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Exercises and Summary of A Respectable Woman || Compulsory English Grade 12 || Literature || Short Stories


Exercises and Summary of A Respectable Woman || Compulsory English Grade 12  || Literature || Short Stories

Short Story

A Respectable Woman

-Kate Chopin


About the Author:

v Kate Chopin (original name Katherine O' Flaherty (1851-1904)

v She is an American feminist novelist and short story writer,

v She was born and brought up in St. Louis and lived in New Orleans after she got married to Oscar Chopin,

v Her famous novels are At Fault (1890) and The Awakening (1890)

v She wrote more than 100 short stories

v Her famous short stories are: Disiree's Baby, Madame Celestine's Divorce and A Respectable Woman etc.

v She uses sensual connotative languages in her writings,

v Her The Awakening was condemned for sexual frankness,

v She was praised for depicting modern sensibility,


About the Story:

v A Respectable Woman is taken from her collection "The Awakening and Other Short Stories (2005),

v The whole story revolves round the central character Mrs. Baroda who is married to a sugar planter Mr. Gaston Baroda. She experiences tormented feelings when her husband's friend Gouvernail visits the married couple on their plantation,

v There is a conflict in the minds of Mrs. Baroda when she meets her husband's friend Gouvernail,

v Mrs. Baroda's attraction to her husband's friend is the main cause of conflict in Mrs. Baroda's mind. Mrs. Baroda appears to be bound by society's perception of what makes a respectable woman.

v Though she is attracted to Mr. Gouvernail, she is able to resist her urges to touch and kiss Gouvernail due to her belief that she is a respectable woman and restricted to society's opinion of what a respectable woman may be.

v The mood of the story is calm, understated, and enigmatic

v The title of the short story indicates the plot is going to concern a woman, yet it does not tell us anything about the action. Still, the attribute 'respectable' makes us think about reputation and public image.

v As a respectable woman Mrs. Baroda knows social etiquette, she is polite, and reasonable woman. She also knows who she is and accept her own limitations but have a thankful and an appreciative mind, heart, and soul.



v  Mrs. Baroda

v  Gouvernail: journalist, a college friend of Mrs. Baroda’s husband. His name in French means a rudder, a tiller, with the implication that he is someone who knows the direction, who understands where things are headed.

v  Gaston Baroda: Mrs. Baroda’s husband



Gaston Baroda's sugar plantation in Louisiana, in the 1880s or early 1890s,



Mrs. Baroda feels annoyed when she hears that her husband is bringing a guest, Mr. Gouvernail (G) on their plantation for a week or two as she was looking for an unbroken rest and private chat with her husband after they had spent some time working on the plantation in New Orleans. She has heard about him quite a lot but she has not met him yet. She only knows that Mr. G are her husband are best friends since college days and now he works as a journalist.  She has made an unconscious image of him that he is a cynical, tall and slim guy. He wears eye glasses and always carries his hands in his pocket. She doesn't like him. But when the slim with an average height Gouvernail visits them, she likes him. She finds him without eyeglasses and even he doesn't carry his hands in his pockets.


Although she finds him without brilliant and promising traits as her husband talked about him, she likes him knowing no reasons. He seems courteous to her and her husband Mr. Gaston's welcome and hospitality. But he doesn’t show any direct indication to impress Mrs. Gaston. He sits upon the wide portico smoking his cigar and listening to Mr. Gaston attentively when he talks about his experience as a sugar planter. He doesn't like fishing and killing birds.


Baroda is stunned by Gouvernail's loveable and inoffensive personality. But she is puzzled and piqued because he is reserved type of person. She remains aloof living him and her husband alone together because she figures out that he takes no notice of her act. Then she decides to socialize him accompanying him in his idle walks. She tries to break his reserve apart in which he has enveloped himself.


She asks her husband when his friend leaves the plantation because she is bored with him. Her husband puzzles why she is irritated with him though he gives no trouble to her. She replies that he is not like other people. Gaston is afraid of the commotion she has made about his friend. She disagrees with this. She further says that he is not a clever person. In defense Mrs. Gaston says that he is so because of his work load. Mr. Gouvernail is not funny and interesting so she doesn't like him stay any longer. She says that she wants to go to the city in the morning and stays with her aunt until he leaves.


