“Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton Explores the Cruelty of Lady Friends

Roman Fever by Edith WhartonI just taught Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever” (1934) to my college students and had a fairly good reception, considering that it’s a story about two well-to-do middle aged women chatting. About a third of one class liked it, and about two thirds of my other class liked it. Even though I taught it in college I really think the story works for the High School classroom because, believe it or not, students should actually really closely identify with the characters.

The horrid behavior between two friends over nothing less important than a youthful ‘relationship’ should be immediately recognizable to students. If not in their own life, they should certainly see it in the lives of the students around them. See also Sula, by the way. Women’s friendships should endure, but, instead, womanhood is the battleground whereupon we commit some of our worst atrocities as maturing women.

Enter Edith Wharton’s short story “Roman Fever,” and be ready to explain who the heck everyone is because I heard only two complaints: it’s confusing and/or it’s boring. It’s confusing if readers put no effort into understanding it, and it’s boring if they didn’t catch on to the fact that there’s a multi-generational murder-attempt tradition in place. I strongly suggest starting a lesson on this brilliant story by putting full names and relationships on the board. Here’s what I make the students tell me so I can write it on the board (“D” indicates “deceased”):

Alide Slade married to Delphin Slade (D): son Unnamed (D) and daughter Jenny.

Grace Ansley married to Horace Ansley (D): daughter Barbara aka Babs.

So who the heck are these people? (Spoilers below.) There are six main players in this drama, and two of them (and all the men in the story except a waiter) are dead.

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Throwback Thursday: A Decade of Blog-tastic February(s)

Many of my recent blog posts have focused on the fact that 10 years have passed since I started this blog, which has brought up a certain nostalgia for me, as well as the stark reality that my posts need to be cleaned up. Ten years will accrue a lot of broken links and unnecessary tags, if my blog is considered to be a representative sample.

February is the one month that I wrote the least over the years, but there are still some good bits around. Here is the best of February that my blog has to offer through the decade.

A Decade of Blog-tastic February(s)

February 2, 2008: Squirrel Haiku
My muse eternal: the squirrel.

February 20, 2008: Downpour Haiku
I would consider this one of my better, if not my best haiku, of all time. Even if you disagree, you would have to admit that it’s an unnecessarily violent weather-themed haiku, and that’s something.

Etsy Quote

February 23, 2010: Etsy vs Big Cartel vs Storenvy
This is probably my all-time most popular post, so much so that I feel compelled to update it regularly eight years later. All told it’s been view over 50,000 times (that’s a lot for me), and I’m extremely appreciative of everyone who reads it, comments on it, and shares it.

February 23, 2011: Our New Mouse, Niblet
This post commemorates adopting Niblet, a pet mouse, and probably the last mouse I’ll ever own. She was very cute, but never really warmed up to me as much as I wanted. Mice as pets are sort of like fuzzy goldfish.

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