“Fedora” is Kate Chopin’s short story about a thirty-year-old woman in love with a younger man and determined to meet the man’s sister.
Read the story in print
Time and place
When the story was written and published
Questions and answers
New All of Kate Chopin’s short stories in Spanish
Articles and book chapters about the story
Selected books that discuss Kate Chopin’s short stories
Unlike most of Kate Chopin’s other short stories, “Fedora” is not available online.
In print you can find “Fedora” in The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, in the Penguin Classics edition of Chopin’s A Vocation and a Voice, 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.
- Camilla: Fedora’s younger sister
- Young Malthers: one of Camilla’s summer guests
- Miss Malthers: Young Malthers’ sister, a college friend of Camilla
- The men at work near the train station, the mail man, and the agent at the station
The story takes place in a house in a rural area, at a nearby train station, and on the way from the train station to the house. More about the location is not specified.
As we explain in the questions and answers below, some readers focus on repression and sublimation in Fedora’s kiss at the end of the story. Others find lesbian elements in it. And some wonder why Chopin did not publish the story under her own name.
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 November 19, 1895, and published in St. Louis in Criterion on February 20, 1897, as “The Falling in Love of Fedora. A Sketch.” It did not have Chopin’s name attached. It was signed only “La Tour” (the phrase in French means “the tower”).
Q: What does Fedora’s kiss at the end of the story mean? I’m really very confused.
A: You can read this story in several ways, and critics have been doing that for decades. Barbara Ewell refers to Fedora’s kissing Miss Malthers as an expression of her infatuation for Malthers himself, Peggy Skaggs offers a similar reading, and Joyce Dyer in “The Restive Brute: The Symbolic Presentation of Repression and Sublimation in Kate Chopin’s ‘Fedora,'” speaks of Fedora as a “bewildered, overwhelmingly repressed woman” who kisses young Malthers’ sister out of frustration over her passion for Malthers.
As early as 1972, Robert Arner, in an early modern PhD dissertation on Kate Chopin, wrote of homosexual suggestions in the story, and Christina G. Bucher discusses lesbian connotations in “Perversely Reading Kate Chopin’s ‘Fedora.’ “
At the end of the story, Bucher asks, “Of what or whom is [Fedora] thinking? Young Malthers? The young woman and the long, penetrating kiss she just delivered in the lush setting of the country road? Both? Is she contemplating the difficulty of her situation, what to do with this new-found desire, whatever its nature? Is she feeling free after having kissed Miss Malthers? A perverse reading invites us to see this closing image of Fedora as one that is just as ambiguous as the kiss itself; it also allows for a more hopeful, less ‘pathological’ ending to the story. Perhaps Fedora will find a way to be who she is and to fulfill her desires.”
Karen Day suggests that the story presents “a continuum of sexuality and desire, not bound by social constructions.”
In brief, some critics tend to see the kiss as embodying, in Dyer’s words, “the desperate and pathetic nature of Fedora’s conflict.” Some offer a lesbian reading. And some argue for multiple possibilities.
Q: Do other Kate Chopin works contain lesbian undercurrents?
A: Thomas Bonner and Jacqueline Olson Padgett have written about the relationship between Adrienne Farival and Sister Agathe in “Lilacs.” Other critics have discussed “Charlie” in the story of that name and Mademoiselle Reisz in The Awakening as lesbian characters.
Christina Bucher concludes her “Fedora” article by arguing that a perverse reading “can add richness to our interpretation of texts. It is not meant to replace other readings, or assert its superiority over other readings; it can, however, along with those other readings, give us a fuller, more complete view of the whole.”
Q: “Fedora” could be set in almost any wooded farmland area. Isn’t it unusual for a Kate Chopin work to have such a vague setting?
A: “The Story of an Hour,” “A Pair of Silk Stockings,” and some other Chopin stories offer us little detail about when and where they take place. Apparently Chopin did not consider such information important.
Q: Why didn’t Chopin publish this story under her own name? Was she afraid of readers’ reactions? Also, did she choose “La Tour” as a pen name or did her editor? And what did she or her editor mean by “La Tour”?
A: We don’t know.
For students and scholars
The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Edited by Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969, 2006.
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.
Bucher, Christina G. “Perversely Reading Kate Chopin’s ‘Fedora’.” Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Cultures 56.3 (2003): 373-388
Day, Karen. “The ‘Elsewhere’ of Female Sexuality and Desire in Kate Chopin’s ‘A Vocation and a Voice’.” Louisiana Literature: A Review of Literature and Humanities 11.1 (1994): 108-117.
Ewell, Barbara C. Kate Chopin New York: Ungar, 1986.
Dyer, Joyce. “The Restive Brute: The Symbolic Presentation of Repression and Sublimation in Kate Chopin’s ‘Fedora’.” Studies in Short Fiction 18.3 (1981): 261-265.
Arner, Robert D. “Music from a Farther Room: A Study of the Fiction of Kate Chopin.” Dissertation Abstracts: Section A. Humanities and Social Science 31.(1971): 4753A.
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.