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2 September 2014
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Kate Chopin
"A Respectable
Woman"

Four Kates

From the short story: "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."

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Reading Kate Chopin's "A Respectable Woman" online and in print
"A Respectable Woman" characters
"A Respectable Woman" time and place
"A Respectable Woman" themes
When "A Respectable Woman" was written and published
Questions and answers about "A Respectable Woman"
Accurate texts of "A Respectable Woman"
A recent article about "A Respectable Woman"
Selected books that discuss Kate Chopin's short stories

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Kate Chopin's "A Respectable Woman" online and in print

You can read the story and download it in our accurate, printable, and searchable PDF file, which is based on The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, edited by Per Seyersted (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969, 2006). If you're citing a passage from this or other Kate Chopin stories for research purposes, it's a good idea to check your citation against one of these printed texts.

In print you can find "A Respectable Woman" in The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, in the Penguin Classics edition of Chopin's Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie, and in the Library of America Kate Chopin volume, as well as in other paperback and hardcover books. For publication information about these books, see the section "For students and scholars" near the bottom of this page.

"A Respectable Woman" characters

  • Mrs. Baroda
  • Gouvernail, a journalist, a college friend of Mrs. Baroda's husband. His name may be understood as a tag name; in French it means a rudder, a tiller, with the implication that he is someone who knows the direction, who understands where things are headed. Gouvernail is a also major character in Chopin's story "Athénaïse," and he appears at Edna Potellier's party in Chapter XXX of The Awakening, where he once again quotes lines of poetry
  • Gaston Baroda, Mrs. Baroda's husband

"A Respectable Woman" time and place

The story takes place on Gaston Baroda's sugar plantation in Louisiana, apparently in the 1880s or early 1890s.

"A Respectable Woman" themes

You can read about finding themes in Kate Chopin's stories and novels on the Themes page of this site.

When Kate Chopin's "A Respectable Woman" was written and published

The story was written on January 20, 1894, and published in Vogue on February 15, 1894, one of nineteen Kate Chopin stories that Vogue published. It was reprinted in Chopin's collection of stories A Night in Acadie in 1897.

You can find complete composition dates and publication dates for Chopin's works on pages 1003 to 1032 of The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, edited by Per Seyersted (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969, 2006).

Questions and answers about "A Respectable Woman"

Q: Are the lines of poetry that Gouvernail recites his own or is he quoting someone else?

A: He is quoting Walt Whitman—from section 21 of "Song of Myself" in the 1892 edition of Leaves of Grass. The remaining lines of the apostrophe to the night read:

Press close bare-bosomed night—press close magnetic nourishing night!
Night of south winds—night of the large few stars!
Still nodding night—mad naked summer night.

Q: Did Kate Chopin assume that her readers were familiar with Walt Whitman? Did she assume they would find these remaining lines and understand what Gouvernail is thinking?

A: We don't know what she assumed, but she sent this story to Vogue, which was edited at the time by Josephine Redding for people, Kate Chopin would say, of "advanced opinions," a phrase Chopin uses in "Athénaïse" to describe Gouvernail. Chopin's circle of friends in St. Louis in the 1890s certainly included people who would have known Whitman.

You can read more questions and answers about Kate Chopin and her work, and you can email us your questions.

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For students and scholars

Accurate texts of "A Respectable Woman"

The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Edited by Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969, 2006.

Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie. Edited by Bernard Koloski. New York: Penguin, 1999.

Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories. Edited by Sandra Gilbert. New York: Library of America, 2002.

Recent article about "A Respectable Woman"

This article may be available on line through university or public libraries.

Cho, Ailee. "[Chopin and the Desire of Flight]." Nineteenth Century Literature in English 7 (2003): 119-134.

Selected books that discuss Chopin's short stories

Koloski, Bernard, ed. Awakenings: The Story of the Kate Chopin Revival Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009.

Beer, Janet. The Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 2008.

For scholars: We seek to make our listings of Chopin scholarship accurate and up to date. If you find a mistake, an omission, or a misplacement, would you tell us? If a listed article is available on the web, would you send us the link? Contact us.

Ostman, Heather. Kate Chopin in the Twenty-First Century: New Critical Essays Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars, 2008.

Arima, Hiroko. Beyond and Alone!: The Theme of Isolation in Selected Short Fiction of Kate Chopin, Katherine Anne Porter, and Eudora Welty Lanham, MD: UP of America, 2006.

Beer, Janet. Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Studies in Short Fiction New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Stein, Allen F. Women and Autonomy in Kate Chopin's Short Fiction New York: Peter Lang, 2005.

Walker, Nancy A. Kate Chopin: A Literary Life Basingstoke, England: Palgrave, 2001.

Koloski, Bernard. "Introduction" Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie by Kate Chopin New York: Penguin, 1999.

Toth, Emily. Unveiling Kate Chopin Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1999.

Koloski, Bernard. Kate Chopin: A Study of the Short Fiction New York: Twayne, 1996.

Petry, Alice Hall (ed.), Critical Essays on Kate Chopin New York: G. K. Hall, 1996.

Elfenbein, Anna Shannon. Women on the Color Line: Evolving Stereotypes and the Writings of George Washington Cable, Grace King, Kate Chopin Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1994.

Boren, Lynda S. and Sara deSaussure Davis (eds.), Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1992.

Perspectives on KateChopin: Proceedings from the Kate Chopin International Conference, April 6, 7, 8, 1989 Natchitoches, LA: Northwestern State UP, 1992.

Papke, Mary E. Verging on the Abyss: The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton New York: Greenwood, 1990.

Toth, Emily. Kate Chopin. New York: Morrow, 1990.

Elfenbein , Anna Shannon. Women on the Color Line: Evolving Stereotypes and the Writings of George Washington Cable, Grace King, Kate Chopin Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1989.

Taylor, Helen. Gender, Race, and Region in the Writings of Grace King, Ruth McEnery Stuart, and Kate Chopin Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989.

Bonner, Thomas Jr., The Kate Chopin Companion New York: Greenwood, 1988.

Bloom, Harold (ed.), Kate Chopin New York: Chelsea, 1987.

Ewell, Barbara C. Kate Chopin New York: Ungar, 1986.

Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin Boston: Twayne, 1985.

Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969.

Rankin, Daniel, Kate Chopin and Her Creole Stories Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1932.

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boston Special Kate Chopin presentations at the 2014 American Literature Association conference in Washington, D.C., this May
1899 Novel The original cover of Kate Chopin's famous novel, published in 1899.