Prepare a table
The Other Wife
Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (France)
A prolific write, known simply as Colette (which certainly is star power for the time), uses dramatic irony, symbolic detail, and metaphor to trace a man’s failed relationship with his first wife and the initiation of failure with his second The writer offers innuendo and highly focused dialogue. She is economic with her words, and yet that brevity and sharpness energizes the plot. The story falls within the experimental writing category.
Her descriptions are targeted and clear. Notice how the women are described. Which wife is the more classic?
Collette had a view of male:female relationships that such could never operate satisfactorily.
The title obviously states that there is yet a second wife. Notice how light creates ambiguity in the story.
Why is devoting so much space to food vital to the unfolding of the story?
Is happiness attainable?
If eyes are the mirror of the soul, how does that image work in the story?
* * *
A personal note: I am such a fan of this story, which definitely means that you do not have to be. There are so many subtleties that are carefully crafted for maximum impact, I think. A really good story operates at more than one level and yet the whole needs all parts.
Consider the time (1873-1954) and this picture could sum up the character and flash of Colette.
She wrote the book, Gigi, that became the movie of the same name in 1958. It has held up as comedy with a serious undercurrent of certain male:gemale role expectations.
. This delightful, multi-Oscar winner (including Best Picture) features a turn-of-the-century Parisian tomboy (Leslie Caron) who falls for her guardian, Louis Jordan, while being groomed as a courtesan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHrwjbDNNus
THE OTHER WIFE REFLECTION
(Please excuse the first and second persons.)
This story is transition.
For some reason, the First Wife (FW) married a man who was boring. I have to worry about her. She seems comfortable and independent when we see her. She is elegant and urbane. He has superficial social presence.
This story has a Second Wife (SW) who married a man whom she thought was exciting. I have to worry about her. She seems effusive and clingy when we meet her. Does this appeal to his uncertainty?
He has to be our answer.
Well, he does not have a command presence because the FW never is aware of him and the SW during the entire story. Some people, having been married, sense when their partner or former partner is near. She is never bored enough to,look around the room. She is fine company for herself.
Well, he does not have a command presence because the SW is not attuned to him when he tactfully wants to locate other than where she is headed. Does she really love him and is she really happy with him? Is she attuned to herself?
It seems that he has had two marriages to two somewhat ends-of-the-spectrum women – sophisticated and brash.
He could not make the FW happy. He apparently can make the SW happy – at least for a time. Judging from her dress and manner, the SW is not used to the finer things he offers.
Did you notice that he called her plump? Wrong move. Perhaps this is forgivable in the blush of new marriage, but not further into it. How happy is he with her?
At the end, the SW switches and questions her own happiness.
So, he has married two women quite different from each other. Let us return to why the FW married him. Why did she? If the SW’s “happiness” switch can be flipped by jealousy, what was the deciding factor for the FW? Will we ever know?
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