Discussing “Secret Woman”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of Colette’s short story “Secret Woman.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
View Flipgrid

  • What purpose does the continual usage of colors and descriptions of the costumes serve in the story other than just simply describing disguises?
  • Why do you think they both lied to each other?
  • Who do you think is more in the wrong in this situation? The husband or the wife?
  • Do you think the husband’s “decision” on what she’s doing is accurate?
  • Do you think he should’ve told her or continued the one sided secrecy?

period 2
View Flipgrid

  • Why do you think Irene said she did not want to go to the opera ball but still ended up going?
  • What do you think Colette is trying to say about Irene when she calls her a “pierrot”?
  • Why do you think that the husband never confronted his wife?
  • Do you think the wife knows that her husband has been spying on her?
  • What are some power relationships in this text?

period 3
View Flipgrid

54 thoughts on “Discussing “Secret Woman”

  1. TALIB B

    In Colette’s short story “Secret Woman ” I believe that Colette is in the wrong more than her husband but her husband isn’t without blame. Clearly going to the ball was important to her and she even made a joke saying she might not have married him knowing he wouldn’t ever take her. I think that the husband is in the wrong for not taking his wife to the ball and because he wouldn’t that led her to seek an alternative life and identity that she could slip in and out of. The ball for her was this escape from being his wife. In the story, it is said ¨the monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest in her crude, native state, of being the unknown woman, eternally solitary and shameless, restored to her irremediable solitude and immodest innocence by a little mask and a concealing costume.” I think this speaks further to the sense of anonymity and shameless escape she was seeking and this further solidifies my opinion that the ball was an escape for her and she may have gone too far in escaping her life by actually cheating on her husband but I believe the initial intentions were more innocent and pure than that.

    Like

  2. Lily M

    In Colette’s story, “Secret Woman” I think that the wife is aware that her husband saw her at the ball. After he initially spies and pursues her, he does not maintain a safe distance as to avoid being spotted. He notices small details about her that distinguish her from the other guests that he could notice only from a close distance such as how her teeth sparkle. Also, towards the conclusion of the short story, the wife rests on some steps while her spying husband stands close behind her. Although he was out of her immediate sight, one can deduce she felt she was being followed as she did not stay long at the steps. Also quickly after resuming her walk around the ball, she boldly kisses an out of breath guest which suggests she does not care who watches her as she feels free behind her mask. Furthermore, I think both the husband and wife lied to one another because they are both living in a lie. Prior to going to the ball, their relationship appears strained and lacking love. They likely lied to one another to protect the others feeling because they still care for each other but not enough to stay faithful or leave. They seem to think that living in a shared lie is easier than admitting the love is gone from their relationship.

    Like

  3. Mirabella V.

    In Colette’s story, she does a great job reversing some binaries in society. The idea that men are normally the “cheaters” and the women stay at home oblivious to what is going on. In the last paragraph Irene’s husband has his realization, “In his consternation he no longer feared, no longer hoped for betrayal.”(146) At this moment he realized that Irene was not being unfaithful to her husband, but enjoying the time that she had to be truly alone, embodying whoever she wants to for the night. This shows how he realized Irene’s true meaning of her night away from her husband. The story goes against gender norms that are set in our society. Infidelity in relationships is mostly thought of as an act done by men, and the whole idea of the short story, that Irene can take a break from the night and go out and have fun goes against these gender norms that the men are usually the ones in relationships to go out and have fun and spend a night without their significant other. Another way that Colette goes to break these binaries is by not naming the husband. She names and personifies Irene, while the husband is referred to as her husband. This is giving more power to Irene, the female in the relationship. In these moments in the story, Colette writes in ways to change up normal ideas of men having more power in relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ella S

      I love this take on the story! I would have never thought about how she reversed the gender norms, but it totally makes sense. I completely see how she reversed the stereotypes. I also really liked how you said how Colette didn’t give the husband a name. I found that very interesting because even though he is the main character, he is nameless.

