From “The Kiss”: “A person can’t have everything in this world; and it was a little unreasonable of her to expect it.”
Read the story online
Time and place
When the story was written and published
Questions and answers
What scholars say
Articles and book chapters about the story
Books that discuss Kate Chopin’s short stories
- Nathalie (Nattie)
The narrative takes place in the home of Nathalie and her brother, at another unspecified place, and at the location of Brantain and Nathalie’s wedding.
As we explain in the questions and answers below, readers understand the story as focused on women having to choose between passion and money. And, because readers often know today’s Vogue, they are interested in why Chopin submitted so many stories to the magazine and why Vogue accepted them.
You can read about finding themes in Kate Chopin’s stories and novels on the Themes page of this site.
The story was written on September 19, 1894, and first published in Vogue on January 17, 1895.
You can find composition dates and publication dates for Chopin’s works on pages 1003 to 1032 of The Complete Works of Kate Chopin.
Q: How is “The Kiss” related to “The Story of an Hour” and other stories that Kate Chopin planned to include in A Vocation and a Voice, the short story collection that was never published in her lifetime?
A: Chopin’s biographer Emily Toth writes that “a typical Vocation and a Voice story is surprising, a revelation of secrets and passions that do not quite mesh.” Many stories planned for the book, Toth adds, “have touches of wry humor–and raise tantalizing questions. Sometimes the characters are disillusioned; sometimes they see all too clearly the blindnesses of others and connive around them. Nathalie, in ‘The Kiss,’ for instance, thinks she can flirt with one man even after marrying another–but has to console herself with her new husband ‘and his million.'”
Q: There’s nothing especially subtle about Nathalie’s actions, is there?
A: No. As early as 1970, critic Lewis Leary noted that this story focused on the guile of a woman in attracting a man is presented “with a kind of revelatory freedom not often encountered in print during the 1890s.”
Nathalie is, as Barbara Ewell points out, “ruthless,” like Lily Bart in Edith Wharton’s novel The House of Mirth. She understands, Ewell adds, that she cannot “combine independence and sensual satisfaction.” For Ewell, the story is a “curious hybrid” that “underscores a subtle ambivalence about female roles, a duality that continued to shape Chopin’s work.”
Q: I’m surprised that Kate Chopin had so many of her stories, like this one, published in Vogue. What did Vogue readers think of the stories?
A: Heidi Johnsen writes in the recent Kate Chopin in the Twenty-First Century that in the 1890s “the society pages indicate that Vogue readers were concerned with [the issue of women having to choose between passion and money] since the magazine copiously reports not only the engagements and alliances of the wealthy, but also the balls and dinners they give and the vacations they take. The magazine thrived on readers having an interest in those who are in the upper class, and yet Chopin laughs at them when she has Nathalie appear the fool.”
That Nathalie loses, Per Seyersted writes, “is no more than could be expected in the America of 1894. What is new, however, is the author’s amoral, detached attitude toward infidelity, and the wonderful light touch with which she ends such a story: ‘Well, she had Brantain and his million left. A person can’t have everything in this world; and it was a little unreasonable of her to expect it.’ ”
“Clearly Vogue, like Chopin, was interested in representing women as sexual beings,” writes Bonnie James Shaker. “Chopin had . . . learned that [Vogue] was the showcase in which she could count on placing her ‘experimental’ feminist fiction. Between 1892 and 1895 Vogue was either Chopin’s first- or second-choice periodical for publishing much of her fiction, indicating the author was both tracking and targeting the markets in which she would be most successful. In those three years Chopin sent first to Vogue, whose editors accepted the following manuscripts upon first submission: ‘Désirée’s Baby,’ ‘Caline,’ ‘Two Summers and Two Souls,’ ‘Ripe Figs,’ ‘A Lady of Bayou St. John,’ ‘La Belle Zoraïde,’ ‘A Respectable Woman,’ and ‘The Kiss’; and upon having a first-choice periodical reject the manuscript, she sent out to Vogue as her second-choice publisher these manuscripts: ‘A Visit to Avoyelles,’ ‘The Unexpected,’ ‘[Her] Letters,’ and ‘[Doctor] Chevalier’s Lie,’ all of which the periodical also published.”
For students and scholars
A Vocation and a Voice. Edited by Emily Toth. New York: Penguin, 1991.
Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories. Edited by Sandra Gilbert. New York: Library of America, 2002.
Nolan, Elizabeth. “The Awakening as Literary Innovation: Chopin, Maupassant and the Evolution of Genre.” In The Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin. Ed. Janet Beer. Cambridge UP, 2008. 118–31.
Johnsen, Heidi. “Kate Chopin in Vogue: Establishing a Textual Context for A Vocation and a Voice.” In Kate Chopin in the Twenty-First Century: New Critical Essays. Ed. Heather Ostman. Cambridge Scholars, 2008. 53–69.
Koloski, Bernard. “Kate Chopin: The Critics, the Librarians, and the Scholars.” In Popular Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers and the Literary Marketplace. Eds. Earl Yarington and Mary De Jong. Cambridge Scholars, 2007. 451–65.
Shaker, Bonnie James. Coloring Locals: Racial Formation in Kate Chopin’s Youth’s Companion Stories. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2003.
Skaggs, Peggy. “The Boy’s Quest in Kate Chopin’s ‘A Vocation and a Voice’.” In Critical Essays on Kate Chopin. Ed. Alice Hall Petry. Hall, 1996. 129–33.
Day, Karen. “The ‘Elsewhere’ of Female Sexuality and Desire in Kate Chopin’s ‘A Vocation and a Voice’.” Louisiana Literature. 11.1 (1994): 108–17.
Ellis, Nancy C. “Insistent Refrains and Self-Discovery: Accompanied Awakenings in Three Stories by Kate Chopin.” In Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou. Eds. Lynda S. Boren, Sara deSaussure Davis, and Cathy N. Davidson. Louisiana State UP, 1992. 216–29.
Tuttleton, James. “A Solitary Soul: The Career of Kate Chopin.” The New Criterion 9.8 (1991): 12–17.
Dyer, Joyce. “Kate Chopin’s Sleeping Bruties.” Markham Review 10 (1980): 10–15.
Koloski, Bernard, ed. Awakenings: The Story of the Kate Chopin Revival Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009.
Robert L. Gale. Characters and Plots in the Fiction of Kate Chopin Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2009.
Beer, Janet, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 2008.
Ostman, Heather, ed. 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.
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.
Toth, Emily. “Introduction” A Vocation and a Voice New York: Penguin, 1991.
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.
Leary, Lewis, ed. Kate Chopin: The Awakening and Other Stories New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.
Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969.
Quinn, Arthur Hobson. American Fiction: An Historical and Critical Survey New York: Appleton-Century, 1936.
Rankin, Daniel, Kate Chopin and Her Creole Stories Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1932.