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Regret

A young, strange woman questions her gender identity.
by

Alvin Sarmiento

on 13 February 2015

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Transcript of Regret

The Theme of "Regret"
Most of Kate Chopin's themes are based on gender conformity, and solitude. Regret is based in between the aforementioned themes. Women are required to, eventually, understand their own sexuality. That is to say, they absolutely need someone to love and care for. Specifically, children, to live a rich, full and happy life without regret.
Aurelie had the role of a man running a plantation. She lived a man's life, had a man's best friend, and acted strong like a man "should" be for most of her life. Nevertheless, she learned to regret not marrying and having any children of her own to care for.
*To those offended:
She is most likely trying to help women realize the miserable state they may be in and what is expected of them despite their personal talents or aspirations.
Representation
Chopin's experiences influenced the story
Kate Chopin's life experiences influenced the story. Since the author lived in the south during the civil war. Setting and time period shaped the story because it was apart of her life. For example:
Mamzelle Aurelie owned a plantation by herself. Just like Kate Chopin. They both ran it by themselves. Except Chopin had children and Aurelie had a dog.
Odile, Aurelie neighbor had a small group of children. Which relates to Kate Chopin's seven children. Also Odiles mother is sick and her husband is away and can't take care of the children. Where as Kate Chopins father became sick and Kate's husband couldn't take care of the children because he died.
Character
Extra Literary Elements
Discussion Questions
How does Mamzelle Aurélie's attitude towards the children change throughout the story?
Do you think it is possible to have traditional female traits/characteristics or desires (ex. be a housewife, raise children) and still be a feminist? Why or why not?
How do the characters in Regret relate to the characters in The Awakening?
What does the dog symbolize in the story?

Symbolism: From the start of the story, the description of Mamzelle Aurelie’s style of dressing symbolizes her masculinity. Mamzelle Aurelie wears a man’s hat around her farm, along with top boots and an army overcoat. Her strong, independent demeanor could also symbolize her manly character within the story because it was something that was uncommon for women in her time.

The children: Odile’s kids represent the life Mamzelle Aurelie missed out on/ her loneliness. She had a suitor, whose hand she had “promptly declined, and at the age of fifty had not yet lived to regret it.” Until taking care of the kids, seeing them squeal with joy when they saw their mother, Mamzelle Aurelie had never realized how much she actually wanted a family of her own. No man means no kids for her.

Foreshadowing: The title of the story itself foreshadows what will happen in the story.
Mamzelle Aurelie is a very...interesting character. She starts off as that of a man; she has the same traits, clothing, and features. "...strong figure, ruddy cheeks...wore a man's hat...and an old blue army overcoat..." She wished to remain independent and "had never thought of marrying," likely because she wished to remain and independent being. Perhaps it was this manly nature that allowed her to feel powerful, as those who had power then were men and not women. However, she comes to terms with her true nature when she babysits a group of children. She realizes that she greatly enjoys the company of children due to her natural instinct, and therefore does in fact wish to get married one day. Her character has an inclination to the stereotypical trait of women, oddly enough.
How do social structure, class issues, and historical context impact the views of women in literature?
How do we define the difference between a tragic heroine and a martyr?
The story is in a small farming town in Louisiana. The main location is Mamzelle Aurelie's plantation. The fact that she owns a plantation where she handles much of the work helps contribute to her overall empowered, masculine image.

As for time period, there are no exact dates. It is set at some point in the late 1800's. It is presumably late in the year during autumn.
During the late 1800's, the patriarchy was the dominating social structure at the time. Due to the nature of a patriarchy, the father or man at the top of all social advancements, women were classified as second class citizens. Or, to put it in perspective,
objects
of desire and interest. The average woman at the time were not socially accepted to commit any acts of creativity, disobedience, labor, or personal recreation. Women, then, were actively portrayed as passive, submissive things used for personal pleasure or social prestige. In literature, this holds true given the piece is a hundred years old or more.
How does a patriarchal society impact the role of the mother figure, marriage roles, and the place of women in society?
In a patriarchy, the man is the sole monetary provider for wife, child, and other dependents in the household. As such, all other roles are given to the mother in society. That is, they are to care for the children, clean the house, cook meals, sew clothes, and teach their children if applicable. Additionally however, mothers are expected to place their husbands on a high pedestal. They are to love them unconditionally despite the severity of any possible misdeed. They are to be interested in all possible aspects of her husband's life. And, they are to be submissive to all he commands. A mother figure is one who reveres her children as fragile porcelain dolls whom easily scratch and break from a small half foot drop off the foot of the father's pedestal. A mother figure is, simply put, someone who cares for the child obsessively. And thus, the place of a woman in society is looking up expectantly at the husband's towering pedestal.
Is it fate or free-will that determines the outcome of the female protagonist?
With the theme of "Regret" in mind, free-will determined the outcome of the story. Although the action of will occurred a long long time ago, it followed her to the very day she finally accepted to regret rejecting the proposal. Her regret is never having children in the first place, which women are fated to internally need to live a happy life. She was fated to desire to be a mother figure, but chose otherwise, leading to her miserable outcome.
In this story, females are portrayed in a negative light. This can be first seen when the main character, Mamzelle Aurelie, acts like a man. She has a man's hat and topcoat, and this is further shown by her 'strong' figure. Now, while to many this would be interpreted as a representation of independence, it really is somewhat mocking. The story is essentally saying "Women are weak; they cannot be strong unless they imitate men." And this is even further proven to the point of Mamzelle Aurelie giving up her act for a group of children. In a condescending way the story illustrates that women cannot resist their natural urges - in this case to nurture children brought to them. "How strong are women, really?" one could imagine the story would say if it could speak. Ultimately our main character, a woman, is portrayed as a confused woman/man who wishes to be independent, finds a group of children and grows to love them, gives up her act of being strong/independent, and cries over her loss of both the children and her strength. Nice.
A tragic heroine is described as someone who fights against their fate, and a martyr is someone who dies for a cause. It seems that Mamzelle Aurelie loses the fight against her fate; she is fated to choose either masculine or feminine qualities, and she attempts to find an in-between, but she ends up with nothing other than a tear in her mental state. She isn't a tragic heroine.
This, it could be concluded that Aurelie is a martyr, in that she died for a cause. Died in this sense would imply metaphorically, that is. Her "identity" is what dies; she is unable to define herself once she realizes she is not as concrete a masculine person as she previously believed. Thus, symbolizing the death is her drift toward the feminine qualities she later accustoms to.
How do we define the difference between a tragic heroine and a martyr?
Regret by
Kate Chopin
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