      Like

  4. Molly H

    In “The Secret Woman” by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, I think that the wife is more at fault for this situation. She is the one actively cheating on her husband and he doesn’t know what to do. In the end, he has given up. The text states, “But her husband, instead of rushing forward and forcing the two mouths apart, disappeared into the crowd. In his consternation he no longer feared, no longer hoped for betrayal.” This quotation is really sad because the man won’t even be surprised if his wife cheats on him again. He does not confront his wife. The man is unable to cope and must be shocked with his wife’s betrayal. Since she was the one cheating, I believe that Irene is more at fault.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Molly H

    In the “Secret Woman” story, the colors and imagery utilized are very important. Towards the beginning of the story, the man is happy and loving to his wife. According to the text, “She laughed, and he admired her narrow face, pink, matt and long, like a delicate sugared almond.” He describes his wife positively, but this will soon change. In addition, the masks are also a crucial part of the story. “. . . fluffy lace of the mask. The fluid fabric of the costume and the cap, woven of dark purple and silver, shone like the conger-eels that you fish for at night. . .” The mask conceals Irene’s identify from some people, but her husband can tell that it’s her. Her costume was dark purple and silver, which doesn’t have a huge significance, but it could represent her disloyalty to her husband. Later on, the text states, “She also amused herself by placing her little satanic hands. . . wearing a gold head-dress. . .” After the husband sees Irene cheating on him, the tone has switched. The author describes Irene’s hands as black and satanic, which contradicts the original description of her with a delicate face. The author uses a combination of imagery and colors to add another layer to the “Secret Woman” story.

    Like

  6. EMMET S

    In the story, “Secret Women”, by Collette I believe both characters are in the wrong. For one, they both lied to each other about going to a party, which in the big picture of a marriage is not too important. This reveals a lot about their relationship and explains why the husband followed Irene instead of talking to her. If they are both too insecure to tell each other the truth about going to the ball, why would he confront her at the ball? Additionally, Irene is in the wrong here because she truly cared about going to the ball. She stated ,”perhaps I wouldn’t have married you”, if she knew they couldn’t go to the ball, and she went to the ball by herself. While the husband went too, he was more concerned about her than the ball itself. I believe if your in a marriage, and your committed to someone, you should tell them your true feelings. In this case they won’t, showing that their relationship at this point in time is superficial, almost like a mask. This led me to believe that both the husband and Irenes intentions of that night was to go out and enjoy themselves, because they rarely do at home, putting the blame on both.

    Like

  7. Grace W

    In the story, “The Secret Women” by Colette, both the husband and wife are in the wrong. They both lied to each other about their attendance to the ball, which they both end up going to. The husband told his wife, “‘I’ll be spending tomorrow night at Nogent,’ he said to his wife the night before.” (p. 142). Since her husband told her her he wasn’t going to make it, she told him that she was not going to go too. The fact that they both lied to each other about going to the ball shows a problem in their relationship. The husband is in the wrong because he follows his wife around the party the whole night, showing the lack of trust that he has for her. The wife is also in the wrong because she lied to her husband about how much she actually wanted to attend the ball.

    Like

  8. Grace W

    The husband lies to his wife about not attending the ball because he believes that his wife is cheating on him. He doesn’t trust his wife and wants to prove to himself that she is in a relationship with someone else. “…began to think again and rose without haste to follow his wife. ‘She’s here for someone, with someone. In less than an hour I’ll know everything,'” (p. 144). He lied to his wife about spending the night with a patient in order to discreetly follow her around to find out is she is cheating.The wife lies to her husband because of how much she wants to go to the ball. Her husband told her he could not go, so she lied to him saying that she did not want to go. She says to her husband, “If I’d known, perhaps I wouldn’t have married you…” (p. 142). Making this comment as a a joke to her husband but has some truth to it for her. I think that she told her husband she wouldn’t go to not make him feel bad about having to work because he said that he really wanted to go to the ball as well. She decided to be independent and go to the ball anyways.

    Like

  9. Najda HSJ

    The colors and the disguses have a greater purpose than just describing the costumes. The disguises and colors symbolize ambiguity and secrecy. The masks and disguises show that the characters are covering up a part of themselves. The disguises are a form of secrecy, and they fit with the lies and secrets that both husband and the wife tell. It shows that they have hidden layers, hidden disguises, and hidden histories that they are masking from each other. With the colors, it shows that the characters are trying to be something that they are not. Instead of being colorful, happy, and honest, the husband and wife are both lying and telling each other secrets. The disguises and colors are maksing the true colors of the wife and husband.

    Like

  10. Najda HSJ

    In “The Secret Woman” I think that both the husband and the wife are in the wrong. They both are dishonest with each other and don’t tell each other what’s really on their minds. They both lied about the ball; the husband lied about not going to the ball, and the wife lied by not being true to her husband during the ball. They don’t truly address their problems, they use secrecy and back-handed lies. At the beginning, where they talk about the ball, and the wife jokes about not marrying him and the husband pushes her to still attend the ball, it seems sweet. As you read on, you can see some hidden motives and emotions behind their seemingly-nice conversation. Since they both lied about the ball and their true intentions, they are both in the wrong.

