“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
New All of Kate Chopin’s short stories in Spanish
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.
Fox, Heather A. Arranging Stories: Framing Social Commentary in Short Story Collections by Southern Women Writers. University Press of Mississippi, 2022.
Ostman, Heather. Kate Chopin and Catholicism. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.
Ostman, Heather, and Kate O’Donoghue, eds. Kate Chopin in Context: New Approaches. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. The book contains these essays:
Koloski, Bernard. “Chopin’s Enlightened Men”: 15–27.
Walker, Rafael. “Kate Chopin and the Dilemma of Individualism”: 29–46.
Armiento, Amy Branam. “‘A quick conception of all that this accusation meant for her’: The Legal Climate at the Time of ‘Désirée’s Baby’”: 47–64.
Rossi, Aparecido Donizete. “The Gothic in Kate Chopin”: 65–82.
Gil, Eulalia Piñero. “The Pleasures of Music: Kate Chopin’s Artistic and Sensorial Synesthesia”: 83–100.
Ostman, Heather. “Maternity vs. Autonomy in Chopin’s ‘Regret’”: 101–15.
Merricks, Correna Catlett. “‘I’m So Happy; It Frightens Me’: Female Genealogy in the Fiction of Kate Chopin and Pauline Hopkins”: 145–58.
Sehulster, Patricia J. “American Refusals: A Continuum of ‘I Prefer Not Tos’ as Articulated in the Work of Chopin, Hawthorne, Harper, Atherton, and Dreiser”: 159–72.
Rajakumar, Mohanalakshmi and Geetha Rajeswar. “What Did She Die of? ‘The Story of an Hour’ in the Middle East Classroom”: 173–85.
O’Donoghue, Kate. “Teaching Kate Chopin Using Multimedia”: 187–202.
James Nagel. Race and Culture in New Orleans Stories: Kate Chopin, Grace King, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and George Washington Cable. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2014.
Brosman, Catharine Savage. Louisiana Creole Literature: A Historical Study. UP of Mississippi, 2013.
Wan, Xuemei. Beauty in Love and Death—An Aesthetic Reading of Kate Chopin’s Works [in Chinese]. China Social Sciences P, 2012.
Hebert-Leiter, Maria. Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2009.
Gale, Robert L. Characters and Plots in the Fiction of Kate Chopin. Jefferson, N C: McFarland, 2009.
Beer, Janet, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 2008. The book contains these essays:
Knights, Pamela. “Kate Chopin and the Subject of Childhood”: 44–58.
Castillo, Susan. “’Race’ and Ethnicity in Kate Chopin’s Fiction”: 59–72.
Joslin, Katherine. “Kate Chopin on Fashion in a Darwinian World”: 73–86.
Worton, Michael. “Reading Kate Chopin through Contemporary French Feminist Theory”: 105–17.
Horner, Avril. “Kate Chopin, Choice and Modernism”: 132–46.
Taylor, Helen. “Kate Chopin and Post-Colonial New Orleans”: 147–60.
Ostman, Heather, ed. Kate Chopin in the Twenty-First Century: New Critical Essays. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars, 2008. The book contains these essays:
Kornhaber, Donna, and David Kornhaber. “Stage and Status: Theatre in the Short Fiction of Kate Chopin”: 15–32.
Thrailkill, Jane F. “Chopin’s Lyrical Anodyne for the Modern Soul”: 33–52.
Johnsen, Heidi. “Kate Chopin in Vogue: Establishing a Textual Context for A Vocation and a Voice”: 53–69.
Batinovich, Garnet Ayers. “Storming the Cathedral: The Antireligious Subtext in Kate Chopin’s Works”: 73–90.
Kirby, Lisa A. “‘So the storm passed . . .’: Interrogating Race, Class, and Gender
in Chopin’s ‘At the ’Cadian Ball’ and ‘The Storm’”: 91–104.
Frederich, Meredith. “Extinguished Humanity: Fire in Kate Chopin’s ‘The Godmother’”: 105–18.
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.
Lohafer, Susan. Reading for Storyness: Preclosure Theory, Empirical Poetics and Culture in the Short Story. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2003.
Shaker, Bonnie James. Coloring Locals: Racial Formation in Kate Chopin’s Youth’s Companion Stories. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2003.
Perrin-Chenour, Marie-Claude. Kate Chopin: Ruptures [in French]. Paris, France: Belin, 2002.
Evans, Robert C. Kate Chopin’s Short Fiction: A Critical Companion. West Cornwall, CT: Locust Hill, 2001.
Koloski, Bernard, ed. Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie by Kate Chopin. New York: Penguin, 1999.
Beer, Janet. Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Studies in Short Fiction. New York: Macmillan–St. Martin’s, 1997.
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. The book contains these essays:
Pollard, Percival. “From Their Day in Court“: 67–70.
Reilly, Joseph J. “Stories by Kate Chopin”: 71–74.
Skaggs, Peggy. “The Boy’s Quest in Kate Chopin’s ‘A Vocation and a Voice’”: 129–33.
Dyer, Joyce [Coyne]. “The Restive Brute: The Symbolic Presentation of Repression and Sublimation in Kate Chopin’s ‘Fedora’”: 134–38.
