Kate Chopin’s celebration of the alleged joys of adultery must have been pretty shocking to a contemporary audience. Actually, it’s still pretty shocking today, as we are now more clued-in than ever before as to the damaging effects of men and women cheating on each other. In particular, we are more aware than ever before of just how damaging adultery can be on children in a marriage.
And yet, as Chopin presents it, the illicit relationship between Calixta and Alcée is most enjoyable for both of them. There is no pain here, no guilt, no second thoughts. They throw themselves into a rekindling of their former romance with complete abandon and enjoy every last minute of their affair.
Further irony can be observed in the fact that the lovers are actually happier with their respective marriages after their affair than they were before. Again, this turns our expectations upside down. Adultery is supposed to damage marriages, even if the cuckolded partners remain blissfully unaware of...
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