A respectable woman summary

“A Respectable Woman” by Kate Chopin Summary Class 12 English

Short Summary:

Mrs Baroda finds that Gouvernail, her husband’s friend, is staying with them on their plantation. She is dissatisfied by this because they had been having a lot of fun and she had hoped for a break. She’d never met the man but had heard a lot of good things about him. Upon seeing him, she develops a fancy for him right away. However, she notices that he has a mystery about him that she can’t describe and that she attempts to solve regularly. She assures her husband that she would be better once the man has left because he is different from other visits, which puzzles her. She makes the decision to depart till he has left.


She sits on a bench outside that night, pondering why he makes her feel so uncomfortable. Gouvernail runs into her late at night and tells her that her husband gave him a scarf to gift her while she’s gone. The two sat in silence after exchanging a few words. He starts talking, but she doesn’t pay attention because her body is drawn to him. She wants to hug her, but her reputation as “a respectable woman” prevents her from doing so. She begins to pull away from him as a result of this sensation. She eventually departs and returns home, debating whether or not to notify her husband. She also refuses and retires to her bed. She has left before the others have even gotten out of bed the next morning.


She returns after Gouvernail has left and initially objects to his reappearance. However, she champions his visit within a year, much to her husband’s surprise. She simply states that she has overcome all obstacles and will treat him with respect.


Main Summary:

The short story “A Respectable Woman” is structured around the character of Mrs Baroda and her inner conflict as she finds herself attracted to her husband’s friend. The conflict follows the pattern of classical fiction and moves from exposition to rising action and then to climax and resolution.


In the beginning, Mrs Baroda is upset to find that her husband’s friend Gouvernail is intending to spend a week or two at their plantation, as she had planned a period of rest and talk with her husband Gaston Baroda after they had been busy all winter. She has never met Gouvernail, despite being aware that he and her husband were college buddies and that he is now a journalist. 


At first, She has a mental image of him as a tall, slim, cynical man, which she dislikes, but when she meets Gouvernail, who is slim but neither tall nor cynical, she discovers that she likes him. Mrs Baroda is unsure why she likes Gouvernail because she does not see all of Gouvernail’s positive characteristics. He doesn’t appear intelligent, but in reaction to her excitement to welcome him and her husband’s hospitality, he appears quiet and kind. He makes no effort to impress her in any way, and he enjoys sitting on the portico and listening to Gaston describe sugar plantation, although he dislikes fishing and hunting.


She finds Gouvernail puzzling, yet charming and unoffensive. She initially leaves him alone with her husband, but as she works to overcome his nervousness, she begins to accompany him on walks. Her husband informs her that he will be staying another week and inquires as to why she does not want him to. Gaston is delighted when she says that she prefers him to be more demanding.


Mrs Baroda claims that she expected Gouvernail to be more interesting. Gaston tells her that he does not expect a commotion over his visit and that he just wants a break from his busy life. She sits alone on a bench later that night, puzzled and desiring to leave the plantation, having told her husband that she might go to the city in the morning and stay with her aunt. 


Gouvernail notices her and sits next to her, unaware of her discomfort with his presence. Gouvernail, on Gaston’s behalf, hands her a scarf and speaks about the night, and his quietness fades as he talks for the first time. He tells her about his childhood and his wish for a peaceful existence. She is drawn to his voice more than his words, and she considers drawing him closer, despite her resistance because she is “a respectable woman.” She eventually leaves, but Gouvernail stays behind to conclude his talk for the evening. She wants to tell Gaston about her peculiar foolishness, but she understands that she must deal with this emotion on her own. 

Mrs Baroda goes for the city the next morning and does not return until Gouvernail has left. Gaston requests that Gouvernail return the next summer, but she rejects. She subsequently changes her mind, much to her husband’s surprise, who assures her that Gouvernail did not deserve her disapproval. She kisses her husband and vows that she has “overcome everything” and will now treat him with more respect.


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