Back Kate Chopin, “A Shameful Affair”

Kate Chopin (1850–1904)
From Kate Chopin: Complete Novels & Stories

The New Novel, 1877, watercolor on paper by American artist Winslow Homer (1836–1910). (Wikimedia Commons)

Kate Chopin was born 171 years ago today, on February 8, 1850.

During a ten-year period at the end of the nineteenth century, she published two novels and ninety-nine short stories. Her fiction portrayed men and women in Missouri and Louisiana from all walks of life and she became famous for her depictions of Creole communities in the Cane River region.

Yet she disdained the “society women” of her own class, and when they appeared in her stories, they were often the targets of her satire. After joining a local women’s club in St. Louis, she wrote in her diary, “How immensely uninteresting some ‘society’ people are! That class which we know as Philistines. Their refined voices, and refined speech which says nothing—or worse, says something which offends me.”

In “A Shameful Affair,” one of her better-known stories, she uses the formula of a romantic comedy to (gently) make fun of the pretensions of a young society woman who reads Ibsen and Tolstoy yet would rather spend her summer on a farm south of St. Louis instead of with her friends at a beach resort on the East Coast. Inevitably, she becomes attracted to one of the laborers. When she assumes his diffidence (bordering on arrogance) is a matter of class, she discovers to her consternation that the difference between them is actually one of demeanor.

You’ll find “A Shameful Affair” (and an explanation of why so many magazines may have refused to consider publishing it) at our Story of the Week site.

Read “A Shameful Affair” by Kate Chopin

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