me that you'd never really cared” (Wharton, 8). Reflecting the friend’s remark about the fact that she didn’t get Dolphin Slade; thus, not possessing anything in life, she said that she had had Barbara (Wharton, 9). She doesn’t say that she had a good, or a loving and caring husband. She only says that she had a daughter. There is an impression that for her the husband is like a season of the year that passed and is not worth mentioning. Making a conclusion, one can say that the general impression that these ladies make is the following: they both were the type of women, for whom morality was not an important criterion, who were used to achieve their goals by slyness and manipulations. They were the type of women, who would use their husbands as a way to get life and psychological comfort; they used to be egoistic and ungrateful.
Through the story one can observe the change of impressions that are made by the heroines, although it’s impossible to lose the negative opinion about them. In the beginning of the story we are faced with the strange situation that the intimate friends can be hypocritical in their relations. Of course, the characteristics that they give each other can’t be interpreted seriously. For instance, this is what Mrs. Ansley says about her friend in the beginning: "Alida Slade's awfully brilliant; but not as brilliant as she thinks" (Wharton, 3). And this is Mrs. Slade’s opinion about her friend’s family: “Her daughter, Barbara, was more effective—had more edge, as they say. Funny where she got it, with those two nullities as parents. Yes; Horace Ansley was—well, just the duplicate of his wife. Museum specimens of old New York. Good-looking, irreproachable, exemplary” (Wharton, 2). As it was proved to be, the relations between the women were poisoned by jealousy and hate. Since the war between them was not declared but hidden, it became the reason of the duplicity. However, the sincere conversation between them becomes a culmination of their relations, the desired dotting the i's and the expression of a brave sincerity that was expressed in Mrs. Slade’s words: " 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” (Wharton, 7). Thanks to the conversation the attitude of the heroines to each other changes and the reader feels the necessity to change his/her impression of them. In particular, along with the mercenary and dishonesty to the dead husband, Mrs. Ansley became a woman that is really able to love, who finds compassion of her friend: “All these years the woman had been living on that letter. How she must have loved him, to treasure the mere memory of its ashes!” (Wharton, 8). Besides that, she proves to be able to care of another person, even if she has to ignore the offence: “Mrs. Ansley rose, and drew her fur scarf about her (Mrs. Slade). "It is cold here. We'd better go.... I'm sorry for you," she said, as she clasped the fur about her throat” (Wharton, 9). Mrs. Slade also shows an ability to be compassionate and understanding: “I wish now I hadn't told you. I'd no idea you'd feel about it as you do; I thought you'd be amused. You must do me the justice to remember that I had no reason to think you'd ever taken it seriously” (Wharton, 8). Thanks to the sincere conversation she understood the important truth: “The flame of her wrath had already sunk, and she wondered why she had ever thought there would be any satisfaction in inflicting so purposeless a wound on her friend” (Wharton, 7). So, as it can be seen, the soul’s wounds started to cure leaving a place for conciliation and brotherhood in hearts, but the long years of mutual hate and offence could have been avoided if they had thrown away the unwillingness to find mutual respect and frankness, which has led them to the warped perception of each other. Because of the mutual slyness and egoism they didn’t see generosity, compassion, self-dedication and sincerity in each other, they didn’t see the big treasures of a human heart that each of them possessed.
Having examined the story of the relations between the two friends, we analyzed their mistakes, which caused the mutual hate and offence. This story is very lifelike and didactic. So, the conclusions made after reading this book are worth being used in the real life. One can take the heroines of this story as a good example that shows a great importance of the honesty, morality and ability to absolve the sins of your offender, because absence of such significant skills is a cause of human sufferings.
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