The Recovery by Kate Chopin
In The Recovery by Kate Chopin we have the theme of beauty, disillusion, insecurity, change, happiness and acceptance. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Chopin may be exploring the theme of beauty. Though Jane has recovered from the loss of her sight there is a sense that she is disappointed due to the fact that she is no longer the beautiful twenty year old woman that she was when she first lost her sight. It is as though Jane rather than been appreciative of the fact that her sight has been restored is actually instead disillusioned with life. This may be important as Chopin may be highlighting or suggesting that Jane rather than being glad she can see again is more concerned about her physical appearance and how she is no longer the beautiful woman that she was. It is also interesting that Robert does not appear to be concerned about the fact that Jane has aged (as everyone does) he still nonetheless loves Jane regardless of how she looks at the age of thirty five. Even though the narrator suggests that Jane is still a good looking woman this is not something that Jane herself believes.
It is also possible that Chopin is suggesting that at the time the story was written many women were more focused on their physical appearance due to the fact that being beautiful may have been perceived to mean that one could be happy. However the reality for Jane is that she feels more insecure about herself because she doesn’t consider herself to be beautiful. It is also interesting that Jane appreciates everything around her when she wakes from bed and can see again. However as soon as she looks at herself in the mirror she loses this sense of happiness. It is as though Jane has received a shock and does not respect the fact that after fifteen years a person is obviously going to age. If anything Jane is looking at herself with the eyes of the twenty year old woman she was before she lost her sight. She is not taking into account the fact that people over time will change physically. However one thing that has not changed is Robert’s love for Jane. Despite the fact that Jane lost her sight Robert has stayed by her side. Which would suggest that Robert is loyal to Jane. It is also possible that Robert is an honourable man. He could have moved on with his life when Jane lost her sight but chose not to.
How loyal Robert may be is noticeable by the fact that he still wishes to marry Jane. However Jane is hesitant. She appears to be preoccupied with the fact that she is not as beautiful as she had previously been. The confidence that she first had when her sight was restored is no longer. Instead Jane seems to be lost in her own world. If anything things don’t sit right for Jane. Though some critics might suggest that Jane is ungrateful it is also possible that she is in shock. She does not recognise the woman she sees in the mirror. It is as though her identity has changed. At least that is Jane’s perception. She appears to have based all her confidence on her beauty which some readers might suggest is shallow. That there is no depth to Jane. Rather than being happy that she can see again Jane has turned inward and in many ways ironically remains in the dark. Something that is symbolically noticeable when Jane puts her head in her arms when she is sitting with Robert in the garden.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Jane has no acceptance for the position she finds herself in and she may feel as though the world has played a cruel trick on her. The beauty that Jane saw when she first got her sight back is a distant memory to Jane. She has internalised how she is feeling considering that her mother and sisters lied to her about her being beautiful. In many ways Chopin may be asking the reader to define what beauty is. To Jane beauty is all about physical appearance. How a person looks but for another person beauty may be something totally different. Jane’s sight may have been restored but she still remains insecure. She has her whole life in front of her yet she cannot let go of the fact that she is not as beautiful as she was fifteen years ago. It is as though Jane has not grown as a person. When Jane looks at herself she expects to see the twenty year old version of herself. Something that will never happen again and Jane must learn how to come to terms with this. She has to learn to accept that she is a different woman. That with the passing of time comes change.