An Analysis of Colette's Short Story 'The Portrait'

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Colette The French authoress known by the single name Colette, who was alternatively known as Sidonie Gabrielle Colette, became famous for her fictional stories with strong female characters. At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth women were just starting to break free from the domination of men that had oppressed them for generations. Authors like Colette began exploring the aspects of womanhood which society had so long ignored such as class issues, female identity and even female sexuality. In her short story "The Portrait," Colette uses the story of two elderly women who are roommates to explore the concepts of aging, female sexuality, and most importantly the human memory and its ability to alter the perception of reality. "The Portrait" is ostensibly about two elderly women named Alice and Lily who reside together. They have a very orderly lifestyle which is characterized by performing the same rituals every day. In addition to always going to the same café to eat, the women have a ritual of going downstairs to the title portrait which is on their wall and performing a daily salute to the subject of the picture. These women are not overly wealthy and do not have much joy left in their lives. All they have is one another and their daily routine. Each woman is aware of her physical aging, but uses the other woman as a form of comparison in order to ease their individual fears and depression over their aging. Alice, who is thin,

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