In the story "Roman Fever," one of Edith Wharton's outstanding works, dramatic irony is a powerful ingredient that makes readers overwhelmed. The title "Roman Fever" runs through the whole story and provides both psychological and physical meanings on dramatic irony, which are about the 25-year-ago letter and Mrs. Ansley's illness.
The psychological meaning of Roman fever refers to Mrs. Slade's jealousy of Mrs. Ansley's daughter, Barbara, who she thought is better than her daughter, Jenny: "I appreciate her. And perhaps envy you. Oh, my girl is perfect; if I were a chronic invalid I'd-well, I think I'd rather be in Jenny's hands I always wanted a brilliant daughter and never quite understood why I got an angel instead" (123). Due to this kind of intense feeling, Mrs. Slade started to talk about the 25-year-old letter, which is the beginning of the whole dramatic irony event: "Well, you went to meet the man I was engaged to-and I can repeat every word of the letter that took you there" (125). At that moment, Mrs. Ansley still did not know Mrs. Slade pretended to be Delphin and wrote the letter to her. In addition, Mrs. Slade was unaware that Mrs. Ansley would reply the letter, then Delphin and she still met up at the Colosseum: "But I answered the letter. I told him I'd be there. So he came" (127). What the two women believed for 25 years was just part of the truth, but readers understand the whole picture. The author's artful usage of dramatic irony makes the story more fascinating. Mrs. Slade still believed she was the winner of this love competition because she married to Delphin for 25 years, but all Mrs. Ansley had was a fake letter written by her: "Yes, I was beaten there. But I oughtn't to 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" (128).