    Like

  11. NATE F

    In the story “The Secret Woman” the wife, Irene, is often referred to as Pierrot. The author explains that this is because of the shape and white colors in her mostly purple costume. The story says, “Looking like Pierrot because of the smock with vast sleeves, the loose trousers, the headband and the plaster-white colour which covered the small area of skin visible below the fluffy lace of the mask” (328). While it made sense to compare her to a Pierrot when describing her outfit it seemed odd to continue to call her that name. A Pierrot is an Italian character known for being a simple minded and honest servant. This could represent how the husband viewed Irene before he followed her at the ball. The text uses the term frequently, 5 times in two pages, when he believes it is just a woman that reminds him of Irene. This term is no longer used after he finds out it is actually her. This shows that before he thought of his wife as a simple honest woman. After finding it is actually her this opinion is challenged when he finds she might not actually be the person he though she was.

    Like

    1. Mirabella V.

      I really like this added detail on what a Pierrot is. When I was reading I briefly looked it up because I was unfamiliar with the term, but did not think to discover why the author would have used this word in the story. Reading your elaboration on what the Pierrot is and why it may have been used in the story was very intriguing, and I totally agree with your idea. The term is used less once the husband has his realization about his wife. The husband’s ideas of who his wife is, and who she should be change throughout the story. By stopping the use of the word, it shows that he sees Irene as more complex than he originally thought that she was.

      Like

  12. NATE F

    I believe that the title “The Secret Woman” was more about how the wife viewed herself than how the husband saw the wife. Throughout the story she was dancing and kissing other men because of her hidden identity. She felt free of all judgement or responsibility as a result of her mask. The husband simply realizes this in the conclusion of the story and puts into words why she had acted that way when he says, “The monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, solitary and shameless, restored to her irremediable solitude and immodest innocence by a little mask and a concealing costume” (331). This shows how the mask made her lose inhibition of her actions and allowed her to do whatever she wanted because she believed it was a secret.

    Like

  13. Abby S.

    In Collete’s short story, “The Secret Woman, I think the husband never confronted his wife about the situation because he feels she was just playing the part of the women she used to be and he was at the ball to do the same. The text states, ” …collect some passer-bye , forget him, and simply, enjoy, until she felt honest in her crude native state, being the unknown women, eternally solitary and shameless, restored to her irremediable solitude and inmodest innocence by a little mask and concealing costume.” (146) I think having a mask and costume make her feel more free and she felt she could do anything she wanted. I think the husband came there to do a similiar thing, to play a part, and that is why he didn’t confront his wife. They both wanted to experience the ball as a different person, like the people they were when they were younger.

    Like

  14. Abby S.

    In Collete’s story, “The Secret Woman” I think both the husband and wife are in the wrong. Both lied about the fact that they were going to the ball, and honesty and trust is a big part of a relationship. Irene also cheated, (whether her husband believes it or not) and he also followed her and watched her without telling her. As stated in the text, ” It’s movement liberated the anxious husband who, restored to a state of active and normal jealousy, began to think again and rose without haste to follow his wife.” Both shouldn’t of done those things, because they are married and in a committed relationship.

    Like

  15. Ella S

    In the short story, “The Secret Women” by Colette I believe Irene still went to the ball for a sense of freedom despite telling her husband otherwise. Being able to disguise herself in custom and mask, Irene is able to act differently than she would normally. As a result of acting freely, her husband doesn’t realize she is actually at the ball. On page 144 it states, “The Pierrot scratched its thigh, with a free, proletarian gesture, and the anxious husband breathed again”. It seems to me that Irene has a new sense of herself/freedom without her husband knowingly around. Maybe Irene feels as though she can’t fully act herself around her husband so when she had the chance to express herself she took it.

    Like

  16. Ella S

    I think the husband never confronted the wife because he had a sense that she was going to be at the ball. He already had a feeling that she was going to be there so I believe that he might have just wanted to put his mind to ease about if she would actually show up. I also think he didn’t confront her because of the lie he told Irene a lie about why he couldn’t make it to the ball. If Irene found out that he lied to her about the ball she would use it against him and say that what he did was worse than how she was flirting and kissing other men. But I also think the husband knew she was going to act in that manner or else he wouldn’t have made up that lie. He wanted to see her act in a “native state, of being an unknown woman” (146). He wanted to observe her from a distance without causing a big dilemma.

