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The Friendly Unravel

In: English and Literature

Submitted By dougie
Words 925
Pages 4
The Friendly Unravel Authors have the ability, through writing, to create a story within a story using literary devices. In Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever” subtle hints of symbolism reveal the corrupt passions of two friends. At first glance Mrs. Alida Slade and Mrs. Grace Ansley appear to be old friends, returning to a familiar place to enjoy past times. A deeper look exposes hidden truths about each woman. Wharton uses symbolism in “Roman Fever” to imply the existence of the dark secrets that come between Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade. In life, friendship is known to have its twist and turns, loops and pulls. The art of knitting is used to display the intertwining lives of Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade. “Mrs. Ansley…had reached a delicate part in her knitting. “One, two, three-slip two…” (Whaton 118). Knitting is a precious, delicate, yet tedious task; although it is very familiar to her she must still concentrate and work at it because the wrong “slip” could cause the entire work to be ruined (much like friendships). On the surface, Mrs. Ansley seems to be the weaker, meeker friend but slight clues denote that there is more to her. “Half guiltily she drew from her handsomely mounted black hand-bag a twist of crimson silk run through by two fine knitting needles” (114). Her actions are timid though symbolically she is strong. The color black is significant with death, darkness, and/or ill will. Crimson is equivalent to red which means passion, aggression, love, and/or lust. Ultimately, Mrs. Ansley’s dark, passionate, lustful insides suggest she is not as mild mannered as she is putting off.
Wharton also uses the afternoon light, an archetypal symbol, as a reference to the passing of time, both literally and figuratively.
The luncheon-hour was long past, and the two had their end of the vast to themselves.-“There’s that head-waiter wondering,”…”I’ll cure him of wondering,” said Mrs. Slade, stretching her hand toward a bag as discreetly opulent-looking as Mrs. Ansley’s. Signing to the head-waiter, she explained that she and her friend were old lovers of Rome, and would like to spend the afternoon looking down on the view-that is if it did not disturb the service? (115)
Without looking at the time the women knew from the view of the afternoon light that much of the day had past. Stating that they were “old lovers of Rome” indicated that much of the light on their lives and friendship had past as well.
The evening darkness is used to elude secrecy and death. “The long golden light was beginning to pale, and Mrs. Ansley lifted her knitting a little closer to her eyes…” (118). As the sun begins to set, the reader begins to get a closer look into the shadows of these women. The darkness intensifies the mystery, causing it to stir within the ladies. Mrs. Ansley, “One might almost have imagined…, that, for her also, too many memories rose from the lengthening shadows of those august ruins” (119). Mrs. Slade, “her eyes ranging from the ruins which faced her…” (118). “She stood up and leaned against the parapet, filling her troubled eyes with the tranquilizing magic of the hour. But instead of tranquilizing her the sight seemed to increase her exasperation” (119). The shadows of the evening perplex both ladies triggering the shadows within.
Mrs. Slade begins the revelation of the untold by asking about Mrs. Ansley’s bout with Roman Fever. Being the initial meek character that she is Mrs. Ansley pretends that it is strictly a reminiscence of the past versus a doorway to the future.
“You don’t remember? You don’t remember going to visit some ruins or other one evening, just after dark, and catching a bad chill? You were supposed to have gone to see the moon rise. People always said that expedition was what caused your illness.” There was a moment’s silence; then Mrs. Ansley rejoined: “Did they? It was all so long ago.”
The tables are slowly turning but Mrs. Ansley tries to remain clueless to ill ruins that face her. The dark, chill of the night symbolizes the secret kept by Mrs. Ansley. The supposed rise of the moon she went to see, symbolizes the rise of passion and lust that occurred that night. The “Roman Fever” was her passion for a man her friend was engaged to. In the end, death was among them, when “the clear heaven was emptied of all its gold” (122) and “A feeble string of electric lights flickered out. Some vases of faded flowers were carried away…” (122). The truth was exposed and their friendship had come to an end. Symoblically, Mrs. Ansley takes her place as truly the stronger of the two ladies. “She took a step, and turned back, facing her companion. “I had Barbara,” she said, and began to move ahead of Mrs. Slade toward the stairway” (123). When saying she had Barbara, her words are as sharp as the knitting needle she had been using. Mrs. Ansley literally shows that she is got her desires and figuratively shows that she is dominate by stepping in front of Mrs. Slade and moving ahead of her.
Ultimately, Wharton uses the city of Rome, the art of knitting crimson silk and roman fever to symbolically unravel the seams of a longtime friendship held together with lies and secrets. One “slip” of the needle caused the masterpiece to be a disaster.

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