Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Madame Célestin’s Divorce” is a very short story tightly packed with descriptions and dialogue that reveal a variety of details about the main characters. Chopin is considered a regional writer, and her setting often plays as important a role in the story as do her characters. In “The Storm” (1898), for example, the onset of a hurricane propels two former lovers to rekindle their affair in an isolated cabin, while the woman’s husband and son are stranded in town. Although no such atmospheric disturbance occurs in “Madame Célestin’s Divorce,” its setting in north central Louisiana, where Chopin once lived with her husband and six children, introduces characters that are unique to a specific place and time in American history.

As a resident of Natchitoches Parish, Chopin developed a fine ear for the local dialect and a keen insight into the characteristics of the Creole community. Madame Célestin’s conversation sparkles with idiosyncratic diction and French sayings that charm Paxton, whose speech is noticeably more monotonous and didactic. Madame Célestin’s language is expressive, dynamic, and forthright, revealing an honest, passionate woman unafraid to possess or express her opinion. Charmed by her wit and wisdom, Paxton, an outsider to the Creole community, does not realize that Madame’s honest outbursts are as subject to change as the very nature that produces them. This misunderstanding reveals the cultural barriers that...

(The entire section is 453 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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