According to Dictionary.com’s definition of the word ‘jilt’, it means “to reject or cast aside (a lover or sweetheart), especially abruptly or unfeelingly.” The website explained that the word ‘jilt’ originated from a word used in during the period of 1650-1660, which was another word for harlot. It adds that it is a “syncopated variant of jillet.” The Online Merriam-Webster Dictionary notes that the Scottish word ‘jillet’ means a “vexatiously flirtatious girl” or a wench. It is inferred from the meanings of the words ‘jillet’ and ‘jilt’ and the hidden narrative present within Porter’s short story that Mrs. Weatherall was promiscuous as a young woman. This is evidenced by the following quote: “She used to think of him [John] as a man, but now all the children were older than their father, and he would be a child beside her if she saw him now. It seemed strange and there was something wrong in the idea” (Porter par. 25). If Mrs. Weatherall’s children are now older than their father would have been then there is a possibility that there are not his children. Therefore, this quote hints at unfaithfulness on Ellen Weatherall’s part. The thought of her children (Cornelia, Lydia, and Jimmy) not being John’s makes her uncomfortable, and is causing her to recognize how wrong her action were in being unfaithful to John.
The following provides additional clues as to Mrs. Weatherall’s unfaithfulness: “All those letters—George’s letters and John’s letters and her letters to them both—lying around for the children to find afterwards made her uneasyNo use to let them know how silly she had been once” ( Porter par. 17). It is implied that Granny Weatherall’s silliness is in reference to her having simultaneous relationships with both John and George. This flirtatious behavior on Mrs. Weatherall’s part might have led to her being jilted on her wedding day by George while at the altar, as indicated by the following: “What does a woman do when she has put on the white veil and set out the white cake for a man and he doesn’t come?” (Porter par. 29). It is primarily at weddings where a woman wears a white veil, if she is a bride. Apparently, Mrs. Weatherall was stood up or rejected by George, as indicated by the following: “Yes, she had changed her mind after sixty years and she would like to see George. I want you to find George. Find him and be sure to tell him I forgot him. I want him to know I had my husband just the same .Tell him I was given back everything he took away and more” (Porter par. 41). It is inferred from these sentences that George left Ellen Weatherall at the altar. The reasons could have been George’s anxiety about being married or he may have found out that Ellen was having a relationship with John. Therefore, based on the hidden story within Porter’s “The Jilting Granny Weatherall,” one can conclude that the word ‘jilt’ within the contexts of the main and hidden stories could have a double meaning and, as a result, be read as a pun. Granny Weatherall was jilted by her lover, George while at the altar on her wedding day; but Granny Weatherall was also a jilt, in the sense that she was promiscuous or behaved like a harlot.
THE CONCEALED STORY WITHIN EDITH WHARTON’S “ROMAN FEVER”
The website, Urban Dictionary defines night fever as a “fake excuse a Bahamian DJ gives you for what is clearly herpes.” In other words, night fever could be another word which is used to refer to the sexually transmitted infection (STI), herpes. Herpes usually occurs after having sexual intercourse with multiple partners. Therefore, the title of Wharton’s story has some sexual undertones which points to a hidden story present within the main narrative of “Roman Fever.” The story has hidden clues which suggest that Delphin Slade had cheated on his wife, Mrs. Alida Slade with her friend, Mrs. Grace Ansley. There were some clues within the narrative indicated that Mrs. Ansley sympathized with Mrs. Slade for having such an unfaithful partner, as indicated by the following: “Mrs. Ansley had always been rather sorry for her.” (Wharton par. 24). Later on, Mrs. Ansley openly states to Mrs. Slade: “I’m sorry for you” (Wharton par. 114). Mrs. Ansley explained further that she did not have to wait for Delphin Slade that night because he was already waiting at the Coliseum in Rome (Wharton 116). There were also clues which reveal that Barbara was not the product of both Mrs. Grace and Mr. Horace Ansley, such as the following: “Barbara, though certainly Babs, according to the new standards at any rate, was more effective—had more edge as they say.
Funny where she got it, with those two nullities as parents” (Wharton par. 19). Another clue is revealed by the following quote by Mrs. Slade: “‘.And I was wondering, ever so respectfully, you understandwondering how two such exemplary characters as you and Horace had managed to produce anything so dynamic’ ” (Wharton par. 37). It was clear, at least from Mrs. Slade’s perspective, that Barbara did not share features and behavioral traits from both Mr. and Mrs. Ansley. This clue subtly alluded to the fact that it was a possibility that Barbara was not both Mr. and Mrs. Ansley’s child. Therefore, the title “Roman Fever” not only connotes the idea of pneumonia or someone coming down with an illness which one gets after dark while venturing Rome, but it also connotes the idea that Delphin Slade had sexual relations with both Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley. Hence, this reveals sexual impropriety on Mr. Delphin Slade and Mrs. Grace Ansley’s part.
"Jillet." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
"Jilted." Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
Porter, Katherine Anne. "Morrisville State College." - State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Morrisville. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
"Urban Dictionary: night fever." Urban Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
Wharton, Edith. "Roman Fever- by Edith Wharton (1862-1937)." Roman Fever- by Edith Wharton (1862-1937). N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.