    Like

  17. CAIT O.

    In “The Secret Woman” by Colette, I believe that both the wife and the husband were in the wrong. They both lied to each other, creating an unhealthy dynamic. However, they both had their separate reasons. It was clearly important to the wife that she attend the ball, “Utterly ridiculous, darling, utterly! If I’d known, perhaps I wouldn’t have married you…” (Colette, 142). Irene makes a joke expressing her discontent with her husband not accompanying her to the ball. The husband does indeed attend the ball to spy on Irene with suspicions of her cheating, “He almost called out “Irene!” And restrained himself, remembering his own lie” (Colette, 144). He finds out that Irene is indeed cheating, “She’s here for someone, with someone” (Colette, 144). However, I don’t think Irene is completely in the wrong. Of course cheating is an inexcusable behavior, but her husband was not giving her what she needed, and what she needed was a night at the ball. She had to go by herself as an alternate route and simply got a little carried away being on her own to capture old feelings of youth. “The monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest in her crude, native state, of being the unknown woman…” (Colette, 146). She did not carry malicious intent by lying and neither did her husband.

    Like

  18. CAIT O.

    The husband’s final decision on Irene’s behavior was that she was experiencing a sense of freedom for the first time in a long time. He practically didn’t blame her for any of it. ““The monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest in her crude, native state, of being the unknown woman, eternally solitary and shameless, restored to her irremediable solitude and immodest innocence by a little mask and a concealing costume” (Colette, 146). I agree with his decision, for the most part. She did use this night as a night of freedom, away from consequences, away from constraints. However, if she was unbothered by cheating, she never truly loved her husband in the first place. Therefore, her husband should bring it up because it was not as simple as a misunderstanding.

    Like

    1. Mirabella V.

      I agree with the idea that the husband’s ideas on Irene’s behavior was a reasonable response to what he had seen throughout the night. I never thought of the idea that she did not truly love her husband because of her actions of the night. I viewed Irene’s actions as her breaking free of herself, and spending a night outside of her normal routine. This response makes me wonder about what may have happened after the story ended, I did not think about this before because the way I viewed it, the night was over and it just ended. But now I am wondering if they talked about the night after it, do they fight, or are they understanding? Or is that night never talked about again?

      Like

  19. Maggie Rose B

    In “The Secret Woman” by Colette, both the husband and the wife lie to one another and attend the ball after claiming that they would not be doing so. I believe that they did this because they want to have some sort of freedom from their usual lives. This is clear in the actions of the wife as she walks around the ball, when the husband says that she “walked in front of him, nonchalantly; he was astonished to find that she rolled her hips softly and dragged her feet a little as though she were wearing Turkish slippers” (144). The wife acts in a free, casual manner, different from how she usually acts, which is clear in the surprise that the husband feels at something so minor as the way she walks. The husband’s motive for lying is less evident, but given that he lied to his wife first about the ball, while he had every intention of still attending, suggests that he wanted to be detached from his wife and his responsibilities. There is no evidence in the text of him cheating on his wife, but instead he wanders around the ball with no intentions of doing anything in particular. As such, I believe that both characters lied in order to gain a sense of freedom; the wife, freedom to do and act however she wanted, and the husband, freedom to not do anything concrete or serious.

    Like

  20. Maggie Rose B

    I think that the husband is correct in his assumption at the end of “The Secret Woman” that his wife is not looking for anyone in particular but instead enjoying the freedom her anonymity gives her. In the last paragraph, the text says, “simply enjoy, until she felt tired and went back home, the monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest” (146). The husbands belief that the wife’s motive for being at the ball is to feel a sense of freedom is apparent throughout the story, as the wife never stays in one place or with one person for long and is instead constantly moving around, dancing with, and kissing different people. While I think his assumption is correct, I do not think the husband is being honest with himself regarding his feelings about his wife’s behavior. The text says that “In his consternation he no longer feared, no longer hoped for betrayal” (146). The use of the word “hoped” in this line indicates that the husband is not happy that the wife’s actions at the ball have no particular rhyme or reason to them. I believe that the husband feels that the wife is cheating on him in an overly casual manner and thinking little of it, revealing that she does not care about him or their relationship enough to see cheating as a serious thing.

