The main theme of the story is that a woman cannot possibly expect both passion and wealth in marriage: she must choose one. Chopin often writes about the untenable choices women had to make during the late Victorian era. Miss Nathalie waits for the "rather insignificant and unattractive Brantain" to...
The main theme of the story is that a woman cannot possibly expect both passion and wealth in marriage: she must choose one. Chopin often writes about the untenable choices women had to make during the late Victorian era. Miss Nathalie waits for the "rather insignificant and unattractive Brantain" to declare his love and propose to her because he is "enormously rich," and she both "liked and required the entourage which wealth could give her." There is never any discussion of Nathalie's feelings for Brantain, and she does not appear to have any strong feelings about him whatsoever; his money, on the other hand, is a different story.
Instead of keeping a discreet distance and observing proper decorum, as Brantain does, Harvy—when he enters the room—goes immediately to Nathalie for a kiss, which he boldly takes. Nathalie later explains to Brantain that Harvy is a good friend of the family, like a brother to her, and that he sometimes takes familial liberties of that nature. Her face, after Brantain accepts this explanation of Harvy's behavior, is "triumphant," indicating that she feels she has won something, and Brantain even sends Harvy to kiss Nathalie on the couple's wedding day. Nathalie has clearly been manipulating Brantain so that she can continue whatever romantic relationship she has with Harvy without jeopardizing her marital relationship with Brantain, as
She felt like a chess player who, by the clever handling of his pieces, sees the game taking the course intended.
We understand now what Nathalie feels she's won: both passion and wealth. She looks "hungry" for the kiss from Harvy, but he explains that he's stopped kissing women because it is "dangerous." The narrator explains,
Well, she had Brantain and his million left. A person can't have everything in this world; and it was a little unreasonable of her to expect it.
In the end, Nathalie finds that she cannot have both passion with Harvy, who evidently has no fortune, or wealth with Brantain, who is unattractive. She has made her choice, however, and now she will have to live with it.