Kate Chopin’s short story “Regret” depicts one instance in the life of an elderly, unmarried woman. A spinster by choice, Mamzelle Aurelie lives on her farm with her animals, her dog Ponto, and “the negroes who lived in her cabins and worked her crops”. Aurelie is accustomed to life on her own and able to run her farm because of the many masculine characteristics that she possesses, but the unexpected arrival of her neighbor’s children changes her. She is forced to confront her feminine, nurturing side, and while it does not awaken a complete change in the solitary matron, it does begin to make her regret some of the choices she has made in her life.
From the start, Mamzelle Aurelie is described in masculine terms. She has “a good strong figure, ruddy cheeks” and “a determined eye”. She wears “a man’s hat”, a “blue army overcoat”, and even sometimes “top-boots”. There is no femininity in her description, nor does there appear to be any desire to become more feminine. The typical markers of femininity, in both appearance and character, appear to be missing. She is unmarried with no desire to change that fact and she finds the appearance of Odile’s children to be “unwelcome”. Aurelie is content in her world as overseer of her farm and manager of her workers. This is re-enforced by the fact that Aurelie is unmarried by choice. She had received a proposal and rejected it, meaning she is not unmarried because she was unfit or lacking, she is unmarried because she wants to be that way.
The arrival of Odile’s children, which is “so unexpected and bewildering” to Aurelie, slowly works a change over in the woman. Left with Odile’s children so that Odile can visit her ailing mother, Aurelie first treats the children like she was their superior officer and they were soldiers. When she is first left with the children, Aurelie determines “upon a line of action which should be identical with a line of duty”. She is rational, collected, and deals with the situation in a...
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