    Like

  21. Isabel K

    I believe that in “The Secret Woman”, the wife is more at fault than her husband. Although he lies to her, she lies to him as well. On top of that, she is shown to be a promiscuous woman – and I believe that cheating is much worse than lying. I also think that the only reason the husband lies is that he believes that his wife is cheating on him. There is a quote on page 329 that states “‘She’s here for someone, with someone. In less than an hour I’ll know everything'”. Although Colette does not use a speaker tag (choosing to leave it ambiguous), I believe that it is the husband who is speaking. If this is true, it implies that he only lied to his wife because of his doubts about her fidelity. This being the case puts the wife at more fault than her husband, especially because his doubts are validated.

    Like

  22. Isabel K

    Why do the husband and wife lie to each other? At the beginning of the story, both characters lie and say that they will not be attending the ball. However, both of them do attend. Why lie? The husband lies because he wants to catch his wife cheating. However, I believe that the wife lies because she craves a sense of freedom. At the end of the story, Colette writes that the wife, in her lies, gets to be a mysterious woman, one who knows “the monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest”(331). It is this feeling that I believe she is chasing when she lies.

    Like

  23. Alex P

    “Who is in the wrong?” I think that both the husband and Irene were in the wrong. They both actively lied to each other and said they would not be at the ball, yet went anyway. Even though Irene kissed another man, the husband even describes that it looked like she was just having fun, not making anything be serious when she was at the ball. The both created an unhealthy tension between them that will surely cause problems for their relationship in the future.

    Like

  24. Alex P

    “Why did they lie to each other?” Clearly they both like each other if they are still together, but this story created a sense that they both wanted a break. They wanted to be careless and have fun, a night of freedom. They that knew what they were doing was wrong but they allowed it to continue because it was more exhilarating to do something wrong and secretive, rather than have an honest conversation with each other. The wife is described as acting carelessly and having a good time while the husband (before he starts following his wife) was simply walking around doing nothing in particular. This tells me that they simply wanted a night with no responsibilities, including being married.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. VIVIAN S

    In “The Secret Woman”, I believe that the husband and the wife are wrong. The wife is cheating on her husband which is clearly a betrayal to him. Colette states, “She bent down, disdainfully held the savage, handsome young face, and kissed the panting, half-open mouth” (331). The husband is also in the wrong because he is not being open with his wife about his feelings. Colette describes the husband as, “But her husband, instead of rushing forward and forcing the two mouths apart, disappeared into the crowd. In his consternation he no longer feared, no longer hoped for betrayal” (331). Both characters, Irene and her husband lack mutual recognition. The husband lied to Irene about attending the ball because of his fear that she would cheat. The narrator states, “Its movement liberated the anxious husband who, restored to a state of active and normal jealousy, began to think again and rose without haste to follow his wife” (329). Irene did in fact cheat but the husband was in the wrong for not trusting her. By the end of the story, it is clear to the reader that both Irene and the husband are not happy in their marriage. I think if the husband was more vocal about his fears than Irene would be honest and they could move on from each other.

    Like

  26. ABIGAIL G

    Referring to the fourth question for period 1: I believe that on page 331 the husband is correct in a sense. His idea of what was going on is his wife’s head is something that anyone can experience at different levels the “monstrous pleasure of being alone, free… being the unknown woman…restored her to irremediable solitude and immodest innocence.” Although complicated, the husbands description highlights the simplicity of having no exterior motivations for your actions, no one to impress just to be simply yourself, but in this case herself in a completely anonymous way.

    Like

  27. LUKE L

    Responding to question 3 by period 2, the husband never confronted his wife because the kiss with the other man meant nothing. While Irene’s action wasn’t faithful necessarily, the husband did recognize Irene had no further intentions. The husband’s thoughts are explained in the last paragraph, ” He was now sure Irene did not know the young man, who she was kissing; he was sure that she was neither waiting nor looking for anyone.” This quote connotes that the husband does not see anything harmful in Irene’s actions, so he decides to leave it alone. The husband would not confront his wife about something he has no issue with. This was the correct choice because both the husband and Irene are happy, instead of creating conflict out of nothing.

    Like

  28. ABIGAIL G

    Referring to Question 1 for Period 1: I believe the the use of color symbolizes the traits of the respective characters, the darker colors like purple and black suggesting more mysterious tones while the mention of gold and white creates an innocent and pure tone. The description of the satanic hands that were “entirely black” placed Dutch woman on page 331 who was wearing a gold head-dress “cried out nervously”. This description of the woman reinforcing the idea that the gold hues were used to symbolize innocence in the story while black is used to symbolize mystery.