That night, she goes out and sits alone at the edge of the gravel walk. She doesn't know why she wants to leave the house the following morning. Meanwhile she finds someone approaching towards her. She is confirmed that the person is Gouvernail because of a red point of lighted cigar. She pretends to be unnoticed by him, but he recognizes her because of her white gown. He goes close to her and sits beside her finding out that there will be no objection from her.  He hands her a fabric scarf on behalf of Gaston. She accepts it. Then her murmurs about the night. She doesn’t say anything. A moment later, his silence breaks and talks to her first time. He talks about his friendship with Gaston and his desire for peace. She is drawn closer to him. She wants to touch to him with her sensuous finger and kiss on his lips.  If she was not a respectable woman she would do so. She grows a strong feeling toward him however she controls herself and leaves him alone.


Mrs. Baroda is greatly tempted that night as she almost talks about her silliness to her husband. Being a respectable woman, she becomes sensitive to the magnitude of the turbulence cause by her intimacy to Mr. Gouvernail. She accepts the event as a kind of battle in human life and must be fought alone. The following morning, she leaves the house and doesn't return back until Gouvernail has left.


In the summer, Gaston again wishes to bring Gouvernail on the plantation, but Mrs. Baroda strongly denies it. But by the end of the year, Mrs. Baroda herself proposes her husband to bring him back. Her husband is surprised and happy with his wife. She also promises to make him feel happy this time.



tete-a-tete (n. French): private conversation between two people, usually in an intimate setting

cynical (adj.): concerned only with one's own interests

portico (n.): porch leading to the entrance of a building 

Corinthian (adj.): having the characteristics of Corinth in ancient Greece 

velvety (adj.): having a smooth, soft appearance, feel, or taste

piqued (adj.): irritated 

batture (n.): an alluvial land by a riverside, especially in low land area

Mabelle (adj.): French word, equivalent to my beautiful in English 

unconciliated (adj.): uncompromised, not agreeing 

cravat (n.): a short, wide strip of fabric worn by men round the neck inside an open necked shirt

whiff (n.): a brief and faint smell 

temptation (n.): a desire of something wrong or unwise 

strenuous (adj.): requiring or using great effort or exertion


Understanding the text:

a. Why was Mrs. Baroda unhappy with the information about Gouvernail's visit to their farm?

Ans:- Mrs. Baroda became unhappy when she knew that Gouvernail was visiting them on the plantation. She was looking forward an unbroken rest and undisturbed private conversation (tete-a-tete) with her husband after they had worked a lot in their plantation in New Orleans for a long time. Another reason for her unhappiness was that she had made an uncertain image of him-totally a stranger.


b. How was Gouvernail different from Mrs. Baroda's expectation?

Ans:- Mrs. Baroda had imagined an unconscious image of Mr. Gouvernail. She had imagined him to be a cynical, tall, and slim guy with eyeglasses and carrying his hands in his pocket. But actually, Gouvernail was totally different from her imagination. He was a man of moderate height with slim body. He did not wear glasses and he had no habit of carrying his hands in his pockets. He was courteous and well-mannered person. He remained reserved all the time. In reality he was totally different from her airy picture of him.


c. How does Mrs. Baroda compare Gouvernail with her husband?

Ans:-  Mrs. Baroda compares Gouvernail with her husband in their behaviors. She finds Gouvernail quite reserved, unsociable, uninteresting, unfriendly and he was not funny either as her husband possessed all these traits. In short, he is not as interesting as her husband is.


d. Why and how did Mrs. Baroda try to change Gouvernail's character?

Ans:- The loveable and unoffensive traits of Gouvernail made Mrs. Baroda like him. But now his personality puzzled her more than her first meeting to him. She found him more complex and stranger. He even did not notice anything of her act. By finding him reserved, she attempted to change his behavior. For that she accompanied him on his idle walk around the plantation. She tried to penetrated his reserve manner in which he was enveloped himself.


e. How does Gaston disagree with his wife's expression towards the end of the story?

