In “Roman Fever,” which character does the author portray as more sympathetic, Mrs. Slade or Mrs. Ansley? 

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Judging by the manner in which Edith Wharton characterizes Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley, it is safe to say that it is not too difficult for a female reader to identify with either of the two. For once, the ladies were wives (now widows) and mothers. As typical females, they experience bouts of likes and dislikes regarding each other's lives, successes, or failures. Additionally, their similarities may render them prone to compete with each other. It is all the nature of human behavior. Yet, it is in the way that Mrs. Slade is presented as abrasive and somewhat haughty, that the reader is led to connect more with Mrs. Ansley 

There is also evidence of Wharton's own partiality toward Mrs. Ansley. After all, it is she who Wharton selects to be the character that gives the presumptious Mrs. Slade the final "knockout". This happens when Mrs. Ansley reveals that her daughter Barbara was actually conceived with the late Mr. Slade even after Mrs. Slate's desperate attempts to keep the two separated during their engagements. In her attempt, Mrs. Slade writes a fake letter where her then-fiancé, Delphin, presumably wanted a meeting with Grace (Ansley) only to make Grace go and get jilted.

The outrageous confession of Mrs. Slate is what breaks the sympathy with the reader, for it is clear that her decision could have hindered Mrs. Ansley's life in many ways. The fact that the fate is different, and Mrs. Ansley did get to be with her beloved Delphin, makes the story's twist all the more satisfying to the reader.

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Roman Fever

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