Two main themes of "Roman Fever" are developed through the dialogue and characterization of the two main personages, the two "intimate friends" about whom the plot revolves.
Although Alida Slade and Grace Ansley have been long acquainted and "intimate friends," yet they really know little of each other, probably because Alida Slade has long been jealous of Mrs. Ansley as she knows that Grace has loved her husband, Delphin Slade.
Alida Slade, who always took "conjugal pride" in being married to a business executive, and who is "fuller, and higher in color, with a small determined nose supported by vigorous black eyebrows," observes how Mrs. Ansley, now knitting,
was twenty-five years ago so exquisite lovely, you wouldn't believe it, would you?...though, of course, still charming, distinguished...Well, as a girl she had been exquisite; far more beautiful than her daughter Barbara, though certainly Babs, according to the new standards at any rate, was more effective--had more edge,as they say. Funny where she got it, with those two nullities as parents....Museum specimens of old New York.
Her own daughter Jenny is such "a perfect daughter that she needed no excessive mothering." But, Mrs. Slade thinks, with a daughter like Barabara, life would not "be so quiet." She is jealous. And, when she has the opportunity to mock Grace as staid she does, broaching the idea of Grace at a speakeasy--
so amusing that ...she lauched it at a woman's lunch. It made a hit and went the rounds...
The final evidence of the continued rivalry, of course, occurs as Mrs. Slade divulges that she forged the letter of Delphin to Mrs. Ansley. On hearing this, Mrs. Ansley drops on one knee:
Mrs. Slade's jealousy suddenly lept up again at the sight. All these years the woman had been living on that letter.
However, Mrs. Ansley's delivers the coup de grace after her fantasy is destroyed that Delphin wrote to her. Spade may have married Delphin, but Barbara, whom Mrs. Spade is also jealous of, is the her daughter conceived that night at the Coliseum with Delphin.
LOVE and PASSION
Mrs. Slade prides herself upon being more dynamic that the "museum specimen" of Grace Ansley. She feels that she has contributed much to the dynamics of a prestigious couple that she and Delphin were. But the sad truth is that she feels more for the son that she has lost, whose death is "agony" to her. In truth, Mrs. Ansley, who has borne the daughter of Delphin Slade and loved him from across the street quietly, reveals depths of passion beneath the tight corset and high necked dresses that she wears. As she "dropped to her knee," her face "streaked with tears," after Mrs. Slade's startling revelation, her hidden passion is finally revealed.