Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The style of the story in its serenity, its quiet setting, and its almost total lack of action well matches the calm control exhibited by Grace Ansley, who turns out to be the victor in the contest initiated by Alida Slade. Although the reader is told that Alida is the dominant, vivid personality, and she clearly takes charge of both the activities (or lack thereof) and the conversation, her attacks on Grace are quietly rebuffed, and she is finally the loser as they mutually reveal information about their past activities.

The story is carefully wrought, so that the shift in sympathy to the timid Grace occurs fairly early, and it comes as a surprise to learn that she was so unconventional in her behavior as to undertake an assignation with another woman’s fiancé. Then the final surprise, which is so quietly, and characteristically, announced to the arrogant Alida, serves to end the story with a dramatic flourish that has even more impact because it is so subdued.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Old New York
‘‘Roman Fever’’ was written in the 1930s and is set in the 1920s, but the story's characters and values...

(The entire section is 752 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

"Roman Fever'' is set in Rome, Italy, around the mid-1920s. On the one hand, the ruins of Rome become the focus of...

(The entire section is 725 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1920s: Malaria is a life-threatening, infectious disease. For instance, in 1914, around 600,000 Americans died after contracting...

(The entire section is 387 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Investigate the effects of malaria in the early 20th century and how scientists have worked to combat this life-threatening disease.


(The entire section is 209 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

Roman Fever is a one-act opera based on Wharton's short story; the music is composed by Robert Ward and the vocal score is written by...

(The entire section is 35 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Wharton's House of Mirth (1905) brilliantly depicts the ruthless and destructive nature of New York society.

A Backward...

(The entire section is 146 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Butcher, Fanny, A review of The World Over, in the Chicago Daily Tribune, April 25, 1936, p. 10.


(The entire section is 278 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Ammons, Elizabeth. Edith Wharton’s Argument with America. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980.

Beer, Janet. Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Studies in Short Fiction. London: Macmillan, 1997.

Bell, Millicent, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Bendixen, Alfred, and Annette Zilversmit, eds. Edith Wharton: New Critical Essays. New York: Garland, 1992.

Benstock, Shari. No Gifts from Chance: A Biography of Edith Wharton. 1994. Reprint. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.

Dwight, Eleanor. Edith Wharton: An Extraordinary Life. New York: Abrams, 1994.

Fracasso, Evelyn E. Edith Wharton’s Prisoner of Consciousness: A Study of Theme and Technique in the Tales. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.

Gimbel, Wendy. Edith Wharton: Orphancy and Survival. New York: Praeger, 1984.

Lewis, R. W. B. Edith Wharton: A Biography. 2 vols. New York: Harper & Row, 1975.

Lindberg, Gary H. Edith Wharton and the Novel of Manners. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1975.

McDowell, Margaret B. Edith Wharton. Boston: Twayne, 1975.

Nettels, Elsa. Language and Gender in American Fiction: Howells, James, Wharton, and Cather. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.

Pennel, Melissa McFarland. Student Companion to Edith Wharton. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2003.

Singley, Carol, J., ed. Edith Wharton’s “The House of Mirth”: A Casebook. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Singley, Carol, J., ed. A Historical Guide to Edith Wharton. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.