In the short story “Roman Fever” we see a pattern in the lives of the women. I like to call this destructive passion. Destructive passion can be put into a literal term of passion itself. “Passion in itself is an emotion applied to a strong feeling about a person or thing. ” (Merriam-Webster online) This also means that passion can be known has having a strong desire towards something or someone. Intense passion in the forms of love, fear, vengefulness, enmity, and jealousy poisons the relationship between Alida Slade and Grace Ansley.
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We can also see this pattern how it unfolded with Grace’s Great-aunt and how it could possibly unfold with Grace and Alida’s daughters. First we can unfold the destructive behavior of the Great-aunt. “Oh yes; Great –aunt Harriet. The one who was supposed to have sent her young sister out to the Forum after sunset to gather a night blooming flower for her album. All of our great-aunts and grandmothers used to have albums of dried flowers” (Gwynn 99) Here is where we first encounter a history of deceit and destructive behavior that rises from the form of passion for love of another.
Slade nodded. ”But she really sent her because they were in love with the same man-“(Gwynn 99) We now begin to unravel the destructive actions that Alida has towards Grace. This cycle is starting to pan out for each generation. We have the story of the great-aunt being passed sown to Alida and Grace and undoubtedly will be passed to Jenny and Barbara of their mothers deceit and passion for the same man. In the following exert from the short story we see the passion of hatred unfold from the past of the great-aunt to the past of Alida and Grace. “Well, that was the family tradition.
They say Aunt Harriet confessed it years afterward. At any rate, the poor little sister caught the fever and died. Mother used to frighten us with the story when we were children. ”(Gwynn 99) We can take two meanings from the word fever. We can take the literal term of it being the sickness of it physically and she died from that. Or we can take the meaning metaphorically and say she died of the fever of passion and caught her death in that way. In either aspect you have the ideal of passion unfolding the deceit, hatred, and jealousy one has for another’s so called “possessions”.
We can now unfold the complete jealousy and destructive passion between the two women. “And you frightened me with it, that winter when you and I were here as girls. The winter I was engaged to Delphin. ” Here we have the beginning of the passion forming a rift between the two friends. They loved the same man. One was willing to go the extra length to have the other out of the picture. Right now we only see it as a threat but Alida takes it to the next level. First, Grace falls in love with Alida’s fiance, Delphin.
Out of fear of losing Delphin and out of a desire for revenge, Alida executes a plot exposing Grace to an evening chill that sickens her and isolates her from Delphin. Alida Slade forges a letter to lure Grace Ansley to the Colosseum. The whole reason behind this is to give her the “Roman Fever” and have her out of her and Delphins life forever. Little did Alida know that Grace responded to that letter and Delphin met her anyway. Because of Alida’s destructive passion for Delphin she did the one thing she feared. She pushed the two closer together and the consummated their love.
In this consummation they produced a child. This is a forever haunt to Alida by the end of the story. So know we are faced with the unknown with the two girls of Alida and Grace. Barbara and Jenny now have a chance to break the cycle of the women before them but can they? The parallels between all of the women are substantial but none more so then Jenny and Barbara. Barbara is funny and smart and very vivacious like Alida was. She is not like her mother Grace. On the other hand you have Jenny, who is beautiful, quiet, and ordinary like Grace. But Jenny is nothing like her mother Alida.
Both girls are receiving the attentions of young men, as their mothers did twenty-five years before. Barbara is likely to become the fiancee of a promising bachelor, according to Alida. She muses that “Babs would almost certainly come back engaged to the extremely eligible Campolieri. ” (Gwynn 98) Twenty-five years before, Alida herself was engaged to a promising bachelor. Here is the promising of the cycle repeating itself. We have the right setting and the same scenario starting all over again. It seems as if Rome itself can be such a passionate city but also have destruction in its nature.
Add to these parallels this circumstance: As daughters of Delphin Slade, Barbara and Jenny are half-sisters. This fact is significant in relation to the story about Grace’s Great-Aunt Harriet. While competing for a man with her own sister, she deliberately tricked the girl into exposing herself to Roman fever. Thus we now have the full circle of the past repeating itself over and over again. We also have at the heart of it passion. The destructive part comes into play when you will see what a person is willing to do in order to keep the feeling alive. It results in selfishness and a destruction of friendships and relationships on the whole.
We can now connect the meaning of “Roman Fever” with the meaning of destructive passion. Grace acquired Roman fever figuratively when she burned with love for Alida’s fiance, Delphin. Alida developed the fever figuratively when Grace’s love for Delphin fired her with hate for Grace and a desire to get even by writing the letter. Alida later suffered the fever when she became intensely jealous of Grace’s daughter. Roman fever simmers secretly within both women for the next twenty-five years. This revelation is the heart of what destructive passion is capable of and how the cycle can be passed on.