Her Letters by Kate Chopin
In Her Letters by Kate Chopin we have the theme of letting go, loyalty, conflict, torment, jealousy and trust. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Chopin may be exploring the theme of letting go. The female protagonist in the story is unable to destroy the letters she sent and received from a former lover. Emotionally she is still attached to her lover and as such she is unable to let go of him. It is also interesting that she requests that her husband destroy the letters on her death. Though some critics might suggest this to be unusual it is possible that the female protagonist feels as though she can trust her husband. However the reality is her letters only end up tormenting her husband even though he has shown his wife loyalty by not reading the letters. However it becomes clear to the reader that this may be something that the husband regrets as for the remainder of his life he cannot let go of what may have been in the letters. It is as though he is suspicious of his wife or at least he appears not to trust her. If anything he may be re-evaluating his relationship with his wife.
Something that becomes clearer to the reader by the fact that the husband begins to ask others about his wife and what they might have thought of her. If anything the husband is trying to see if others might know something about his wife and her activities that he himself does not know. The reader suspecting that the husband may be driven by jealousy caused by his lack of trust when it comes to his wife. The husband’s relationship with his wife also appears to be void of affection and it is difficult for the husband to say anything nice about her. Whether this is driven by his lack of trust in his wife is hard to say. Though it does appear to be a case that the wife was somewhat distant from the husband. Which might explain her conducting a relationship with another man who was not her husband. However one thing that is clear is the fact that the husband is in conflict with himself and remains in conflict with himself till he dies.
It is also interesting that for a man who is suspicious of his wife the husband does remain loyal to her by not opening the letters. Should he have opened the letters he would have discovered the truth and perhaps at the time the husband was unable to handle the truth about his wife’s relationship with another man. It might have been easier for the husband to destroy the letters than realise what the truth might have been. If anything the husband might have had an image of his wife that he did not want to distort. Knowing that should he distort the memories he had of her he would only end up hurting himself. At the time of throwing the letters into the river it might have been better for the husband to live in ignorance. At least then he would not have had to deal with the realities of his wife’s possible infidelities. Though ignorance has been little comfort to the husband who as mentioned has remained tormented since he came across the letters. It would be difficult for any man to have to come to the realisation that their wife may not be who they think they are.
The end of the story is also interesting as it becomes clear to the reader that the husband is unable to find any satisfaction. Driven by his desire to find out what is in the letters and his belief that he will meet his wife again. The husband kills himself. The reader left sensing that not only was the husband tormented but he may have also felt tortured. Though some critics might suggest it would have been easier for the husband to read the letters it is possible that the point Chopin is attempting to make is that the husband remained loyal to his wife even if she was not loyal to him. However if anything the husband through his faithfulness to his wife has been driven to despair. Unlike his wife the reader is left to assume that the husband has always remained loyal and faithful to his wife even though she may not have treated him appropriately. This might suggest that the husband loved his wife unconditionally yet the same cannot be said for the wife. Who most likely knew that the one person she could trust to carry out her instructions was her husband. Though ironically the reader suspects she might not have been able to do the same for him. It is this loyalty to his wife that has resulted in the husband’s life ending prematurely. The reader aware that the husband is driven to despair by his desire to know the truth about what was in his wife’s letters.