‘A Respectable Woman’ by Kate Chopin

A Respectable Woman by Kate Chopin, 1894

The magic trick:

Building the story around an internal struggle that the reader never gets a window into

We finish our stay on the bayou this week with another Kate Chopin story.

This one is interesting in that it highlights a woman’s internal struggle without ever really giving us a window into the internal struggle itself.

We get a little bit of information about how she feels about her husband’s friend. But not much. Most of the struggle is simply shown through her actions, along with – and this might be the most interesting part – the assumed knowledge of the reader. The story trusts that you understand this kind of situation and can easily imagine what the protagonist is going through. It’s an interesting way to depict a quiet, emotional crisis.

And that’s quite a trick on Chopin’s part.

The selection:

“When is he going—your friend?” she one day asked her husband. “For my part, he tires me frightfully.”

“Not for a week yet, dear. I can’t understand; he gives you no trouble.”

“No. I should like him better if he did; if he were more like others, and I had to plan somewhat for his comfort and enjoyment.”

Gaston took his wife’s pretty face between his hands and looked tenderly and laughingly into her troubled eyes. They were making a bit of toilet sociably together in Mrs. Baroda’s dressing-room.

“You are full of surprises, ma belle,” he said to her. “Even I can never count upon how you are going to act under given conditions.” He kissed her and turned to fasten his cravat before the mirror.

“Here you are,” he went on, “taking poor Gouvernail seriously and making a commotion over him, the last thing he would desire or expect.”

“Commotion!” she hotly resented. “Nonsense! How can you say such a thing? Commotion, indeed! But, you know, you said he was clever.”


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