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The Importance of Human Intimacy in Chopin’s Regret

The Importance of Human Intimacy in Chopin’s Regret

The short story, “Regret,” by Kate Chopin is about a childless spinster who accepts the responsibility of caring for a neighbor’s four young children while their mother is away. The main idea of the story is that even though independent people like Mamzelle Aur’elie become used to living alone, they still need affection and human intimacy.

Mamzelle Aur’elie is depicted as a woman with masculine traits and a somewhat military demeanor. Her “good strong figure,” clothed in “man’s hat, … army coat, and topboots” contribute to her masculine image (461). And like a man she manages her own farm and keeps a gun “with which she shot chicken hawks” (461).

Mamzelle Aur’elie’s masculine traits combined with the facts that “[S]he had never been in love” (461), and at the age of fifty ” had not yet lived to regret” not marrying, raises questions about her sexual orientation (461). Perhaps Mamzelle Aur’elie is a lesbian. The probable setting of the story is rural Louisiana in the late nineteenth century. The mores of this society would have made it difficult for her to carry on an intimate relationship with another woman or to raise a child of her own out of wedlock. With no desire to marry, and other options closed to her, she remains alone.

Kate Chopin contrasts Mamzelle Aur’elie’s solitary life and independence to the more ordinary situation of Oldie, the neighbor who brings her four children to stay with Mamzelle Aur’elie. Oldie is a wife and mother who is almost overwhelmed by family obligations. When she comes to Mamzelle Aur’elies, she is carrying her youngest child in her arms and dragging a second by “an unwilling hand” (461). Alarmed by n…

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…Aur’elie become used to living alone, they still need human intimacy.

I. Mamzelle Aur’elie is depicted as a masculine woman with a

somewhat military demeanor.

A. Masculine qualities of Mamzelle Aur’elie

B. Could Mamzelle be a lesbian?

C. Mamzelle Aur’elie compared with Odile

II. Mamzelle Aur’elie assumes an even more military air when she is confronted with the unfamiliar task of caring for the children.

A. Mamzelle’s first approach to dealing with the children

B. Changes the children make in Mamzelle’s life

III. The contrasting symbols of the story show the changes that have occurred in Mamzelle Aur’elie’s life.

A. Symbols of masculinity and feminity

B. Symbols of happiness and regret

The Rise and Fall of Existentialism

The Rise and Fall of Existentialism

Existential literature often focuses on the personal journey towards existential awareness. Common themes in existential works, such as alienation and confrontation with death, often lead the “anti-hero” towards a climactic choice that defines whether they have reached true understanding. The themes within existential literature are reflected from the world at large, and the works themselves are a metaphor for a grander shift in Western philosophy.

Intellectualism in post-war Europe had a sort of existential realization of its own, paralleling the experiences of its literary figures. The philosophy of existentialism had its roots in late nineteenth century philosophers such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche (Crowell), but wasn’t popularized until after World War II, and Sartre (Gaarder 455). After two world wars and countless civil disruptions throughout Europe, the populace was disillusioned with the senseless violence. Recent developments in science had cast religion into doubt, but even if there was a God, according to Sartre “the question… is irrelevant” (Crowell). Widespread revolutions in Europe had spread mistrust in government and any sort of rational social order. The only place left for people to turn was within themselves. Existentialism was a practical philosophy for the modern age and for the masses, who for the first time in history had the leisure and public education to become interested in a fuller existence. All of the importance was placed on the individual and the importance of individual choice. It was the only way to cope with the increasing absurdity of the world.

Existential heroes in literature are alienated from everything surrounding them (Bi…

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… and created philosophies for the new era.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bigelow, Gordon E. “A Primer of Existentialism.” College English. December, 196: 171-178.

Camus, Albert. The Stranger. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1988.

Crowell, Thomas. “Existentialism” Reader’s Encyclopedia. Ed. Wm. Rose Benet. 1969.

Gaarder, Jostein. Sophie’s World. New York: Berkley Books, 1994.

Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. New York: Dell Publishing Co. 1955.

Hemingway, Ernest. “A Clean Well-Lighted Place.” The Art of Modern Fiction. Ray B. West, ed. New York: Rholt, Rinehart

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