08 May 2014

Kate Chopin, A Few Short Stories

As I said in an earlier post, I will be reviewing some of Kate Chopin's short stories in multiple posts. This time around, I am looking at A Respectable Woman (read it online) which may possibly be my favorite in the collection.

Mrs. Baroda and her husband are hosting a guest, Gouvernail who is a colleague of Mr. Baroda's much touted as a clever man. At first, Mrs. Baroda is rather disappointed in their guest as he's being rather boring, too easy, too quiet. The one night Gouvernail sits next to her and talks:

Her mind only vaguely grasped what he was saying. Her physical being was for the moment predominant. She was not thinking of his words, only drinking in the tones of his voice. She wanted to reach out her hand in the darkness and touch him with the sensitive tips of her fingers upon the face or the lips. She wanted to draw close to him and whisper against his cheek--she did not care what--as she might have done if she had not been a respectable woman.
This short scene, only a few paragraphs long, is beautifully poignant to me. There is a subtlety to the passion Chopin communicates through all of her stories that for me, increases its intensity. Chopin also seems to truly understand the importance of a moment, a short period of time packing quite the punch. And I can't exclaim enough over the ending to this story. Loved it.

Another favorite of mine in this collection is The Godmother. There will be plot spoilers for this one, and I couldn't find a place to read it online. In this story, a drunken Gabriel, stabs and kills a man afterwards fleeing the scene and showing up at Tante Elodie, his godmother's house. She convinces him to keep quiet, provides him with an alibi, and even modifies the crime scene (without his knowledge) to make it look like a robbery gone bad. Tante Elodie's health declines after this and Gabriel makes himself quit absent from her life being absolutely horrified by her role in all of it; he moves out of town, movies back, and eventually dies. The story ends only a few sentences later.

The ending confused me a bit. I can't decide if Gabriel's death was the final blow for Tante Elodie or a relief. Some of the language at the end gives me the impression that she, despite her rather intense love for Gabriel, is relieved by his death. It's as if the worry over Gabriel confessing was more of a burden than Gabriel's actions or her own. She thinks of how "there was nothing now to betray him," and while she ends up "alone in the corner, under the deep shadow of the oaks while the stars came out to keep her company," the feeling is partially depressing and partially liberating. If any of you have read this one and have some thoughts on it, please let me know in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. All I can say is that I found all of her stories quite amazing.


Talk to me baby!