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Research Project on Edith Wharton's Roman Fever

Info: 3325 words (13 pages) Essay
Published: 12th Oct 2021 in Literature

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Research Project Script

Interviewer: Good Morning people of New York! I am here today with a very special guest who​ some of you may recognize as the most influential woman writer of the 18th century. She is known for her amazing use of irony, symbolism, and verisimilitude. You guessed it. Please welcome Edith Wharton!

Edith: Hello, Hello! Thank you for having me. It's an honor to be here.​

Interviewer: We are so happy to have you here on our podcast. We have thousands of viewers​ and they have been asking for you!

Edith: Aw why thank you! Like I said, I am so happy to be here and to answer your questions!​ Interviewer: Well great! Let's get started. So Edith, tell me a little bit about yourself so we can​ get to know you better.

Edith: Of course! It would be my pleasure. My maiden name is Edith Newbold Jones, but after I​ married my husband Edward in 1885 my last name changed to Wharton. So now people know me as Edith Wharton.

Interviewer: So Edith, many of us know you for your writing. When did your passion for​ writing begin?

Edith: My passion for writing began a long long time ago. When I was a little girl I loved to​ read. I would read anything I could find! This evoked a sense of inspiration in me. I wanted to tell stories. I thought this was one of the most entertaining things I could do in New York, the place in which I grew up in. However, my family was not fond of me writing stories. They wouldn't even give me a paper and pen.

Interviewer: Edith, that sounds so sad. How did you manage to write?​

Edith: Well, Nicole, my family was very wealthy growing up and lived a high society lifestyle.​

They always had parcels coming to the house! When they would open up their parcel and throw away the box, I would run to the trash and use the parcel package as paper. This way, I was able to use my creativity to come up with short stories in my spare time.

Interview: Wow Edith, that's so incredible. We definitely can see that your parcel writing​ stories wore off. Your writing style seems to be defined by the way you grew up. Would you agree?

Edith: Yes, I would agree with that statement. Even though my family never gave me any​ support or talked about my writing, I like to think that I am a woman of truth and honor. I divorced my husband because he had an affair with another woman. From there, I knew I needed to start my own life separate from all those upper class men on their high horses thinking that they're the best of the best. That is when I knew I needed to be realistic in my writing. I wanted to share with others the truth about our society.

Interviewer: Oh wow I am so sorry to hear that, that happened to you, but I see that you grew​ from that situation. As you mentioned Edith, you wanted your writing to be realistic. Are you referring to your sense of realism?

Edith: Yes I am. It is not only a sense though Nicole. Realism is what inspired me to write many​ of my stories.

Interviewer: What would you say "realism" really is?​

Edith: Many people think that realism is only relating events, people, and objects with​ verisimilitude. Think to tell, write and share stories! And while that is true, I think of realism as a way to be true to the internal rather than the external.

Interviewer: So you're saying that you disagree with the other authors that believe in​ unbelievable coincidences?

Edith: Well, not exactly. But to me realists are about finding the motivations, thoughts,​ emotions, reactions and confusions that come from within. In other words, try to think about the internal phenomena. That's what I believe true realism is.

Interviewer: Wow Edith. I am very impressed with your ability to go against what other people​ believe.

Edith: I take pride in my own aspirations and visions, Nicole. I do not like conforming to what​ everyone else does/think. I think that to be powerful you need to do as you see fit. For example, I continued my writing even though I had no family support. I left my husband and moved to France. Which by the way, is not a good thing to do in the eyes of the common people. Technically, you're supposed to spend your entire life with your husband no matter what, but I was not going to stand being disrespected in such a cruel way.

Interviewer: That's truly amazing, Edith. You have inspired me to leave my own husband, just​ kidding! Anyways, I respect that you have gone above and beyond to showcase the importance of breaking societal norms.

Edith: Thank you Nicole. I truly just want to envy being honest and real with my readers. That's​ why I loved writing "Roman Fever".

Interviewer: Can you tell me a little bit about "Roman Fever" for the listeners who haven't had​ the chance to read it yet?

Edith: Yes, I would love to. I am going to summarize shortly so I may not spoil anything for​ readers hoping to read my short story in the near future. "Roman Fever" follows closely two women named Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade. These women are simply delighting in the pleasures of the area in which they are in: Rome and pondering things such as their past and their daughter's futures. The women have so much in common, being they have daughters of around the same age, are widows, and were neighbors. Yet, their characters are so different. The two women continue their conversation until one reveals a most astonishing revelation. This is where I will stop as this area is really important for listeners to delve into blindly. Essentially, though, my story is just about the real lives of two middle-aged women.

Interviewer: That sounds like an amazing story, Edith. I have had the opportunity to read your​ story, and I was so impressed by it. Where did you come up with this idea?

Edith: To be honest, the literary movement of realism is what inspired me to create "Roman​

Fever"!

