Teaching Edith Wharton’s fiction inevitably leads to discussion of the institution of marriage itself. A perennial student favorite, her short story “Roman Fever” (1934) provokes thought on a variety of American attitudes, in particular the role of women in traditional American marriages—how it has both changed and remained somewhat the same over time. The later works shed light on the consistency of Wharton’s insistence on the complexity of women and her frustration with the nation’s gendered assumptions. With her novels as well as her short fiction, Wharton instantiates her critique of the custom of the country. Nearly a century after its publication, readers consistently react to the moment one student of mine dubbed the “mic drop” at the end of “Roman Fever.” The brevity of the story gives room for students to read primary and secondary sources, and each class finds new complexities in a seemingly simple work of short fiction.

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