(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Madame Célestin’s Divorce” relates several brief encounters between the title character and a lawyer, Mr. Paxton, through an omniscient narrator. The plot revolves around Paxton’s growing infatuation with the very attractive Madame Célestin, while he counsels her to divorce Célestin, her abusive husband. As is typical in most of Kate Chopin’s writing, the characters’ emotional situations, as well as their regional idiosyncrasies, direct the outcome of the plot.

The story begins with a description of Madame Célestin, a young Creole housewife, busy with her daily morning task, which is sweeping her front steps and patio. She is prettily attired in a calico wrapper with a pink bow at her throat. Mr. Paxton passes her house on the way to his law office and stops to chat with Madame, whose charm and beauty do not escape his notice.

Madame Célestin is an open, talkative, woman who is not afraid to express her opinion or discuss her personal problems. The whole town is aware of how much she suffers at the hands of her husband, who drinks and has been absent for nearly six months. To support herself and her two children, she takes in sewing and gives music lessons. Paxton, appalled by this neglect and aware that Célestin has also beaten her, advises her to seek a divorce. She agrees that her husband’s treatment of her is shameful and seriously entertains the idea of ending her marriage.

After a few days, Paxton asks...

(The entire section is 504 words.)