Interviewer: Can you be more specific?​

Edith: Of course! Like I said before my sense of realism comes from the within. I like to focus​ on the internal lives of my characters and what they go through. This is more real to me rather than focusing on the relatedness of the external, like others do. I like to challenge characters in my writings to choose what will make them happy rather than focusing on what is common. This is important to my work because it reflects the real "within". In other words, I think about motivations, thoughts and confusions! All of these elements are very true to who they are internally as a person. This reflects their emotions and actions. I think that for others it's hard to find this kind of inspiration when people are always being discouraged for going outside of what's normal. Ultimately it was all of these key elements that inspired me to focus on writing "Roman fever"!

Interviewer: Okay so ultimately you are focused on the internal and doing what makes you​ happy. I really like that. Okay, so how would you say that "Roman Fever" is an example of realism?

Edith:*Well to be more specific...talk about the women's internal phenomena*?​

"Roman Fever" is an example of realism in really so many ways. Let us think about this and kind of delve into my short story. "Roman Fever" just follows the real​ ​ lives of two middle-aged women. They have lived somewhat long lives and both gone through so many ordeals: the deaths of their husbands, raising a child, betrayal, love, etc. Every page of "Roman Fever" has some sort of realism because Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley essentially dwells on their real lives throughout the entirety of the story, which is a huge part of their internal phenomena.

Interviewer: To help clarify to readers, here are some examples of realism pulled from my text.​ Edith:​ "Roman Fever" has so many examples of Realism, being that it is essentially about the lives of two women: just like you and me. In the beginning, the almost "fake" friendship is clear when Mrs. Slade says, "Grace Ansley was always old-fashioned" (8th edition, 829). Another prominent example that encompasses the real lives people had is the disloyalty that Mrs. Slade had to go through because Mrs. Ansley has been with her now deceased husband. Her sad feeling becomes known when she says, "Why-your not knowing that I've always known why you went" (8th edition, 834). This is also something that I chose to write about because we both know the societal feelings towards divorce, and I wanted to show my readers that despite having been betrayed, Mrs. Slade would never divorce. I also want to note its significance because it helps emphasise the internal lives of these characters.

Interviewer: Ah, I see! You know when I got the chance to read "Roman Fever" I was really​ taken aback to how real the story felt. I think that after talking to you about why you wrote it, I can see why the internal is more influential than the external to you.

Now it looks like we are about finished with our time with you. Time sure does fly by. Do you have anything else you would like our listeners to know before we end the show?

Edith: I just encourage anyone who has not read "Roman Fever" to do so!​

Interviewer: I do, as well. Well, Edith, thank you so much for coming on the show. Before you​ go: can we expect any more stories from you in the near future?

Edith: Thank you so much for having me Nicole! Yes, I am writing more stories, right now, and​ I am preparing to publish them soon. I have really enjoyed getting to chat with you and appreciate your time.

Nicole: Next week on our show we will be having one of the most well known social activists​ and authors Ida B. Wells. Until next week listeners, have a great day from New York!

Brianna Koulback, Nicole Schmitt

Dr. Ghilchrist

Eng 228

26 February 2021

Inside Edition podcast staring Edith Wharton brought to you by Nicole Schmitt

Over this semester, we learned that several influential people had found different meanings to the same kind of words or movements. The one specifically intriguing woman was Edith Wharton. She is "celebrated for her portrayals of life among Americans" (Edition 8, 813).

This is one of the many reasons why we thought Wharton would make a great person to research. Wharton is known for her two most famous stories, "Roman Fever" and "The Other Two." We decided to dive into "Roman Fever" because of its relatedness to the real world. Edith Wharton wrote "Roman Fever" because of the literary movement of realism. Because of her writing style and reasoning behind writing "Roman Fever," we were able to come up with an Inside Edition podcast to demonstrate how realism influenced the writing of "Roman Fever."

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The creative part that we created was built-in components. In part one of our podcast, we briefly touch on Wharton's life leading up to her work. Part two is how the literary movement of realism has influenced her work of "Roman Fever." Last but not least, part three is how her influence of realism is incorporated into "Roman Fever." We thought that this way would be the best way to showcase how realism influenced her work of "Roman Fever" because the interview gets very personal with Wharton. She tells us about her life and how her successes transpired. This allows us to share with our audience her importance of realism and how it truly impacted her as a writer.

Opening up the interview, we share information about who Wharton was and how she grew up. "A Historical Guide to Edith Wharton," ​ ​written by Carol Singley, states, "Wharton from the beginning was an anomaly, even an embarrassment to her conventionally minded family and society" (Singley). This is because Wharton did not conform to her family's riches, and they didn't condone her writing. This was important to include in our Inside Edition podcast because we wanted to give our audience background on Wharton. It shares how she became as successful as she was. We incorporated this idea because it relates to not only her not wanting to conform to society but also the reasons why her writing style was the way it was.

