A Shameful Affair Essay

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Critical Essay by Martin Simpson

SOURCE: Simpson, Martin. "Chopin's "A Shameful Affair."" Explicator, 45, no. 1 (fall 1986): 59-60.

In the following essay, Simpson discusses images of nature and society in "A Shameful Affair."

Mildred Orme, in Kate Chopin's "A Shameful Affair," is a socially conventional and sexually repressed young woman who has come to the Kraummer farm to escape the sexual demands that were made on her in civilized, urban society. Chopin uses fertile nature imagery to show Mildred being drawn out of the realm of sheltered social convention and into a natural world that is rich with sensuous physical surroundings. Here Mildred is forced to recognize and struggle with her sexuality.

Mildred is obviously a
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The farmhouse itself, as a man-made structure, can be considered an island of civilization amidst the "swelling acres [of] undulating wheat" that "gleam in the sun like a golden sea" (148) and connote pulsating fertility. At first Mildred remains "seated in the snuggest corner of the big front porch of the Kraummer farmhouse," behind her "Browning or her Ibsen" (148), which conveys the image of someone who is trying to isolate herself intellectually in a farmhouse that is itself isolated in an ocean of natural fertility.

Mildred has to abandon her island of civilized social convention when she becomes interested in Fred Evelyn, and nature begins to take its effect on her when she does. She must go down a "long, narrow footpath through the bending wheat" (150) to encounter Fred at the river. This footpath is like a tunnel through the "yellow wheat" that reaches "high above her waist" (150) on either side, which suggests the nearly overwhelming aspect of the fecundity that is almost enveloping her. Mildred's close contact with her sensuous surroundings causes her own repressed sexuality to come to the surface. Her brown eyes become "filled with a reflected golden light" (150) from the wheat as she passes through it, and her lips and cheeks become "ripe with color that the sun had coaxed there" (150). Nature has now begun to erode the self-control that Mildred has exercised over her passions.

Mildred's

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