The Kiss by Kate Chopin
In The Kiss by Kate Chopin we have the theme of passion, money, choices, reliance, independence and acceptance. Taken from her The Kiss and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises how significant the opening line of the story is. Chopin tells the reader ‘It was still quite light out of doors, but inside with the curtains drawn and the smouldering fire sending out a dim, uncertain glow, the room was full of deep shadows.’ In many ways this line acts as foreshadowing to later in the story and mirrors Brantain and Nathalie’s relationship. Just as the room has been darkened by the drawn curtains, likewise Brantain remains in the dark when it comes to Nathalie’s relationship with Harvy (something that becomes clearer near the end of the story). The fact that Chopin describes the glow from the fire as being ‘uncertain’ also appears to mirror the uncertainty that Brantain has when it comes to Nathalie’s relationship with Harvy. Likewise by describing the room as being ‘full of deep shadows’, Chopin also appears to be mirroring Brantain and Nathalie’s relationship, all is not as it would seem (at least for Nathalie). Something that again becomes clearer to the reader as they continue to read the story
Chopin also appears to be exploring the theme of passion and money. Though it is clear that Brantain loves Nathalie at no stage in the story does the reader suspect that this love is reciprocated. Rather there is a sense that Nathalie is marrying Brantain, not out of love (or passion) but instead she is doing so out of a desire to live a comfortable life with Brantain, who the reader is aware is a wealthy man (unlike Harvy). It is possible that Chopin is suggesting that women (at the time the story was written) were reliant on men to provide them with financial security or stability and as such many women, rather than marrying out of love, married men who would be able to provide them with financial security. Though Nathalie does not love Brantain she lacks the financial independence to live her life as she would like (in a relationship with Harvy).
It is also possible that Chopin is suggesting that for a woman (again at the time the story was written) to be accepted in society, she needed to be married to a wealthy man. Such was society’s perception of the female that they were judged, not by who they were (or by their character) but rather they were judged by who they were married to. For a woman to be successful, her husband also had to be successful (if not wealthy). This may be important (society’s perception) as it further highlights the reliance that some women had on men, again at the time the story was written. Due to society’s perception of what success is and in order to be accepted by society, Nathalie is limited in the choices that she can make with her only option being to marry Brantain even though she would prefer to be with Harvy.
The fact that Nathalie lies to Brantain and tells him that Harvy is her cousin may also be important. Though some critics might consider that Nathalie is being manipulative or deceitful when she lies, Chopin may be allowing Nathalie the opportunity to fully explore her sexuality and remain independent of any one man. By allowing Nathalie to have a relationship with two men, Chopin may be suggesting that a woman should be free to live her life as she sees fit and not by society’s (perceived) values, which at the time the story was written would have been restrictive (particularly for women). It is also possible that Chopin is suggesting that though money (represented by Brantain) is important to Nathalie (and society) so too is passion or desire (symbolised by Harvy).
The ending of the story is also interesting. After it becomes clear to the reader that Harvy has ended the relationship with Nathalie, Chopin tells the reader ‘Well, she (Nathalie) had Brantain and his million left. A person can’t have everything in this world; and it was a little unreasonable of her to expect it.’ This line is important as it not only further suggests that Nathalie has married Brantain because of his wealth but it is also possible that Chopin is suggesting that Nathalie has accepted that she cannot have both the money that comes with marrying Brantain and the passion that comes from continuing a relationship with Harvy. If anything, at the end of the story, Chopin appears to be allowing Nathalie to be pragmatic or practical. Rather than suggesting that Nathalie’s life has changed dramatically (because Harvy has ended the relationship), Chopin appears to be suggesting that Nathalie remains level-headed, if not accepting of her circumstances.