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Kate Chopin: Regret


From Regret: She let her head fall down on her bended arm, and began to cry. Oh,
but she cried! Not softly, as women often do. She cried like a man, with sobs that
seemed to tear her very soul.
Read the story in a PDF
Characters
Time and place
Themes
When the story was written and published
Questions and answers
What other scholars say about the story
Accurate texts
Articles and book chapters about the story
Books that discuss Kate Chopins short stories

Regret online and in print


You can read the story and download it in our accurate, printable, and searchable PDF file , although if youre citing a
passage from this or other Kate Chopin stories for research purposes, its a good idea to check your citation against
one of these printed texts.

Regret characters
Mamzelle Aurlie: People call Aurlie MamzellemademoiselleFrench for an unmarried woman
Ponto: Aurlies dog
Odile: Aurlies neighbor
Elodie: Odiles youngest daughter
Ti Nomme: [Petit HommeFrench for Little Fellow), Odiles son
Marline: Odiles daughter
Marclette: Odiles daughter
Valise: working for Odile
Aunt Ruby: Aurlies cook

Regret time and place


The narrative takes place at the farm of Mamzelle Aurlieapparently in rural Louisiana.

Regret themes
As we explain in the questions and answers below, readers often focus on the idea of motherhood in the story and
how Kate Chopin approaches that subject. Readers are often troubled by Chopins use of what today is offensive

racial phrasing. And some readers struggle with the dialect spoken by characters in the story.
You can read about finding themes in Kate Chopins stories and novels on the Themes page of this site.

When Kate Chopins Regret was written and published


The story was written on September 17, 1894 (two days before Chopin wrote The Kiss). It was first published in
Century in May, 1895, and included in A Night in Acadie , Chopins second published volume of short stories (1897).
You can find composition dates and publication dates for Chopins works on pages 1003 to 1032 of The Complete
Works of Kate Chopin. You can also see on those pages the changes Chopin made (there are quite a few) to her
manuscript version before the story appeared in Century. The Complete Works gives the date of the storys
publication in Century as May 1894. The correct date is May 1895.

Questions and answers about Regret


Q: Is Kate Chopin advocating for motherhood in this story?
A: Scholars have been discussing that for a long time. Peggy Skaggs argues that Regret develops the idea that to
experience life richly a woman needs a child or children to love and care for. Mamzelle Aurlie, Skaggs says, lacks
that important part of a womans life, the maternal relationship. And Mary Papke adds that in this story Chopin
depicts the female strength granted to mothers.
But in the recent Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin Michael Worton notes that Adrienne Rich argues in Of
Woman Born, [that] we need to differentiate between motherhood as an institution and motherhood as a series of
individual experiences and practices. It is with the institutional dimension that Chopin mainly engages in her fiction.
However, it is interesting to note that she also gives examples of motherhood as creative and reparative, especially
when motherhood is an adopted rather than natural role.
Q: At one point in this story Kate Chopin writes, There was a pleasant odor of pinks in the air. That phrase reminds
me of something else Chopin wrote, but I cant remember what. Do you know what it could be?
A: You may be thinking of the closing sentence of The Awakening: There was the hum of bees, and the musky odor
of pinks filled the air.
Q: Can you help me understanding the dialect some of Chopins characters are speaking in this story?
A: You might try reading those passages aloudor you might find a native speaker of English who can read them
aloud with feeling. Chopin is capturing what her characters sound like as they speak, so it may be helpful to hear the
story, rather than read it.
For example, heres a passage from the beginning of Regret in which Odile is speaking to Mamzelle Aurlie:
Its no question, Mamzelle Aurlie; you jus got to keep those youngsters fo me tell I come back. Dieu sait, I would n
botha you with em if it was any otha way to do! Make em mine you, Mamzelle Aurlie; don spare em. Me, there, Im
half crazy between the chilren, an Lon not home, an maybe not even to fine po maman alive encore!
If you could hear that read aloud, you might understand better. In todays standard American English, the character is
saying something like:
Theres no question, Mamzelle Aurlie; you just have to keep those youngsters for me until I come back. Dieu sait
[French: God knows], I wouldnt bother you with them if there were any other way! Make them mind you [listen to you],
Mamzelle Aurlie; dont spare them. Me, there, Im half crazy [worried] about the children, and Lon [her husband] not

