In "Roman Fever", is the friendship between Alida and Grace nurtured by a destructive passion?
"Roman Fever" reunites the traits that describe revenge literature at its very best. Using two women as main characters, Wharton effectively includes the basic elements of a love-hate relationship. These include jealousy, envy, the feeling of superiority, and on-going competition.
These very negative traits are most evident in Mrs. Slade. A woman of the upper classes, she still seems unsatisfied with her life and the outcome of her life choices. As a result, she "picks on" the less flashy but more approachable Mrs. Ansley; a woman who was once the rival for the love of Slade's late husband, Delphin.
There is a reason why the women still keep close to each other: in high society, like the society where Slade and Ansley interact, it would be impossible for the women to avoid each other's existence, since they hang around similar circles; at one point or another they would have to meet. This is the reason for Mrs. Ansley's continuous cordiality to Mrs. Slade.
However, it is Mrs. Slade who consistently aims to victimize and humiliate Ansley; it is a sign of her personal dissatisfaction, disillusion, and frustration. Mrs. Ansley's personal secret keeps her safe, strong and aloof; this, until it is time for her to hush Slade and hit her with her best shot: telling Slade that Ansley's daughter was begotten with Slade's late husband, Delphin.
Therefore, the friendship between Alida and Grace is a social requirement rather than an emotional bond. This bond has a history that is as sensitive as it is important. Yet the destructive passion comes mostly from Mrs. Slade's side; Mrs. Ansley's final "checkmate" is basically her way of quieting the annoying Slade for good, shutting down her ego for ever.