A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.
Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.
Today’s story, for day three – is Regret, by Kate Chopin.
Read it online, here:
I read Kate Chopin’s best known work – the novel The Awakening in college, like most people do. It left a strong impression on me – both the story itself, and the strong character of its doomed protagonist.
I must not have been paying too much attention, however. In my defence, I was studying chemistry and literature and didn’t have enough time to do my reading all proper in between the marathon laboratory stints.
You see, the thing is, if you would have asked me about The Awakening I would have told you it was a European story, a French story, and the beach where so much takes place must have been on the Riviera somewhere.
What was I thinking? How could I have been so mistaken? A quick read, and a foggy memory, I guess.
As an adult, I reread The Awakening and realized that it wasn’t European at all – it took place in New Orleans – and the beach was Belle Isle. Now, I suppose in some way I wasn’t too far off – New Orleans is the most European of American cities – the French Influence is hard to miss.
Now today’s story, Regret… there is no doubt where this is taking place. Nowhere else will you find names like: Mamzelle Aurlie, Ti Nomme, little Lodie, Marcline and Marclette.
In a short story there is plot, and setting (this one has a little plot and an implied setting) and there is characterization. The reward of Regret is in its characterization.
It’s tough to find room in a work this brief for a protagonist to learn and to change – but Chopin pulls it off.
Not only does the protagonist learn and change… but she realizes that it is all in vain, that it is too late.
Isn’t it always?
She turned into the house. There was much work awaiting her, for the children had left a sad disorder behind them; but she did not at once set about the task of righting it. Mamzelle Aurlie seated herself beside the table. She gave one slow glance through the room, into which the evening shadows were creeping and deepening around her solitary figure. She let her head fall down upon her bended arm, and began to cry. Oh, but she cried! Not softly, as women often do. She cried like a man, with sobs that seemed to tear her very soul. She did not notice Ponto licking her hand.