"Roman Fever" paints a marriage based not on love, respect or commitment, but on status and wealth.Discuss this idea with reference to one of the main characters.

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susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edith Wharton's short story "Roman Fever" concerns the reunion of two old friends, using this term broadly, in Rome.  Both women are now widowed, and as a result the marriages of the two are viewed in retrospect.

Through the thoughts of Mrs. Alida Slade we obtain a glimpse of her marriage to Delphin.  It is this marriage that seems to be the most appropriate to discuss with your given topic.  One of the first pieces of information that we gain about Delphin is that he was a "famous corporation lawyer" and as such Alida enjoyed the social life that such a profession entailed.  What Alida seems to miss most after her husband's death is this social life.  There is no mention of grief for the loss of her husband, just the sadness as to how dull her life has now become.

When we learn later that Grace Ansley and Delphin had previously had a tryst of their own, resulting in the conception of Grace's daughter Babs, we can assume that Delphin most likely loved Grace. It seems clear that Grace truly loved Delphin and that her love was reciprocated.  But because he was engaged to Alida, Delphin refused to participate in any sort of scandal that a broken engagement would cause and honored his commitment to marry Alida Slade.  Throughout her marriage, Alida remained jealous of Grace, perhaps subconsciously realizing that Grace was a rival for her husband's affection.  She prided herself on making Grace the butt of her jokes.

So even though Alida Slade is quite a wealthy woman able to vacation in Rome, her marriage was quite an empty one and her friendships only shallow.