A Respectable Woman
by Kate Chopin
(about 1500 words)
After having house guests for most of the winter and traveling with her husband the rest of the time, Mrs. Baroda is looking forward to a little quiet time at home. That is all interrupted, however, when her husband announces that an old college friend is coming to stay with them for a little R&R. At the first image Mrs. Baroda forms of their guest, she dislikes him, but upon actually meeting him, changes her mind–sort of. Her husband has told her before that his friend is a man of words and ideas, however he is curiously silent around her and her husband both, politely listening to conversation, but adding little himself. In the end, she decides once again that she doesn’t like him, and tells her husband as much, though he finds her displeasure amusing at best. When one night she finds her evening sit on the bench disturbed by her husband’s friend, she’s astonished to hear him finally open his mind to her, flooding her with all sort of indecent desires. She is, however, a respectable woman, and doesn’t give in to the temptation. When her husband’s friend returns in the summer however, who can say? She promises only to be “very friendly” to him.
I find myself sympathizing with Mrs. Baroda’s position in this story. While house guests are nice to have over, they can also be very taxing, and it’s nice when the house is finally empty again. The final sentence in the story leaves itself open to interpretation, and perhaps it’s my modern sensibilities that make me feel that Mrs. Baroda intends to cast off her “respectable woman” mantel for something a little more exciting.
Katherine O’Flaherty was morn on February 8, 1850, in St. Louis Missouri. She was the child of a successful Irish businessman and a French Canadian mother, and was the only of their children to live past the age of twenty-five. She married Oscar Chopin when she was twenty, and eight years later had given him six children in total. They were married for twelve years before Oscar died, leaving all his debt from failed business ventures to his wife. She tried her best to keep her husband’s business afloat while earning a reputation as a notorious flirt (and possibly having an affair or two with married men. I guess the ending of the story isn’t so open ended after all.) When the business finally floundered, she moved back to St. Louis to be with her mother who died a year later. Falling into a depression, Chopin was advised to take up writing as an outlet her her energy, and as a source of income. Before her death on August 22, 1904, Chopin had written twenty-one works of short and long fiction.