About two weeks ago I decided I needed to overcome my aversion to short stories. I know why I am not really into the form (I like to move into the world of the novels I read and I cannot do this in short stories or so I thought) but as I read some wonderful stories by classic writers like Melville and Gogol as well as contemporary writers like Jhumpa Lahiri I have decided I can find great short stories to read. As an added benefit, a short story gives you the chance to sort of "try a writer out" to see if you like their style and subject matter.
I have seen a number of blog posts in the last year on Kate Chopin's The Awakening (1889). Everyone seems to really like her and she is often called a writer ahead of her time and place (1850 to 1904-from Louisiana). "A Respectable Woman" is very short, six pages. It is told from the point of view of a seemingly happily married woman living on a plantation in rural Louisiana in the 1890s. In just six pages Chopin is able to really portray the atmosphere of the plantation (you can see well the giant 100 year old live oak trees draped in Spanish moss and you can taste the mint julips). The plot line is simple. The narrator's husband invites a friend to visit, one of his best friends from prior to their marriage. The wife has never met him before but the husband tells her she will really enjoy his visit and his personality. At first the wife is disappointed in the man and finds him dull. Then she sits outside on a bench under one of the oak trees with him. She is shocked to feel drawn to the visitor:
Mrs. Baroda was greatly tempted that night to tell her husband--who was also her friend--of this folly that had seized her. But she did not yield to the temptation. Beside being a respectable woman she was a very sensible one; and she knew there are some battles in life which a human being must fight alone.
I love the style of this passage. I loved the reference in passing to the fact that her husband was also her friend. There is a lot of insight and wisdom in these three simple lines.
I can now, thanks to this really beautiful short story, place The Awakening on my TBR list. In most editions of that work there are also included a few short stories.