Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Evening in Paris” is one of a series of stories in Chávez’s The Last of the Menu Girls (1986), which together tell the autobiographical history of a protagonist named Rocio Esquibel. Throughout this collection, as Rocio moves from a girl to a young woman, she struggles to understand herself and her relationship to the people around her. The central metaphor of the collection is her home, which expands to the Hispanic community in which she lives in southern New Mexico. It is here that she develops her caring and compassion for others, even for those who do not always respond with love toward her. Rocio decides that she will become a writer and tell their stories as well as her own. She is especially interested in women and the roles that society places on them and wants to write about their lives.

In “Evening in Paris,” the narrator’s name does not appear. Most of the story focuses on Christmas, 1960, when she is about eleven years old, and is told through the young girl’s interior monologue as though she were in the present. The narrative voice shifts, however, as she tells about going to Paris years later and her associations with the Evening in Paris gift that she gave to her mother. It is clear at this point that the narrative voice is of someone older and less naïve than the eleven-year-old girl who loved the bright blue wrapping and the scent of the cologne that her mother ignored. In this story of loss, the adult narrator still believes in a transcendent goodness that goes beyond the response of others. The adult narrator accepts loss, but still believes there is a way to create beauty and to find light and magic in this fallen world.