Uploaded by Natasha Vition


Kate Chopin “A respectable woman”
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
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
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