illustrated portrait of American author Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin

Start Free Trial

Can you provide a summary of "Athenaise" by Kate Chopin?

Quick answer:

In this story, the main character Athenaise is a woman who was married to her brother. She did not love him and wanted to escape from her marriage. However, when she found out she was pregnant with her husband's child, she went back to him. This shows that although they were forced into a marriage, they could make it work.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This short story by Kate Chopin features the characters Athenaise, who has been recently married to Cazeau, her brother, called Monteclin and another man called Gouvernail. The story starts with Cazeau realising that his wife has returned to her home. As he goes to get her back, he is met by his brother in law, Monteclin, who clearly hates him and tells him to keep away. However, when he arrives at the house of his parents-in-law, his mother-in-law greets him and his pleasant to him. We find out that Athenaise is not mistreated by her husband and he is not a bad husband, she just hates being married and wants to be single again. However, when her husband tells her it is time to go, she leaves with him.

She still rages against her position of being married to a man she feels no passion for, and with her brother, arranges a plan for her escape. Cazeau meanwhile determines not to fight for a woman who obviously feels no passion for him any more. Athenaise escapes with the help of her brother to New Orelans, where she stays in a kind of guest-house. There, she is looked after by the owner, Sylvie, and befriends Gouvernail, a single man staying in the same guest-house. She seeks emotional comfort from him platonically, treating him like her brother but he plans to seduce her and looks forward to having an affair with her.

However, everything takes a sudden unexpected turn when Athenaise discovers the reason for her tiredness: she is pregnant. This discovery transforms Athenaise as "her whole being was stepped in a wave of ecstasy." Thinking of her husband, she finds her self "impatient to be with him" and "her whole passionate nature aroused as if by a miracle." She swiftly organises for her return, getting her brother to deliver her back to her husband, that she know passionately cares for. When Cazeau and Athenaise are finally reunited, they kiss, and "he felt her lips for the first time respond to the passion of his own."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial