Short Story #311: Miss McEnders by Kate Chopin

Title: Miss McEnders 

Author:  Kate Chopin

Book cover to The Awakening and Selected Stories of Kate Chopin, by Kate Chopin and edited by Barbara H. Solomon; Signet Classics, 1976. Summary

Georgie McEnders lives a life of privilege and one that she has dedicated to improving the world around her.  She is regularly asked to read and give speeches to places like the Women's Reform Club.  Before heading off to give a speech, she decides to drop in on Mademoiselle Salambre.  Her driver is a bit hesitant but she insists as it is part of her plan for the day.  She decided to check in on one of the people who have benefitted from her generosity.  She enters building and is directed to Salambre's room.  She introduces herself to Salambre who is thankful by Miss McEnders is appalled to see a child in the room as well.  When asked about the child, Salambre claims it is her neighbor's child.  McEnders calls her on this lie and Salambre states largely unapologetically that it is the only means of getting by in the world.  Offended by her lack of atonement, McEnders leaves and follows it up with removing support to Salambre.  The next day, McEnders receives Salambre as a visitor.  She anticipates a calm and regretful demeanor from Salambre but she is not.  When McEnders tries to school Salambre about right and wrong ways to live, Salambre tells her that she is one to talk given how her father had earned his fortune that she lives on.  She encourages McEnders to go find out.  When she goes out to the street and begins to inquire, she hears from people that say he made it through liquor and stealing.  The news shocks McEnders and she returns to her room to cry.


I like the contrast here and tension between McEnders and Salambre.  The holier-than-thou approach to charity is always problematic for reasons pointed out in this story.  It does not foster change but can be in some ways a form of slavery wherein the giver's judgment can quickly do harm, despite as we see by story's end, the donor's actions are hypocritical at best.  

Short Story #311 out of 365
Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  11/01/2014
Source:  The Awakening and Selected Stories of Kate Chopin, by Kate Chopin and edited by Barbara H. Solomon; Signet Classics, 1976.  The story can also be found at this website for free.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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