While the young lady, Clarisse, has seemingly adopted the mores of the Victorian age and plays the soft-spoken respectable lady, Calixta overturns these codes by freely showing her passionate nature. Her whole appearance signals unrestrained sensuality and eroticism; her figure is womanly, her voice seductive and her eyes are tantalizing and drowsy.
Yet, Calixta exhibits vulgarity in speech and in behaviour. As a result, not everyone views her Spanish heritage as an excuse for her improper behaviour, but regards her rather dismissively. However, her censorious look indicates that she is not so much intimidated by his passionate outburst, but rather offended by his toil-stained appearance and his rude grip. Martha J. Nattie is a young woman who would eagerly commit adultery with her former lover Harvy, if he just went along.
She seems to be perfectly aware of her needs and does not feel ashamed of her sexuality. She has fallen in love deeply with another man and actually has committed adultery, but stopped the affair four years ago.
- 1. Introduction;
- Project MUSE - Gender, Discourse, and Desire in Twentieth-Century Brazilian Women's Literature;
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Now, facing death because of a fatal illness she wants to burn her love letters in order to spare her husband the possibility of a painful discovery, but cannot bring herself to do so. She has sacrificed her happiness by staying with her husband and is now not able to sacrifice the only embodiment of her love and passion she has.
Kate Chopin stresses the substantial importance of the letters to the wife by describing them as a nourishment. As a matter of fact, one of the letters even becomes the object of an obscene parody of the communion service. Having burnt six letters at random she can not bring herself to destroy the other ones as well.
Being in a very overwrought state and feeling great relief to have spared one of the most precious letters, she kisses it over and over again. Having attained some kind of satisfaction by this, she finally calms down breathing softly and contentedly. This unusual and remarkable depiction of eroticism does not only overturn Victorian sexual restrictions, but even irritates modern readers.
As Allen Stein states, the wife has turned her love letters into sexual totems. Since there are no reasons given that explain what prevents the wife from leaving her husband, one can only guess that she plainly lacks the courage to face the disapproval of society regarding divorce. Moreover, the destructive forces of the repressed desires do not only affect the wife and her lover, but finally lead to the suicide of her husband. It is not the knowledge of the affair that drive him crazy, but the ignorance of it.
In addition both women try to break the reserve of the men and both are rather puzzled by the feelings of attraction and discontent they arouse in them. Apparently, Mrs. Baroda has never shared similar feelings with her husband, to whom she is deeply attached by friendship rather than by passionate love and sensuality.
Her interest in Gouvernail is based on his unusual, non-demanding behaviour; partly because it sets him apart from the patronizing men Mrs. The text reveals no direct indication on Mrs. The life oak under which Mrs. Baroda is marvelling about her feelings mirrors the objects of her inner struggle: it symbols power, masculinity and perseverance.
Baroda is determined to resist her passion for Gouvernail, but this attempt is almost beyond her power. When she hears Gouvernail approaching she hopes to remain unnoticed, but her white gown betrays its usual meaning of innocence by revealing her presence to him, thus giving rise to the dangerous intimacy that follows. Here again, the author seems to be suggesting that passion will out in some form, wanted or not. Baroda arouses physically:. Her physical being was for the moment predominant.
She was not thinking of his words, only drinking in the tones of his voice.
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She wanted to reach out her hand in the darkness and touch him with the sensitive tips of her fingers upon the face or the lips. She wanted to draw close to him and whisper against his cheek-she did not care what-as she might have done if she had not been a respectable woman. For after a few months she proposes wholly from herself to have him visit again. The question arises whether the repeated emphasis on Mrs.
There is complete correspondence between theme, plot and setting.
The storm outside the house pictures the tempestuous passion inside the characters. At its peak, the two lovers reach their sexual climax as well. All details in setting are suggestive of the erotic atmosphere and the urge to let out the pent-up desires. However, since she lacks the power to fight the rain and the lightning, she also lacks the power to resist the old-time infatuation. He wants to stay outside on the gallery, foreseeing the consequence of being near to Calixta, but the storm forces him inside the house where he surrenders to his desire.
The coincidence of passion and the power of nature - i. In other words, sex is depicted as a force as strong, inevitable, and natural as the storm itself. It is an ironic accident that the one piece of garment which he helps save from the rain are the trousers of the man whose privileges he shortly usurps. Her mouth was a fountain of delight. She has experienced sexual arousal before, but never had the chance to live out her desires, since her husband is unable to satisfy her passionate nature.
Turning to a lover, does not make her a bad conscience, as it is not within her powers to suppress her pent-up feelings anymore. To the contrary, her joyful laughter indicates that she feels completely happy and satisfied. Moreover, Calixta is able to transfer this happiness to her marriage. Freed from her pent-up desires, she is much more amiable. The striking similarity of the stories discussed above makes them seem like different stages of one and the same story.
However, Kate Chopin also avoids an euphemistical picture of the way women experience their sexual awakening. Most of her heroines view their sexual drive as a forbidden desire that has to be suppressed. Hence, her stories establish a visible point of conflict between the needs of women and the moral values of the Victorian age.
In this Book
The stories collected in Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage are as concerned as ever with the compulsions and incompatibilities of men and women and sex and love. But here it is all thrown into higher relief by a new theme which comes in the form of an intimacy with terminal illness.
Each story involves a character who is dying and needs nursing, or has died and needs mourning. As you edge further into the collection, it becomes increasingly difficult to disentangle the surrender of death from sexual surrender. Forgotten password? We'll even send you our e-book— Writing with punch —with some of the finest writing from the Prospect archive, at no extra cost! Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with our newsletter, subscription offers and other relevant information.
Book review: Desires Reborn by Penny Pepper
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