“A Point at Issue!” is Kate Chopin’s short story about a young couple who test their marriage commitment by living for a year on different continents.
Read the story online
Time and place
When the story was written and published
Questions and answers
A recent article that discusses the story
Books that discuss Kate Chopin’s short stories
In print you can find “A Point at Issue!” in The Complete Works of Kate Chopin 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.
- Eleanor Gail
- Charles Faraday
- Professor Beaton, Mrs. Beaton, Margaret Beaton, and Kitty Beaton
- M. and Mme. Clairegobeau
- “Monsieur l’Artiste”
The story takes place in an American town called Plymdale (a town with a university), and in Paris, France, in the late nineteenth century.
The story, as we explain in the questions and answers below, focuses on characters seeking to build a marriage that lets them find balance in their lives, that lets them bond with a partner while maintaining their individuality. Other readers find different subjects and themes in the story.
You can read about finding themes in Kate Chopin’s stories and novels on the Themes page of this site.
The story was written in August of 1889, very early in Chopin’s writing career. It was first published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on October 27, 1889 (it was Kate Chopin’s second published story) and was subtitled “A Story of Love and Reason in Which Love Triumphs.” The subtitle was apparently added by the newspaper’s editor.
Q: I’ve read The Awakening and At Fault and have been reading Chopin’s short stories in the order you have them listed on this site. I thought I was getting a sense for what to expect. But “A Point at Issue!” feels so different from the Chopin I know. How is this story related to everything else she wrote?
A: This is an early story. The difference in feeling you’re responding to may be partly a difference in the characters and the setting and, therefore, the language of “A Point at Issue!” Most of Chopin’s better-known characters are Creoles or Acadians, many of her famous stories are set in Louisiana, and much of the fiction we associate with her includes Creole and French dialectal expressions.
But Chopin sometimes offers us characters who are not Creole or Acadian (David Hosmer in At Fault), she sometimes sets her stories in other American places (“The Story of an Hour”) or in Paris (“Lilacs”), and she sometimes avoids regional dialects (“A Pair of Silk Stockings”).
Yet, different as it may feel, “A Point at Issue!” may be helpful in understanding what Chopin was thinking about as she began her writing career. Like several works she included in Bayou Folk, her first collection of short stories, this piece focuses on characters seeking to build a marriage that lets them find balance in their lives, that lets them bond with a partner while maintaining their individuality.
As the story reads, Eleanor and Charles were each “to remain a free integral of humanity, responsible to no dominating exactions of so-called marriage laws.” It is achieving exactly such a life that characters–women especially–struggle with in many of Chopin’s later works.
Q: Is the point of this story that Eleanor is not strong enough to get what she wants? Is that why she goes running back to her husband?
A: Eleanor and Charles are both fearful that their spouses have been unfaithful. Eleanor admits to the fact. Charles, as Chopin tells us, in “man’s usual inconsistency,” has “quite forgotten” his own jealousy.
“The element that was to make possible” the union between Eleanor and Charles, Chopin writes, “was trust in each other’s love, honor, courtesy, tempered by the reserving clause of readiness to meet the consequences of reciprocal liberty.” In a way, then, both partners have been less than fully ready to “meet the consequences of reciprocal liberty.” If Eleanor is, as you phrase it, “not strong enough to get what she wants,” then neither is Charles.
To be sure, Eleanor has other reasons for returning to the States. She has, after all, accomplished what she set out to do in Paris.
For students and scholars
The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Edited by Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969, 2006.
Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories. Edited by Sandra Gilbert. New York: Library of America, 2002.
Despain, Max and Thomas Bonner, Jr. “Shoulder to Wings: The Provenance of Winged Imagery from Kate Chopin’s Juvenilia Through The Awakening.” Xavier Review 25.2 (2005): 49-64.
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.
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.