Kate Chopin “A respectable woman” Summary The short story “A respectable woman” shows Mrs. Baroda who is disappointed to find out that her husband's friend Gouvernail is planning to spend a week or two at their plantation, where she planned to spend a period of rest with her husband Gaston after a busy winter. She has never met Gouvernail, although she knows that he and her husband had been friends in college and that he is now a journalist. She pictures him as a tall, slim, cynical man and did not like the mental image, but when she meets the slim but neither tall nor cynical Gouvernail, she finds that she actually likes him. He does not seem brilliant, but he does seem quiet and courteous in response to her eagerness to welcome him and her husband's hospitality. Her husband tells her that he will stay for another week and asks why she does not wish him to stay. She responds that she would prefer him to be more demanding, which amuses Gaston. Gaston tells Mrs. Baroda that Gouvernail does not want to bother them with his presence and that he simply wishes for a break from his busy life, although she declares that she expected him to be more interesting. Later that night, she sits by herself on a bench, feeling confused and wanting to leave the plantation for a while, having told her husband that she might go to the city in the morning and stay with her aunt. While she sits, Gouvernail sees her and sits next to her, not knowing her displeasure at his presence. Gouvernail becomes talkative for the first time. He speaks to her of the old days and of his desire for a peaceful existence. She does not listen to his words so much as his voice, and she thinks of drawing him closer, although she resists because she is "a respectable woman." Eventually, she leaves, and Gouvernail remains behind, finishing his speech to the night. Mrs. Baroda wanted to tell Gaston of her strange folly, but she realizes that she must handle this feeling by herself. The next morning, she leaves for the city and does not return until Gouvernail departs. Gaston wants Gouvernail to return the next summer, but she refuses. She later changes her mind, delighting her husband, who tells her that Gouvernail did not deserve her dislike. She kisses her husband and tells him that she has "overcome everything" and that she will treat him more nicely. Kate Chopin “A respectable woman” Text analysis Kate Chopin was an American writer best known for her stories about the inner lives of sensitive, daring women. Kate Chopin’s “A Respectable Women” is one of the best stories from her which is about a woman who is attracted to her husband’s college friend. The story covers her conflict between what she feels and what social norms dictate. This conflict is universal, everywhere and every time this can occur. The title of the story is a nominal syntagm, that emphasizes the subject of the text. The title type is social from human reality. The function of the title is denominative because it introduces the topic of the contents of the text. The main character is Mrs. Baroda, she is indirectly described through her speech, actions and thoughts. She is dynamic, active and round character. Mrs. Baroda is married to Gaston and they own a sugar plantation, suggesting that they are wealthy, part of the higher class, she defines herself as “respectable”, as a true lady. Our name is a symbol of our individual identity; however, in the story, we’ve never learned her first name. Her husband calls her with some French expression such as “ma belle” and “chere amie” but he never uses her name. Another example is that her name is given as “Mrs. Baroda”, so with her husband surname. This illustrates that she is not an individual; she can exist only as a wife of a man. Initially, she comes across as rather pretentious and affected, as she is bothered by the prospects of entertaining yet another guest when she desires to spend some time alone with her husband: “She was looking forward to a period of unbroken rest, now, and undisturbed tête-a-tête with her husband...” This also suggests that she cares about her husband and enjoys his company. In relation to Gouvernail, Mrs. Baroda first comes across as a woman with preconceived ideas, as she expects the man to be in a certain way and she is proven wrong: “But she had unconsciously formed an image of him in her mind. She pictured him tall, slim, cynical; with eye-glasses, and his hands in his pockets; and she did not like him.” Still, when she meets Gouvernail, she is pleasantly surprised and likes him, which suggests that she is able to adjust her perspective and does not hold on to preconceived ideas. During Gouvernail’s stay, Mrs. Baroda has different reactions and attitudes. Although she likes him, she is also obviously bothered by the man’s detachment and unsociability. In other words, she probably feels that the man is not giving her enough attention and this feeling disturbs her: “His manner was as courteous toward her as the most exacting woman could require; but he made no direct appeal to her approval or even esteem.” She is a respectable woman who means her manner and attitude must be acceptable and appropriate. Falling in love with another man is not correct action because she already has a husband. Thus, she decided to fix her problem by herself by leaving her house. She takes time to solve everything that is not correct. She has realized that she is doing wrong. She will not be a respectable woman anymore if she cheats on her husband. Furthermore, she is described as a very sensible one which means, she will have reasonable decision. She will not only follow her emotion but will carefully thinking her choice. Thus, she takes time to think and decides to refuse her feeling towards Gouvernail because she knows it is not correct “and she left him there alone. Mrs. Baroda was greatly tempted that night to tell her husband. Beside being a respectable woman she was a very sensible one”. There are also two secondary characters Gaston and Gouvernail. These two characters are directly described by the author and other characters. They are dynamic, active and flat. Gaston is Mrs. Baroda’s husband and a “sugar planter” who owns a plantation and went to college with Gouvernail. He appreciates his friend Gouvernail whom he has described to his wife as “clever”, and a “man of ideas”. Also, Gaston seems to love his wife, calling her sweet names such as “ma belle” or “chère amie”. However, he seems to be oblivious of his wife’s attraction to his friend Gouvernail. Gouvernail is Gaston’s “college friend”, who is in the present a journalist, “in no sense a society man or “a man about town””, and a smoker. For Mrs. Baroda, he is a likable man, yet she cannot see the same qualities in him as her husband does: “She could discover in him none of those brilliant and promising traits which Gaston, her husband, had often assured her that he possessed. On the contrary, he sat rather mute and receptive before her chatty eagerness...” Mrs. Baroda sees him as unsociable because he does not seem to be attentive enough to her “His manner was as courteous toward her; if he were more like others; His periods of reserve were not constitutional, but the result of moods.” There is also presented a description of Gouvernail’s appearance from Mrs. Baroda’s point of view “She pictured him tall, slim,cynical; with eye-glasses, and his hands in his pockets; and she did not like him. Gouvernail was slim enough, but he wasn’t very tall nor very cynical; neither did he wear eye-glasses nor carry his hands in his pockets. And she rather liked him when he first presented himself.” This story is written in the 3rd person point of view. The main theme of the story is identity and desire. The way how we define ourselves and others and what we want to do, but can not. The idea is that we are trapped in the society that we live and that sometimes we care more about people’s words than about our desires, which is supported by the following arguments: - the attribute ‘respectable’ makes us think about reputation and public image; - Mrs. Baroda contemplates telling her husband about her “folly” but decides not to do it and leaves early in the morning to the city where she stays until Gouvernail is gone from the plantation. Social norms create a conflict for Mrs. Baroda; this conflict can be understood by her thinking. After her confession to herself, she thinks that “she did not care what-as she might have done if she had not been a respectable woman”. - The message of the story is that being a respectable woman is very hard as you have to follow the norms of a respectable society and fight with yourself with your desires and wishes as they are considered to be wrong. In my vision, Mrs. Baroda is an example of inner struggle as she tries to find the correct way for the occurred situation, however a woman have to decide for herself, being respectable means living according to social norms or living our lives without regret.