home, and maybe not even to find my poor maman [French; mother] alive encore [French: still]!
In this and most other Chopin stories, if you misunderstand some of the dialectal expressions, its not likely to lead to
you misunderstand whats happening in the story.
Q: Im really troubled to see Chopin speak of negroes in this story. Isnt that deeply offensive language?
A: We explain at other places on this site that Chopins language in some of her work is a picture of the way people in
her time spoke to one another. Words like darkey and Negro, offensive for us in the twenty-first century, were used
familiarly by people of color and white people in Chopins Louisiana, commonly without intended rancor. Kate Chopin
reproduced such language in her characters speech, as she reproduced peoples dialectal patterns. For her, as for
Mark Twain and others of her generation, recording accurately the way people spoke was an important part of being a
good writer.
Louisiana at the time was just a decade or so away from slavery. Chopin does not pretend that the color line is gone,
that African Americans enjoy complete freedom and equality, or that everyone lives in racial harmony with everyone
else. There are racial tensions in several of her stories.
Chopin was, of course, a nineteenth-century, white, Southern woman, but she was also deeply steeped in French
culture, being bilingual and bi-cultural from birth. She shares both American and European attitudes toward race, and
she always sees more than her characters do.
Theres been a good deal written about Chopin and race. If you want to explore the subject you might start by reading
articles by Anna Shannon Elfenbein, Helen Taylor, and Elizabeth Ammons in the Norton Critical Edition of The
Awakening, and you might look at Bonnie James Shakers Coloring Locals. For a defense of Chopin you might start
by checking Emily Toths Kate Chopin and Bernard Koloskis Kate Chopin: A Study of the Short Fiction , and on line
you could read Elizabeth Fox-Genoveses comments on the Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening site. You can find
information about these and other publications about Chopin and race at the bottom of the Awakening page and the
Short Stories page of this site, as well as on pages devoted to individual stories, like Dsires Baby.
You can read more questions and answers about Kate Chopin and her work, and you can contact us with your
questions.

What other scholars say about Regret


Per Seyersted devotes five pages to a discussion of Regret, comparing its content and its form to a short story by
Guy de Maupassant. And he emphasizes Kate Chopins ties to France and Ireland. Her writing demonstrated an
instinctive artistic sense which made use of the best of the Celtic and Gallic traditions. She had learned to apply her in
inborn French simplicity and clarity, logic and precision, and the Gallic sense of form, economy of means, and
restraint, together with the pathos and humor, the warmth and gaiety of the Irish.
In her analysis of the story, Barbara Ewell probes the value of other-centeredness and the limits and costs of selfsufficiency. By the end of Regret, Ewell writes, Aurlie has glimpsed a life that has revealed the insufficiency of her
own.

For students and scholars


Accurate texts of Regret
The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Edited by Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969, 2006.
Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie. Edited by Bernard Koloski. New York: Penguin, 1999.

Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories. Edited by Sandra Gilbert. New York: Library of America , 2002.

Articles and book chapters about Regret


Worton. Michael. Reading Kate Chopin through contemporary French feminist theory In The Cambridge Companion
to Kate Chopin. Ed. Janet Beer. Cambridge UP, 2008. 10517.
Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography . Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969. 12530.

Selected books that discuss Kate Chopins short stories


Koloski, Bernard, ed. Awakenings: The Story of the Kate Chopin Revival Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
Press, 2009.
Robert L. Gale. Characters and Plots in the Fiction of Kate Chopin Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2009.
Beer, Janet, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 2008.
Ostman, Heather, ed. Kate Chopin in the Twenty-First Century: New Critical Essays Newcastle upon Tyne, England:
Cambridge Scholars, 2008.
Arima, Hiroko. Beyond and Alone!: The Theme of Isolation in Selected Short Fiction of Kate Chopin, Katherine Anne
Porter, and Eudora Welty Lanham, MD: UP of America, 2006.
Beer, Janet. Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Studies in Short Fiction New York: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2005.
Stein, Allen F. Women and Autonomy in Kate Chopins Short Fiction New York: Peter Lang, 2005.
Walker, Nancy A. Kate Chopin: A Literary Life Basingstoke, England: Palgrave, 2001.
Koloski, Bernard. Introduction Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie by Kate Chopin New York: Penguin, 1999.
Toth, Emily. Unveiling Kate Chopin Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1999.
Koloski, Bernard. Kate Chopin: A Study of the Short Fiction New York: Twayne, 1996.
Petry, Alice Hall (ed.), Critical Essays on Kate Chopin New York: G. K. Hall, 1996.
Boren, Lynda S. and Sara deSaussure Davis (eds.), Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State UP, 1992.
Perspectives on KateChopin: Proceedings from the Kate Chopin International Conference, April 6, 7, 8, 1989
Natchitoches, LA: Northwestern State UP, 1992.
Toth, Emily. Introduction A Vocation and a Voice New York: Penguin, 1991.
Papke, Mary E. Verging on the Abyss: The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton New York: Greenwood,
1990.
Toth, Emily. Kate Chopin. New York: Morrow, 1990.
Elfenbein , Anna Shannon. Women on the Color Line: Evolving Stereotypes and the Writings of George Washington
Cable, Grace King, Kate Chopin Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1989.

Taylor, Helen. Gender, Race, and Region in the Writings of Grace King, Ruth McEnery Stuart, and Kate Chopin Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989.
Bonner, Thomas Jr., The Kate Chopin Companion New York: Greenwood, 1988.
Bloom, Harold (ed.), Kate Chopin New York: Chelsea, 1987.
Ewell, Barbara C. Kate Chopin New York: Ungar, 1986.
Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin Boston: Twayne, 1985.
Leary, Lewis, ed. Kate Chopin: The Awakening and Other Stories New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.
Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969.
Quinn, Arthur Hobson. American Fiction: An Historical and Critical Survey New York: Appleton-Century, 1936.
Rankin, Daniel, Kate Chopin and Her Creole Stories Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1932.