In essence, "Ma'ame PИlagie" is a story about the death of the Civil War generation and the transition from past history to the future and a new era. Ma'ame PИlagie is a relic of a time before the destruction of CТte Joyeuse, and she thus displays a skewed awareness of time that focuses almost exclusively on the past. The level of contradiction between her reality and her memories is particularly apparent in her appearance, which is described as "queenly" while the burned and destroyed mansion looms in the background. She is able to continue appearing relatively youthful while her dreams of the old life still survive because she associates the most hopeful period of her life with antebellum Louisiana. Yet, once she must give up her dream, she grows visibly older while the ValmЙt property ironically comes back to life in a new form.
"CТte Joyeuse" means "joyous coast," but the atmosphere of the ValmЙt home as we meet it reflects very little joy except for that which is contained in memory, almost the only good remnant of the war. Not until La Petite arrives does joy truly arrive in PИlagie and Pauline's cabin, and not until PИlagie gives up her recollection of joy does "the laughter of young people" and true joy return to ValmЙt. Instead, PИlagie and Pauline are initially described as living "almost within the shadow of the ruin," which is a direct metaphor for the shadow of history. Pauline has been unable to escape from her older sister's will in this regard, but La Petite appropriately descends from LИandre, the only of the three siblings who has understood the need to leave ValmЙt's shadow and join the forward-looking movement of the rebuilt cities.
One of the overarching themes in "Ma'ame PИlagie" is that of the relationship between life and death. The main characters of the story live on the physical border between health and age as well as the temporal border between their past and the rest of their lives. The tragedy of PИlagie is that her orientation in these continuums is directly opposite to that of the others in her family. Pauline in particular shifts between life and death, as she is originally saved from the fire in the ValmЙt's home only to be brought by her sister and savior into a state of half-life. Eventually, the life of Pauline proves to be the only factor more important to PИlagie than the old life of ValmЙt.
To illustrate how real the past is in PИlagie's mind, Chopin uses a shift in verb tense while PИlagie prepares to bid the old mansion goodbye. Whereas PИlagie's present is narrated in the past tense, her past is appropriately expressed in the present tense, and the immediacy of her memory of life before and during the war adds an element of pathos to our understanding of her psychology. Because of the Civil War, PИlagie loses not only her childhood and much of her worldly wealth, but more importantly she loses her beloved FИlix and her identity. Such is her connection to her home that she also wishes her death to take place in this house, and in a clear parallel to the events of the future, only the thought of Pauline delays her determination to die in the fire.
Although Chopin reveals at the end of "Ma'ame PИlagie" that PИlagie has chosen to sacrifice herself to the pressing needs of the present and future, the author leaves the resolution of PИlagie's dilemma to a great deal of doubt until the last few paragraphs of the narrative. By having PИlagie think, "Il ne faut pas faire mal Ю Pauline," or "One can't hurt Pauline," while saying, "faire mal Ю Pauline," or "hurt Pauline," Chopin shows PИlagie's essential conundrum while making us fear that she will make the latter rather than the former choice. However, we are finally reassured by the tableau of happiness at the beginning of Part IV that Pauline has been helped, not hurt, even while we simultaneously feel sympathy for PИlagie's melancholy fate in the last paragraph. This indeed has been a sacrifice, but a necessary one; the new brick house does not have the grandeur of the old mansion, but it has carried the family forward in reality, since the decrepit mansion no longer could provide anything but thwarted hope and aging memories.
The title of "Beyond the Bayou" is significant because it initially establishes the sense of boundary that is the centerpiece of La Folle's inner struggle. The main conflict in "Beyond the Bayou" is within a woman's mind as she suffers from her deeply ingrained fear of the unknown. As with a number of Chopin's short stories, such as "The Story of an Hour," the main character is a woman who discovers new aspects of her own independence and ability at a moment of crisis. Unlike Louise Mallard of "The Story of an Hour," however, La Folle is able to reclaim her liberty without any sudden setbacks, and the end of "Beyond the Bayou" features an image of triumph that associates a sunrise with La Folle's prospects for the future.
Chopin initially introduces the bayou as a distinct line that cordons off her land from the remainder of the world so that her universe consists of a single hut and an abandoned field. The lack of people in this area contrasts with our knowledge of the crowdedness that exists beyond the bayou. Consequently, La Folle commences as a somewhat pitiable character who no longer bears her true name because her unreasoning fear creates a self-enforced boundary that restricts her both physically and mentally. By the end of her story, however, the situation of exigency created by ChИri's accident has allowed her to cross the barrier of the unknown as well as the social barrier that separates her enslaved existence from the residence of the owners of Bellissime. When the sun rises, it visually and symbolically breaks the bayou's boundary line so that La Folle is no longer constrained.
