Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The most obvious theme of Denise Chávez’s “Evening in Paris” relates to the disappointment that the young girl feels after wanting so much to please her mother with a special gift. Her mother scarcely notices the present, even when the narrator eagerly asks her to open it. The present is put in a box with other unwanted items to be given to others during the coming year. The mother never acknowledges the gift from her daughter. She shows no recognition of the love that her daughter feels for her, or the financial and emotional sacrifice that accompanied the material gift. The gift’s giver is rejected. The disappointment is especially sharp because it is her own mother whom she dearly loves who ignores her.

The boxed set of cologne and bath water strongly appeals to the narrator; it connotes glamour and the allure of a romantic womanhood yet to be. It appeals to her sister as well, but it clearly does not to the mother, who uses a more expensive scent, Tabu. The mother, however, uses the Avon perfume from a student, a perfume that costs less than Tabu but more than Evening in Paris. The mother clearly judges the Evening in Paris according to her own standards of taste and value, not according to what it means to her daughter. Ironically, the mother does not use a similar criteria of value in giving gifts; she takes items from the unwanted discards to pass out to others, forgets where they came from, and seems to have no concern about whether or...

(The entire section is 553 words.)