In A Respectable Woman Mrs Baroda follows the same course as Mildred in the beginning her interest in a man by feeling “piqued” at his lack of interest in her. The simple fact of the physical presence of the man is again what awakens the woman’s sexual interest as Gouvernail’s silences and indifference seem hardly designed to attract her. Again like Mildred Mrs Baroda is confused by the difference beetweeen the social role she expects her guers to play and Gouvernail’s actuality. Gouvernail does not register either Mrs Baroda’s indifference or her imposition of her presence upon him (other expression: G. does not respond to … to do smth.) Without takinf any action or even engaging in the social niceties, both men are the unwitting instigators of dramatic developments in the self-knowledge of others; they are catalytic to momentous change in the lives of the women they encounter.
Mrs Baroda becomes helpless in the face of her own physical desire; she resorts to flight and refuses to have any contact with G for more than a year. When in proximity to him she shas been consumed by the conflict arising from her struggle to keep hold on her identit as a “respectable woman” whilst attempting to control her newly awakened !physical being!. An ending to the story which would restore Mrs Baroda to her place as the embodiment of the title “A R W” is offered to the reader when the invitation to G is once again extended: “Ihave overcome everything” You will see. This time I shall be very nice to him”. What her husband taes as the overcoming of her dislike could also, of course, be the overcoming of her passion or, alternatively, the overcoming of the scruples which prevented her from pursuinf the attraction. The two latter interpretations hang suspended as possibilities above the story.
However, whatever the reading of these lines , the fact remains that the intimacy of this married couple – evidenced by their informal sharing of the dressing-room, their liking for each other’s company, their “long, tender kiss! – has been and amy again be threatened. There is no certainty, no stabiklity, no emblem of a highly ordered society such as marriaag,e which is not susceptible to disruption by thedemands of physical desire.
The story allows us to lift Mrs Baroda out of her closed reading as “A R W” ans to place her in an umber of alternative situations; the possibility exists for her to continuer as that woman or to use her reputation to conceal a quite different existence .We do not know what will happen but our reading of Mrs Baroda cane never be quite the same again because doubt has been planted by the ambiguous ending of the story and, having already witnessed both the power of feelings that shake her and her resolution to controla them, we are forces back into the body of the story in order to suspend judgement.
Courtney from Study Moose
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