Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The writer of “The Tender Shoot,” Colette, introduces Albin Chaveriat, the teller of the story, which is, in essence, a psychosexual study. If Colette, the writer, and Chaveriat, the teller, are the same person, then the interpretations of sexual inferences and connotations leave room for speculation. The relationships between Chaveriat and his Louisettes reflect a female rather than a male psychology. The implied meaning of the relationship is very much central to the mystical qualities of the story itself. Colette places the reader in two worlds, the real world of Chaveriat’s woman friend and the chemist, and the illusory world of Louisette. These are the same two worlds in conflict in which Chaveriat finds himself. His Louisette world is that of sexual adolescence. His other world is finally that of adult reality.

The author’s description of nature is lyric and evokes a sense of eerie loneliness that adds color and movement to the mystical tone of the story and intensifies Chaveriat’s innermost feelings. Suspense and mystery are very much interwoven throughout the story. The web of intrigue concerning the secrets of Chaveriat’s love life immediately engages the reader’s attention. His friend’s betrayal, the ensuing realization of loss, and his sudden hunger for young girls cement the reader’s attention very early in the story. The suspense intensifies as the reader is drawn into the young girl’s world. Who is Louisette? Does she symbolize and reinforce the empty, lonely, and nearly desperate nature of Chaveriat’s essence? It is in this unreal world of the Louisettes that he is driven to choose and to accept the real world of Chaveriat.