Short Story #316: Athénaïse by Kate Chopin

Title:  Athénaïse 

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. Athénaïse has married Cazeau though she was not in love with him and they both knew it.  Cazeau loves her but she does not reciprocate and he hopes they can have an amiable life.  Shortly after they are married, Athénaïse returns home for a night, then two and after the third night, Cazeau goes to the house to find her.  He meets with Monteclin her brother who has disliked him since he refused to lend him money.  While at the house, he discovers that Athénaïse does not want to return and Monteclin was trying to lie to keep her from returning.  He enters her room and demands her return to the house.  She acquiesces and returns but continues to be recalcitrant towards him. Shortly thereafter, Athénaïse and Miches come up with a plan and the next day, she has gone missing.  Monteclin won't say a word about where she has gone and her family doesn't know.  Cazeau continues to look but can't find her.  Monteclin sets Athénaïse up in a boarding house in New Orleans that he regularly visits when doing business in town.  She must keep a low-profile and the house mistress, Sylvie, takes care of her.  However, during her stay, she meets a man in a neighboring room, Gouvernail who befriends her and the two spend long hours together, talks and sharing intimate thoughts.  There is clearly a romantic tension brewing between the two, which causes Athénaïse  more pain about her situation.  As the month comes to an end (Monteclin could only afford a month's rent), Athénaïse finds herself missing him and home more.  One night, he finds her crying about her situation and life and he consoles her.  He cares for her gently and respectfully and she kisses him on the neck.  Gouvernail's restraint response to her is grounded in respecting her and giving her room to make her choices.  On another night, she spends with Sylvie who shares intimate knowledge to which the text is slightly vague but connotates the Sylvia explains something about sex that Athénaïse had not known previously.  This knowledge suddenly makes Athénaïse  desirous to return home.  She sends a message along to her husband and makes plans to return.  Before leaving, she meets Gouvernail and thanks him for his kindness.  He stoically accepts her passing.  She soon arrives home and willingly enters her husband's embrace.  The story ends with the two embraced at night, hearing a baby's cry.  


The story moved surprisingly fast but was not particularly interesting.  It seems like by the end Sylvia has introduced Athénaïse either to her own sexuality to enjoy or to the idea of having a baby (I come to this conclusion with the first appearance of a baby at the very end of the story after was could only be implied sex).  I'm on middle ground with this one.  In some ways, it feels like a precursor to The Awakening in terms of its potential depth and power.

Short Story #316 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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