Roman Fever

by

Edith Wharton

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Grace Ansley Character Analysis

A middle-aged socialite, Mrs. Ansley is the widow of Horace Ansley and lifelong friend of Alida Slade. Mrs. Ansley appears at first to be Mrs. Slade’s opposite: reserved and self-effacing where Mrs. Slade is confident and entitled, mild where Mrs. Slade is bold, and rational where Mrs. Slade is sentimental. However, during the course of the afternoon, Mrs. Ansley reveals herself to be a more complex and morally ambiguous character than Mrs. Slade has been willing to believe during the course of their friendship. When Mrs. Slade reveals that she—not her husband, Delphin—had been the true author of a love letter Mrs. Ansley received during a trip to Rome decades earlier, Mrs. Ansley’s unexpectedly emotional reaction reveals her deep and authentic attachment to Delphin. When Mrs. Ansley finally discloses that her affair with Delphin had produced a child—her daughter, Barbara—it becomes clear that Mrs. Slade has dramatically underestimated Mrs. Ansley throughout their friendship. Throughout much of their conversation on the restaurant terrace, Mrs. Ansley works on her knitting. This activity, which Mrs. Slade initially interprets as evidence of Mrs. Ansley’s lack of emotional and intellectual depth, becomes symbolic of the ways in which her placid and innocent demeanor masks her passionate, secretive, and complex inner life.

Grace Ansley Quotes in Roman Fever

The Roman Fever quotes below are all either spoken by Grace Ansley or refer to Grace Ansley. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Roman Fever published in 1997.
Section 1 Quotes

As they leaned there a girlish voice echoed up gaily from the stairs leading to the court below. “Well, come along, then,” it cried, not to them but to an invisible companion, “and let’s leave the young things to their knitting … After all, we haven’t left our poor parents much else to do.”

Related Characters: Barbara Ansley (speaker), Alida Slade, Grace Ansley, Jenny Slade
Related Symbols: Knitting
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

“After all, it’s still the most beautiful view in the world.”
“It always will be, to me,” assented her friend Mrs. Ansley, with so slight a stress on the “me” that Mrs. Slade, though she noticed it, wondered if it were not merely accidental, like the random underlinings of old-fashioned letter-writers.
“Grace Ansley was always old-fashioned,” she thought.

Related Characters: Alida Slade (speaker), Grace Ansley
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

“Moonlight—moonlight! What a part it still plays. Do you suppose they’re as sentimental as we were?”
“I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t in the least know what they are,” said Mrs. Ansley. “And perhaps we didn’t know much more about each other.”

Related Characters: Grace Ansley (speaker), Barbara Ansley , Jenny Slade
Page Number: 5-6
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 2 Quotes

Mrs. Ansley had resumed her knitting. One might almost have imagined (if one had known her less well, Mrs. Slade reflected) that, for her also, too many memories rose from the lengthening shadows of those august ruins. But no; she was simply absorbed in her work.

Related Characters: Alida Slade (speaker), Grace Ansley
Related Symbols: Knitting
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Slade broke off this prophetic flight with a recoil of self-disgust. There was no one of whom she had less right to think unkindly than Grace Ansley. Would she never cure herself of envying her? Perhaps she had begun too long ago.

Related Characters: Alida Slade (speaker), Grace Ansley
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

“Oh, yes; Great-aunt Harriet. The one who was supposed to have sent her younger sister out to the Forum after sunset to gather a night-blooming flower for her album. All our great-aunts and great-grandmothers used to have albums of flowers.”
Mrs. Slade nodded. “But she really sent her because they were in love with the same man—”
“Well, that was the family tradition. They said Aunt Harriet confessed it years afterward. At any rate, the poor little sister caught the fever and died.”

Related Characters: Alida Slade (speaker), Grace Ansley
Page Number: 13-14
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Slade waited nervously for another word or movement. None came, and at length she broke out: “I horrify you.”
Mrs. Ansley’s hands dropped to her knees. The face they uncovered was streaked with tears. “I wasn’t thinking of you. I was thinking—it was the only letter I ever had from him!”