Ans:- Mrs. Baroda finds Mr., Gouvernail frightfully. He remains quite reserved, lonely, and he talks a little. He is not familiar to her, as a result he wants him leave the house. But Gaston doesn't agree with his wife's opinion on Gouvernail. He is not a troublesome guy. He is very good and respectable person having outstanding and brilliant traits. The present behaviors of Mr. Gouvernail is due to his work stress.


f. Why is Gaston surprised with his wife's expression towards the end of the story?

Ans:-  At the end of the story, Mrs. Baroda's remarks on Mr. Gouvernail surprises Mr. Gaston. In the past, Mrs. Baroda left home because of Mr. Gouvernail's behaviors. She didn't return back home until he had gone. Even she expressed her strong dissatisfaction when Mr. Gaston wanted to invite him again in the summer. But by the end of the year, Mrs. Baroda expressed her interest to call Mr. Gouvernail again. Mr. Gaston was surprised and delighted with suggestion from his wife. She said that she had overcome her dislike to Mr. Gouvernail and promised to be very nice to him. This is why Gaston is surprised with his wife's expression towards the end of the story. 


Reference to the context:

a. What is the cause of conflict in Mrs. Baroda's mind? What role does Mrs. Baroda 'being a respectable woman' play in the story?

Ans:- 'A Respect Woman' is an interesting story written by an American feminist writer Kate Chopin. The whole story revolves round the central character Mrs. Baroda, a wife to Mrs. Gaston Baroda, a sugar planter in New Orleans. The story is about the mental conflict of Mrs. Baroda after she first meets Mr. Gouvernail on her plantation during the winter. She likes him however she has created an unusual image of him before. She finds him loveable and inoffensive. Without knowing any reason, she is attracted to him. Her infatuation to him is the main reason of mental conflict because she is a respectable woman and her liking to him is unacceptable. She controls her impulse when she wants to touch and kiss him while they are sitting along at night. Her inner virtue, social norms and position in the society prevent her to do so. She suppresses her affections to him though he loves him. If she had not been a respectable woman, she would have expressed her love to him. Even she aims to revel her infatuation to Mr. Gouvernail to her husband. She also controls this impulse owing to her moral and social standards. The sense of being respectable woman prevent her going out of track. This role has played a vital role for preventing her to be a cheater to her husband and immoral person in the society.


b. Sketch the character of Gouvernail and contrast it with Gaston.

Ans:- Gouvernail is another important character and the main reason of the conflict in the mind of Mrs. Baroda. He is also presented to test a chastity of Mrs. Baroda in the story. His character is presented in two points of views. He is a journalist now and wants to spend a peaceful time because of his work load. According to Mr. Gaston, he possesses brilliant and promising traits. But from the point of view of Mrs. Baroda he lacks all these traits. He is introvert type of person enveloped himself in his reserved nature. He doesn't talk much and even doesn't pay any attention to Mrs. Baroda's act. He is not interesting, sociable, frank and funny like Mr. Gaston.

c. Why does Mrs. Baroda not disclose her feelings towards Gouvernail to her husband?

Ans:- After her meeting with Gouvernail at that night she almost spoke about her intense feeling to Mr. Gouvernail to her husband. But she controls herself realizing herself being a respectable and sensible woman. She controls her temptation thinking that such unusual situations might occur in human's life and must be fought by herself. If she had confessed her love towards Gouvernail, she would have broken an image of respectable and loyal image of her. Sometimes distractions might occur in our lives and if we flow with such distractions, we might ruin our lives. If she had not controlled herself, she would have spoilt her happy married life. She doesn't disclose her feeling toward Gouvernail to her husband to sustain an image of married woman and to prevent her to regret in the future.  


d. The last three sentences of the story bring a kind of twist. After reading these sentences, how do you analyze Mrs. Baroda's attitude towards Gouvernail?

