Notable similarities between Sarah Penn of ‘Revolt of Mother’ and Grace Ansley of ‘Roman Fever’

While Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Penn are obviously the heroes of their respective tales, there are other characters in the plot who serve as scaffolds for presenting their heroism. In the case of Revolt of Mother, it is the children of Mrs. Penn. It is her conversations with them about her preference for a bigger house that creates tension in the plot and takes it forward. Likewise, for Mrs. Ansley, it is the lengthy exchanges with Mrs. Slade, which serves a similar purpose. Although the two women were once childhood friends, their common interest in the same man had undermined their friendship. As adults with daughters of their own, their sense of possessiveness and self-interestedness only grows bigger in the intervening years. Yet it is Mrs. Ansley who comes across as the kinder and more generous of the two. She is not blatantly jealous of the happy married life of Mrs. Slade.

Another commonality between Mrs. Penn and Mrs. Ansley is their relation to men. Mr. Adoniram and Mr. Delphin are the two significant men in their respective lives. Needless to say, in the both the cases, the men are either indifferent or plain absent to heed to their women’s concerns. Adoniram is a typical patriarchal figure who presumes his authority to be a natural fact of life. Author Freeman is careful not to portray Adoniram as the villain of a melodrama, for in truth he is not one. He comes across a simple person, one who carries an inflated ego as a result of his misplaced claim to authority. But the fragility and the lack of substance to his bloated ego is exposed the moment Sarah is able to find the “right besieging tools”. Having found his measure thus, she was able to dismantle his authority, his self-concept and also achieve her goal all in one stroke. Indeed, there is an interesting interpretation to the two selves of Adoniram – the one before and the one after Sarah’s bold revolt. These two selves are likened to the two houses of the family. The first is the congested and ill-equipped old house, and the second is the more expansive and better suited new house. Sarah Penn’s revolt, in this sense, is also an act of liberating her husband from his shackled mindset. Coming to Mr. Delphin, one cannot really blame him for being absent from Grace Ansley and Barbara. Grace knew all too well that such is going to be the case and willingly consented to have Barbara. Nevertheless, it is a sad fact, that the men in their lives had not been supportive to them.

The stories of the two women share a few common symbols too. Just as The Revolt of Mother has its share of symbolism, so does Roman Fever. For Mrs. Ansley, the real victory is the successful rearing of her girl child Barbara. Indeed Barbara is the symbol of her victory, apart from being the joy and pride for Mrs. Ansley. Just as living quarters are used as symbols of personalities in Revolt of Mother, buildings used to symbolize themes in Roman Fever. For example, in Revolt of Mother the old house is contrasted to the newer and bigger structure of the barn. In a similar fashion, buildings such as the Palatine, Coliseum and the Forum are used to depict the nature of relationships between the characters. Since these are monuments already in ruins, they aptly symbolize the state of relationship between Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade. The Coliseum is an apt metaphor, for it was the site of gladiatorial fights during the peak of the Roman Empire. As well, they represent their widowed status, which is a cause of deep pain for both of them.

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