Related Characters: Alida Slade (speaker), Grace Ansley (speaker), Delphin Slade
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

“I don’t know why you should be sorry for me … After all, I had everything; I had him for twenty-five years. And you had nothing but that one letter that he didn’t write.”
Mrs. Ansley was again silent. At length she turned toward the door of the terrace. 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.

Related Characters: Alida Slade (speaker), Grace Ansley (speaker), Delphin Slade , Barbara Ansley
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
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Grace Ansley Character Timeline in Roman Fever

The timeline below shows where the character Grace Ansley appears in Roman Fever. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
Nostalgia Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
...an upscale restaurant in the heart of Rome, two American women — Alida Slade and Grace Ansley , both “of ripe but well-cared-for middle age” — lean against the parapet, admiring the... (full context)
Nostalgia Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
From the nearby stairs, Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley hear the voices of their two daughters, Jenny and Barbara. Barbara, Mrs. Ansley’s daughter, jokingly... (full context)
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
...on the terrace gather up their things to leave. Mrs. Slade suggests that she and Mrs. Ansley stay on the terrace, and pushes two chairs close to the parapet, facing the Palatine... (full context)
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
Mrs. Slade begins to reminisce about the time she and Mrs. Ansley spent in Rome when they were young. Mrs. Ansley is distracted, and remarks anxiously that... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
Nostalgia Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley discuss their daughters’ plans for the evening. Mrs. Ansley believes that Barbara and Jenny have... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
Mrs. Ansley’s comment prompts Mrs. Slade to reflect silently on their long friendship. She remembers how stunningly... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
Nostalgia Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
Mrs. Slade reflects on how she and Mrs. Ansley both lost their husbands around the same time, and how those losses revitalized the friendship... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
Sitting beside Mrs. Slade, Mrs. Ansley thinks about her own impressions of her friend. She believes Mrs. Slade is “awfully brilliant,... (full context)
Section 2
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
For a long time, Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade sit in silence on the terrace. The intimacy of this silence makes... (full context)
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
Nostalgia Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
...In fact, they relished the danger inherent in doing so, and readily disobeyed their parents. Mrs. Ansley continues knitting as her friend speaks, barely acknowledging Mrs. Slade’s comments. Mrs. Slade notes silently... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
...She realizes that Jenny cannot compete with Barbara for the young man’s affections. Turning to Mrs. Ansley , she voices her amazement at the fact that two “exemplary characters” — meaning Mrs.... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
Mrs. Slade tries to imagine the kind of life Mrs. Ansley will have if Barbara marries the Italian aviator: living in Rome among her grandchildren, surrounded... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
Mrs. Slade asks Mrs. Ansley whether she is afraid of catching Roman Fever or pneumonia, recalling that Mrs. Ansley has... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
Mrs. Slade tells Mrs. Ansley that she was frightened by the story of Great-Aunt Harriet when she and Mrs. Ansley... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
Mrs. Slade recalls how, on that long-ago visit to Rome, Mrs. Ansley had become very ill after staying out late one night. Mrs. Ansley says little in... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
Mrs. Ansley says she burned the letter about which Mrs. Slade is speaking, and that she does... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
...of rage is fading. She feels suddenly guilty at the thought that she has caused Mrs. Ansley pain over something that happened so long ago. Eager to justify her actions, Mrs. Slade... (full context)
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade sit together in silence while, all around them, the waiters from the... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
Mrs. Slade tells Mrs. Ansley that writing the letter was intended as a cruel joke, and that she enjoyed the... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
Shocked, Mrs. Slade asks how Delphin could have known that Mrs. Ansley would be at the Colosseum, since he never saw the letter. Mrs. Ansley reveals that... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
The Artifice of High Society Life Theme Icon
Mrs. Ansley remarks that the terrace is cold, and that they had better leave. She tells Mrs.... (full context)
Competition in Female Relationships Theme Icon
Knowledge and Denial Theme Icon
Mrs. Ansley takes a step toward the door of the terrace. Then, she turns back to face... (full context)