Ans:- Mrs. Baroda is a strong woman who overcomes sensual temptation towards a man being loyal to her husband. She is determined to maintain an image of respectable woman in the society by renouncing her strong feeling to Mr. Gouvernail. Married people are attracted to their opposite sexes except their spouses. Our passions and emotions sometimes distract us but we have to restrain such extra marital affairs. Mrs. Baroda has done same thing. She becomes obsessed with Mrs. Gouvernail and even she wants to touch and kiss him when she finds him alone at night. Though it is said that everything is fair in love and war, she finds it unfair. Her inner virtue prevents her to be immoral in the eyes of the society and her husband merely to quench her thrust of love. She kicks her chance to hug and kiss Gouvernail by leaving him alone. Even she doesn't return back home until he has gone. She doesn't like to meet him again until she overcomes her desire to Gouvernail. She wishes to invite him again after she totally overcomes her desire. The last three lines brings a kind of twist as she gives up her infatuation to Mr. Gouvernail and expresses her desire to be nice to him instead of falling in love to him.


Reference beyond the text

a. The entry of an outsider into a family has been a recurring subject in both literature and films. Narrate a story real or imaginative where an outsider's arrival destroys the intimate relationship between the husband and the wife and causes break up un marital relationship without direct fault of anyone. Anton's Chekhov's story 'About Love' is a story on this subject.


Ans:- Ramnath Adhikari and Sushila Neupane married together 10 years ago, and has been living together in a suburb area in Kathmandu district. Mr. Ramnath is over 40 and has earned a good reputation in the society working as a Lawyer for more than 15 years. He is a senior lawyer in Kathmandu district court. Sushila is a beautiful woman of just 30 years old. They have two children- one 8 years old son and another 5 years old daughter. Though there is a wide gap between their ages, they have been living happily. Mr. Ramnath is a busy guy and he is busy all the time in different cases. He trusts his wife fully and leaves her freely. Mrs. Adhikari is young, beautiful, kind and intelligent. The ways she talks, her behavior, talkative nature, her voice, fashionable dress up can impress anyone. It seems that she is living a harmonious life with her husband. One day her husband brings his intimate friend Arjun Singh at his house. Both of them work in the same court. He is attractive, intelligent, good mannered and 10 years younger than Mr. Ramnath. He stays there for a night and becomes so familiar with the family. Mrs. Adhikari welcomes him heartily. He visits the family time and again as Mr. Adhikari finds him very good person. His wife becomes close to him and invites Mr. Arjun frequently. Mrs. Adhikari starts liking him and wishes him to stay at their house always. She always talks about him with her husband. Mr. Adhikari notices his wife becoming so happy when there is Mr. Arjun as their guest. For the sake of his wife's happiness, he invites his friend frequently. Mr. Adhikari fully trusts his friend and his wife and sometimes keeps himself busy leaving them alone. Mr. Arjun and Mrs. Adhikari cheat Mr. Adhikari and indulge into sexual activities. In an absence of Mr. Sing, Mrs. Adhikari suffers a lot. Mr. Adhikari finds his friend and his wife cheating him. Both of them quarrel each other regarding his wife's extra marital affair with his friend. Finally, they end up their relationship with a break up. In this way the happy married life of Mr. and Mrs. Adhikari is ruined because of the arrival of Mr. Singh at their house.


b. Mrs. Baroda makes an expectation about Gouvernail even before meeting him. Suppose you are a mature girl/boy and your family member are giving you pressure for getting married. Write in about 200 words describing what qualities you would like to get in your future husband/wife.


Marriage is not like a play of a child. It is a serious concern in anyone's life. Leaving one or two, almost all people get married when they become mature. The family members, relatives, society forces a matured boy or girl to be married on time. I have just completed my study and recently found a job in private sector. My parents are forcing me to get married. But I am not ready to get married because my one mistake in choosing my life partner I might suffer throughout my whole life. They talked about several good girls from many good families but I have my own picture of my would-be wife.


My life partner must be like my ideal wife. She must be cultured, loyal to me and my parents, affectionate and caring. No matter she is from rich or poor family, she must be my good friend as well. She must suffer my happiness and sadness. She mustn't be an arrogant and a troublesome girl. As I am sure that I respect her, she must respect me. She must enjoy my happiness and sufferings. She must have a sense of humor, respectful and caring to my parents, and a good teacher to my future children. She has to keep our house neat and clean and welcome our guest.


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