Art & Identity in New Orleans

HNRS 109 Spring '18

Chopin and Character description


The tan of the seashore had left her face, and her forehead was smooth, white, and polished beneath her heavy, yellow-brown hair. There were a few freckles on her face, and a small, dark mole near the upper lip and one on the temple, half-hidden in her hair. (72-73)

Chopin found a way to gracefully describe characters without making it seem like we were reading a laundry list of features. This description of Edna is truly fascinating to me because describing main characters is something that I have struggled with in my own writing. This description is done so smoothly that it feels as if I was standing on the sidewalk looking at Edna myself. Chopin didn’t give the feeling that Edna was describing herself or that she was being viewed by another. It was organic within the story. Another interesting aspect of this description is the attention to tone. Knowing that Edna is an artist it makes sense that the description would highlight the different tones of her body: white, yellow-brown, dark. We see the attention to tone in other areas of the story, once again these areas are connected to character description. “…they were a yellowish-brown, about the color of her hair.” (4, describing Edna’s eyes). It seems that the majority of the character description is focused on the women as well. We get little details about the other characters, such as┬áMr. Pontellier’s hair is brown and straight. Yet Madame Ratignolle is described in great detail.

“…the spun-gold hair that comb nor confining pin could restrain; the blue eyes that were like nothing but sapphires; two lips that pouted, that were so red one could only think of cherries or some other delicious crimson fruit in looking at them.” (11).

This description is most likely more detailed than others because Edna is very fond of her and eventually ends up drawing her, but it still seems interesting that there is so much attention paid to these women. Also, Chopin, once again, worked a character description in smoothly and beautifully. I will be taking notes from her for my future writing.

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