Arner, Robert D. “Pride and Prejudice: Kate Chopin’s ‘Désirée’s Baby’”: 139–46.
Bauer, Margaret D. “Armand Aubigny, Still Passing After All These Years: The Narrative Voice and Historical Context of ‘Désirée’s Baby’”: 161–83.
Berkove, Lawrence I. “‘Acting Like Fools’: The Ill-Fated Romances of ‘At the ’Cadian Ball’ and ‘The Storm’”: 184–96.
Wagner-Martin, Linda. “Kate Chopin’s Fascination with Young Men”: 197–206.
Walker, Nancy A. “Her Own Story: The Woman of Letters in Kate Chopin’s Short Fiction”: 218–26.
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.
Fick, Thomas H., and Eva Gold, guest eds. “Special Section: Kate Chopin.” Louisiana Literature: A Review of Literature and Humanities. Spring, 1994. 8–171. The special section of the journal contains these essays:
Toth, Emily. “Introduction: A New Generation Reads Kate Chopin”: 8–17.
Koloski, Bernard. “The Anthologized Chopin: Kate Chopin’s Short Stories in Yesterday’s and Today’s Anthologies”: 18–30.
Saar, Doreen Alvarez. “The Failure and Triumph of ‘The Maid of Saint Phillippe’: Chopin Rewrites American Literature for American Women”: 59–73.
Dyer, Joyce. “‘Vagabonds’: A Story without a Home”: 74–82.
Padgett, Jacqueline Olson. “Kate Chopin and the Literature of the Annunciation, with a Reading of ‘Lilacs’”: 97–107.
Day, Karen. “The ‘Elsewhere’ of Female Sexuality and Desire in Kate Chopin’s ‘A Vocation and a Voice’”: 108–17.
Cothern, Lynn. “Speech and Authorship in Kate Chopin’s ‘La Belle Zoraïde’”: 118–25.
Lundie, Catherine. “Doubly Dispossessed: Kate Chopin’s Women of Color”: 126–44.
Ellis, Nancy S. “Sonata No. 1 in Prose, the ‘Von Stoltz’: Musical Structure in an Early Work by Kate Chopin”: 145–56.
Ewell, Barbara C. “Making Places: Kate Chopin and the Art of Fiction”: 157–71.
Boren, Lynda S., and Sara deSaussure Davis (eds.), Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1992. The book contains these essays:
Toth, Emily. “Kate Chopin Thinks Back Through Her Mothers: Three Stories by Kate Chopin”: 15–25.
Bardot, Jean. “French Creole Portraits: The Chopin Family from Natchitoches Parish”: 26–35.
Thomas, Heather Kirk. “‘What Are the Prospects for the Book?’: Rewriting a Woman’s Life”: 36–57.
Black, Martha Fodaski. “The Quintessence of Chopinism”: 95–113.
Ewell, Barbara C. “Kate Chopin and the Dream of Female Selfhood”: 157–65.
Davis, Sara deSaussure. “Chopin’s Movement Toward Universal Myth”: 199–206.
Blythe, Anne M. “Kate Chopin’s ‘Charlie’”: 207–15.
Ellis, Nancy S. “Insistent Refrains and Self-Discovery: Accompanied Awakenings in Three Stories by Kate Chopin”: 216–29.
Toth, Emily, ed. A Vocation and a Voice by Kate Chopin. New York: Penguin, 1991.
Showalter, Elaine. Sister’s Choice: Tradition and Change in American Women’s Writing. Oxford, England: Oxford UP, 1991.
Papke, Mary E. Verging on the Abyss: The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton. New York: Greenwood, 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. The book contains these essays:
Ziff, Larzer. “An Abyss of Inequality”: 17–24.
Wolff, Cynthia Griffin. “The Fiction of Limits: ‘Désirée’s Baby’”: 35–42.
Dyer, Joyce C. “Gouvernail, Kate Chopin’s Sensitive Bachelor”: 61–69.
Dyer, Joyce C. “Kate Chopin’s Sleeping Bruties”: 71–81.
Gardiner, Elaine. “‘Ripe Figs’: Kate Chopin in Miniature”: 83–87.
Ewell, Barbara C. Kate Chopin. New York: Ungar, 1986.
Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin. Boston: Twayne, 1985.
Toth, Emily, ed. Regionalism and the Female Imagination. New York: Human Sciences Press, 1984.
Stein, Allen F. After the Vows Were Spoken: Marriage in American Literary Realism. Columbus: Ohio UP, 1984.
Huf, Linda. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman: The Writer as Heroine in American Literature. New York: Ungar, 1983.
Christ, Carol P. Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest. Boston: Beacon, 1980.
Springer, Marlene. Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin: A Reference Guide. Boston: Hall, 1976.
Cahill, Susan. Women and Fiction: Short Stories by and about Women. New York: New American Library, 1975.
Seyersted, Per, ed. “The Storm” and Other Stories by Kate Chopin: With The Awakening. Old Westbury: Feminist P, 1974.
Freedman, Florence B., et al. Special Issue: Whitman, Chopin, and O’Faolain. WWR, 1970.
Leary, Lewis, ed. The Awakening and Other Stories by Kate Chopin. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.
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.