The origin of La Folle's madness foreshadows the crisis that leads to the resolution both of the narrative and of La Folle's mental conflict. Kate Chopin describes La Folle's traumatic childhood experience as one where P'tit MaНtre returns bloodied to her mother's cabin while being pursued after a skirmish. Whereas a serious battle is implied in this incident, although the exact nature of the pursuers is never revealed, ChИri's misadventure is relatively trivial and involves a minor injury in which the ten-year-old shoots himself in the leg. The relative inconsequence of the accident contrasts with La Folle's reaction because she associates it with P'tit MaНtre's battle wounds and with her childhood fear.
Unlike many of Chopin's stories about the antebellum South, "Beyond the Bayou" explores the world of the Louisiana plantation not from the viewpoint of the privileged upper class, as in "A Respectable Woman," but rather from the opposite end of the social spectrum. Although "Beyond the Bayou" does not deal as specifically with racial issues as does "Desiree's Baby," the bayou's division of La Folle's world from the plantation owners' house implicitly indicates La Folle's separation from the white upper class. Over the course of the story, the owners of Bellissime only enter La Folle's domain twice, in both cases to ask for help in a time of need. Conversely, when La Folle finds her sanity, her choice to walk first toward the door of P'tit MaНtre's home suggests that La Folle has also asserted her equality as a human being. That she is a slave bears no input on her status as the story's heroine or on her newfound freedom.
A curious facet of La Folle's characterization is that her fear outweighs her physical stature, which exceeds that of most men on the plantation. Chopin's depiction of the effects of her fear uses auditory imagery, with a comparison of her heart's beating to the sound of a "muffled hammer" and an emphasis on her loud cries and unheeded voice. In this story, however, fear is counterbalanced by love, and love is eventually connected to La Folle's autonomy and mental independence. That love coincides with the ability to control one's life is not true in all of Chopin's works, which often feature love as destructive, as in "DИsirИe's Baby," or limiting, as in "The Story of an Hour." Yet, La Folle is fortunate, and her love for ChИri allows her to break her mental and physical boundaries.
merican short story writer, novelist, and poet. The following entry presents criticism on Jewett's short story "A White Heron" (1886).
"A White Heron" is one of Jewett's most well-known and often anthologized short story. In it, Jewett presents a nine-year-old girl's reaction to the intrusion of a young man into her feminine and natural world. The variety of narrative techniques, symbols, and imagery, as well as the ambiguous ending, have elicited much critical commentary by scholars. Several feminist scholars view this work as Jewett's rebellion against the realistic literature that male authors made the mainstream literature of the late nineteenth century. Although many of Jewett's short stories were first published in the Atlantic Monthly, the magazine's editor, William Dean Howells, declined this work for being too "romantic." Thus this favorite work, which Jewett referred to as "her" and professed "to love," was first published in 1886 in book form in A White Heron, and Other Stories.
Plot and Major Characters
"A White Heron" opens in the evening as young Sylvia is searching for a milk cow astray in the woods of New England. She is startled by the sudden appearance of a young man with a gun, who proclaims that he is an ornithologist and has come to this rural land to hunt, kill, and stuff birds for his pleasure. When he entreats Sylvia's aid, she leads him to her grandmother's farm. Sylvia has come to live with Mrs. Tilley to both escape the industrial city where her mother struggles alone to support the family and to be a help and companion to her grandmother. The young stranger both charms the grandmother and interests the granddaughter and enlists their help, by offering much needed cash, in locating the nest of a rare white heron. Although the next day Sylvia docilely accompanies the young man on his quest, they fail to find their prey. At dawn on the following day, Sylvia awakes and scales a massive and ancient pine in search of the heron and its nest. From her vantage point atop the tree, Sylvia glimpses the heron, its nest, and its mate, and she experiences an epiphany. When she returns to the farm later that morning, Sylvia guards her secret.
Jewett was known as a local colorist whose stories often portrayed the ordinary aspects of life in works where mood or atmosphere preceed plot in importance. While the colorist elements are evident in "A White Heron," Sylvia's choice, or action of remaining silent, is the crucial element in the story. Commentators have interpreted Sylvia's choice between revealing or not revealing the location of the heron in various ways: expressing the conflict between urban/rural life, between child/adult perceptions of the world, or between male/female modes of artistic creation. Several critics see the work as a modern fairy tale in which the female declines to be rescued by a princely man, an ornithologist whose goal is symbolically to hunt and conquer women and display them in his home.
Although contemporary commentators on "A White Heron" express qualified praise, it was not until the 1970s that critics seriously analyzed the story. Several scholars considered the possible influence of prior works, particularly Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel The Pearl of Orr's Island and Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Young Goodman Brown" on "A White Heron." The fact that Jewett expressed the personal importance "A White Heron" held for her has caused critics to treat it as a personal artistic credo and feminist document. They analyzed feminist subtexts, reversals of traditional fairy-tale formulas and coming-of-age stories, flight imagery, and narrative techniques. Several scholars explored the story's psycho-sexual and other symbols using Freudian or Jungian methods. Although critics debate various interpretations and the effectiveness of Jewett's efforts, they agree that "A White Heron" is worthy of study.