Secrets and deceit mark many relationships. Even the closest, most open of friends may learn they do not know everything about one another. Their friendship may mask feelings of resentment and jealously, as the case in the short story "Roman Fever" by Edith Wharton. While vacationing in Rome with their daughters, two recently widowed lifelong friends, Alida Slade and Grace Ansley, learn they do not know as much about one and other as they have thought. From their mental portraits of one another, the unhappiness of their present lives, and from the true origins of a love letter written many years ago and its outcome, the women realize that their friendship is not that at all, but a rivalry for acceptance and love.
Both Alida and Grace rely heavily on the mental pictures and opinions they have of one another. As the ladies spend their afternoon atop the terrace of a restaurant, a tension is created with their dialog. They seem to covertly badmouth each other with their catty banter and through the narration it is implied that neither thinks very highly of the other. Alida Slade describes Grace Ansley thus: "Twenty-five years ago had been exquisitely lovely-no you wouldn't believe it would you!" (pg.381) From the same perspective Mrs. Ansley thinks that Alida Slade "Was disappointed: on the whole she had had a sad life. Full of failures and mistakes." (pg.383) From Grace's perspective Alida had led a very shallow and non-meaningful life. They both seem to share a mutual pity for each other and themselves.
Mrs. Slades self- pity has been intensified with the loss of her husband and she has a harder time dealing with grief than Mrs. Ansley, who has also recently lost her husband. Alidas world had revolved around her husband Delphin for many years. "She.
Always regarded herself 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.