When researching for information about Wharton, we found many scholarly articles relating to her sense of realism. For example, "The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton" shows many instances where we see what influenced her work. In this specific quote, "Some continued to think that Wharton had concerned herself with the wrong class of society and showed ignorance of the social forces governing all lives," shows how realism was a big part of Wharton's life (10). In other words, this quote examines her not willing to be like her family (a high-upper class wealthy family). We can connect this text to her influences of work because it shows that many people thought of her as real and always wanting to do what is best for herself. We learned after reading this scholarly article, Wharton did not like conforming to society. In fact, she liked to mock the upper-classmen of New York. That is why in our Inside Edition podcast, we added sarcastic remarks about those "upper-classmen on their high horses."

Another major piece of research we found about Wharton is that she believes realism is an internal phenomenon rather than an external. According to "A Historical Guide to EdithWharton," ​"Wharton's ability to combine such cutting satire and irony with compassion for human suffering results in a unique American realism that elevates her character's struggles against restrictive conventions and circumstances beyond comedy of manners to pathos, and even tragedy" (Singley). This is significant because it relates to how she conveys the internal lives of characters in "Roman Fever." We incorporated this into our Inside Edition podcast by having Nicole, the interviewer, ask about her influences on the work. Wharton replies, "But to me realists are about finding the motivations, thoughts, emotions, reactions, and confusions that come from within. In other words, try to think about the internal phenomena. That's what I believe true realism is". This specific part of our interview information comes from the scholarly article and week three overview at time "5:46" to answer that question during the interview. It was important to add because those elements create how she defines realism.

Another way that realism is the reason behind writing "Roman Fever" is not only the internal lives of characters but also the expressions and emotions. As demonstrated before,

Wharton believed that realism is about the within. We found that according to scholar Robert Caserio, "Edith Wharton and the Fiction of Public Commentary" states that "Wharton's commitment seeks to enable and validate itself by confronting what threatens it" (Caserio). In her works, the threats created are the challenges dealing with emotions and thoughts rather than external phenomena. This is most significant because it demonstrates how realism as a context is her influence for "Roman Fever."

"Roman Fever" encompassed the ideals of realism through its depiction of real people. As we discussed, and Wharton told us, in the Inside Edition podcast, "Roman Fever" just follows the real​ ​ lives of two middle-aged women." Wharton's style of writing was immensely influenced by how she was brought up. "If we can take seriously one of Mrs. Wharton's earliest recollections, she was destined to be a realist. As a child in Paris, she used to sit in a chair, holding in her lap a book she could not read (frequently it was upside down), and make up stories about the only people who were real to her imagination-the grownups with whom she was surrounded almost to the exclusion of company of her own age" (Nevius 53). It is no surprise that she chooses to write in a way common to real life: to depict the similar scenarios she encountered as a young child.

We see this kind of realism expressed in several ways throughout "Roman Fever." At the beginning of this short story, we understand that Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade's relationship is not as authentic as one might believe. Mrs. Slade, in regard to Mrs. Ansley, says, "Grace Ansley was always old-fashioned" (Edition 8, 829). As outlined in the Inside Edition podcast, we come to know that their relationship comes with many flaws. This revelation is quite essential to Wharton's depiction of realism because she wrote in a way that was coherently truthful to everyday life: whether that be good or bad.

Realism is also exhibited in "Roman Fever," when Mrs. Ansley's disloyalty to Mrs. Slade is discussed. Mrs. Slade says, "Why-your not knowing that I've always known why you went," when revealing to Mrs. Ansley that she has always known Mrs. Ansley was once the other woman to Mrs. Slade's now-deceased husband (Edition 8, 834). As events unfold after this statement, even more examples of disloyalty are discovered. Again, Wharton's depiction of a terrible revelation occurring between two middle-aged women aligns with her telling of the full truth of life and the internal lives of characters. It is also important because, as Wharton reveals to us in the Inside Edition podcast, "This is also something that I chose to write about because we both know the societal feelings towards divorce, and I wanted to show my readers that despite having been betrayed, Mrs. Slade would never divorce." Interestingly enough, Wharton was also cheated on and chose to divorce; however, Mrs. Slade did not. One can assume this was because of the instilled negative societal feelings towards this act.

Through our Inside Edition podcast, we were able to accurately represent how Edith Wharton's use of realism influenced her writing of "Roman Fever." Wharton wrote in a way that people could relate to because of her truthfulness and emphasis on the internal lives of characters. "Roman Fever" is just one of the many examples Wharton uses to depict her style of writing but perhaps one of the best. It is no surprise that Wharton has remained so popular, as her unique writing style has produced some of the greatest contributions to realism.

From the beginning of the story, it is shown that their friendship is not really sincere.

Works cited

Bell, Millicent. The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton​ ​. Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Caserio, Robert. Edith Wharton and the Fiction of Public Commentary​ ​.

search.proquest.com/docview/1291698884/fulltextPDF/CA0C094114494450PQ/1?accou ntid=10906.

Lavine, Robert. "Edith Wharton 1862-1937." The Norton Anthology of American Literature​ ​, et al., 8th ed., C, W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.

Nevius, Blake. Edith Wharton, A Study of Her Fiction.​ ​ University of California Press, 1961.

Singley, Carol J. A Historical Guide to Edith Wharton​ ​. Oxford University Press, 2003.

 

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