In Wharton's "Roman Fever," what is the relationship between Aunt Harriet's story and the story of Alida and Grace when they were young in Rome?
Both stories deal with female competition for men. Aunt Harriet sent her sister out to the Forum hoping that she would catch a chill and die because they were in love with the same man. The sister did catch the fever and die. Alida was hoping the same would happen to Grace when she sent Grace a fictitious love letter from Delphin, Alida's fiance, whom she suspected that Grace loved. Grace, like Aunt Harriet's sister, went to the Forum to meet Delphin, according to the instructions of the letter. Unlike Harriet's sister, however, Grace did not catch a fever and die. Instead, Grace met Delphin, became pregnant by him, and produce a daughter. Alida never thought that Grace would actually answer the letter and that Delphin would agree to meet her. Confusing, huh? But the two stories show two generations of rivalries. Perhaps this type of competition will continue into the next generation between Alida Slade's daughter Jenny and Grace Ansley's daughter Babs. "Roman Fever" in the title refers to this serious and sometimes fatal competition between women for a man.