Kate Chopin's Short Stories

who was Aunt Octavie

i know she was something to ms.baroda

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She was a character from the short story "The Locket."

As with many short stories, the power of "The Locket" derives from the plot twist that occurs at the end of the narrative, for the reversal destroys both our assumptions and those of the characters within the tale. Throughout "The Locket," Chopin seeks to deceive as she hints that Edmond rather than the fourth man at the encampment is the one who died in the Civil War. She succeeds so fully that upon reading the final revelation, many readers might choose to return to the beginning of the story to review who the dead man might have been, to reaffirm that a fourth man was at the campfire that night. That man first appears "lying in the obscurity," suggesting his hidden nature, and he next appears as a dream serpent before he is eventually revealed as a "mere boy" without mystery or evil intent.

In writing "The Locket," Chopin refers to dual motifs of love and war that serve to connect the two vignettes that comprise the structure of the story. Part I's atmosphere of horror and destruction in the war contrasts easily with the springtime background of Part II, but they are intimately connected because of the tie between Edmond and Octavie. Edmond feels the connection in Part I from his side, and Octavie feels it in Part II from hers. Edmond, who lives in a drab encampment and who fights in the chaos of an unexpected battle, nevertheless retains a memory of Octavie's love, and although Octavie lives in a beautiful world of renewal and growth far away from the war, she is dressed in black mourning clothes, held back by the locket and its reminder of Edmond's presumed death.

Chopin portrays the days of the Civil War as particularly horrible because the war leads to premature aging among those who should be young and hopeful. The locket thief, Edmond, and Octavie are all young and in the prime of life. Yet, the unnamed locket thief dies while Edmond seems dead and Octavie herself wears mourning clothes during the most beautiful time of the year and is on the verge of resolving to live out her life in mourning. War causes the young to confront border between life and death, while older men, such as the priest and Judge Pillier, paradoxically preserve life, whether by praying for people’s souls or by trying to revive life in the young, as does the judge for Octavie. The older generation, at least, can claim a broader perspective on suffering and death and the existential need to move forward despite experiences of profound loss. However, the older generation ultimately has little positive effect or even a negative effect on Octavie, and only Edmond's miraculous return restores Octavie's happiness.

The setting of "The Locket" is particularly important because it foreshadows Edmond's unanticipated and figurative resurrection. Chopin refuses to maintain an elegiac tone in the story and repeatedly interrupts Octavie's melancholy thoughts with a description of the liveliness of the spring day. Having supposedly died in the previous autumn, Edmond becomes a figure of rebirth that parallels the renewal of nature after a fading autumn and a cold winter. In Chopin's other story "Ma'ame Pélagie," the years after the Civil War serve to age her protagonist, but in this tale, the end of the Civil War ultimately marks rejuvenation and hope. Nevertheless, while these people can rejoice in their reunion, the family of the dead solider has no such luck. As for the wise bird, Chopin appears to be asking us to reexamine human war from an outsider's perspective; if it did not have such horrific results, it would seem like a game. The bird's life will be about the same regardless of which side wins.

Near the end of Part II, the happiness of the spring setting seems to suddenly and finally infuse both Judge Pillier and Octavie with a sense of dream-like anticipation, as though Judge Pillier's request that Octavie remove her veil allow both characters to understand the message given to them by nature. Pillier invokes a religious sentiment when he says, "Does it not seem to you, Octavie, that heaven might for once relent and give us back our dead?," and although the previous representation of religion in the form of the priest proves to be mistaken about Edmond's fate, Edmond's arrival is in a sense entirely miraculous. Octavie thinks of him as "her dead Edmond; her living Edmond," and this phrase accurately conveys the feeling of instantaneous revival that accompanies his return to life. Her abiding desire is love, the joyful bonds of a restored relationship, quite the opposite of the married women desiring freedom whom we sometimes find in Chopin's stories.


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