    Like

  29. AVA ECKMAN

    Why do you think that the husband never confronted his wife?
    Do you think the wife knows that her husband has been spying on her?

    I think the husband not confronting the wife is another way of exemplifying the theme of the story. It is different from other societal norms that a man would not confront his wife for kissing another man, but also that men confront women when they are themselves and he does not do that here. Though the husband is very jealous and tense as seen on page 328-29, he does not act on any of his feelings. I also think Colette uses his character to narrate the expressions of the woman without having her internal feelings be known to the reader. I do think that Irene knows her husband is there based on how she acts in front of him. The husband realizes that she is better off not knowing that he is there but the line “She seemed as calm as if she had been alone” (330) makes it clear that even if she does know she does not care. I think Colette writing this unfazed character further reinforces the theme of women acting a certain way (specifically carefree) in this story. Irene having the last birthday gift her husband gave her also shows that she has care for her relationship with him. If she hated him and this whole thing was to get away from him she wouldn’t bring something that reminded her of him.

    Like

  30. AVA ECKMAN

    In the flipgrid for The Secret Woman, Sydney talked about the theme that women have a certain way they must act in society. Gender roles play an important role in short stories shown mostly by the descriptive language about the women. The nature of her character is carefree and free spirited in this story she has no responsibilities unlike how women are normally described in literature. Unique to this story, the women and her husband are independent from each other because her husband lied about his whereabouts and appeared at the ball. The most important text comes at the end after Irene kisses a random man, “the monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest in her crude, native state, of being the unknown woman, eternally solitary and shameless” (331). This line is every woman’s dream, to be independent from a man and true to oneself, not held back or being restricted. All the descriptors that Colette uses are opposite of women in our society and what every man fears a woman can become. Even how her husband acts is contradictory to normal societal standards, he does not overreact or confront her but leaves her be. Again, I think this is Colette writing how she wishes men would treat women and the lack of interaction between Irene and her husband shows a different relationship than society is used to. I think most people are confused when the husband does not confront the wife because the man confronting the women is what people are used to reading so they expect it. This is Colette exposing you to your expectations of a relationship and how society has imposed these unwritten rules about marriage and the freedom of a married woman.

    Like

  31. LUKE L

    I found the fourth question asked by period 2 to be very interesting. I think Irene knew her husband was watching her. This story is a strange game between a husband and wife. On page 145, Irene seems to be acting strange. ” She moved away, with the same relaxed and quiet step, stopping often, musting at the doors to the open boxes, hardly ever looking around. She hesitated at the foot of the steps.” Irene’s actions at the ball are strange, especially “stopping often,” “hardly ever looking around” and “hesitating” connotes to me that she is being watched. By her actions she seems to know she is being watched. Irene is an place she is familiar with based on an earlier conversation, but now she is acting strangely, and her husband watching her is a logical conclusion.

    Like

  32. CAROLINE TURNER

    In response to the DQ, “Why do you think they both lied to each other?,” I think both characters lied to each other to allow the wife to experience freedom. In the beginning, we sense that the husband is jealous but curious to learn more about his wife. However, at the end, the husband’s lie turns less towards his own benefit than before. “He was sure that she was neither waiting nor looking for anyone…” (146). In this quote, we learn that the husband no longer sees his wife as disloyal. He understands that their lies allow her to expand her freedom innocently. He understands that she needs to have excitement in her life independently as well.

    Like

  33. CAROLINE TURNER

    In response to the DQ, “What purpose does the continual usage of colors and descriptions of the costumes serve in the story other than just simply describing disguises?,” I think the usage of colors and descriptions of costumes adds to the facade and mystery of the story. I think the more in detail each costume is, the deeper the person under the disguise hides. The colors distract and symbolize the playful and extravagant night the characters in the ball experience. “He turned around and saw someone sitting astride the balustrade, wearing a long and impenetrable disguise, looking like a Pierrot because of the smock with vast sleeves, the loose trousers, the headband and the plaster-white colour which covered the small area of skin visible below the fluffy lace of the mask.” (143). In this detailed description of the Pierrot costume, it is proven that each element of the disguise is used to distract others from small areas of skin that are visible. The more details, the less visible the human hiding underneath is.

    Like

  34. AVERY M

    In response to the question, “Do you think he should’ve told her or continued the one sided secrecy?” about Collette’s story, “The Secret Woman,” I decided that he should not have told her he knew her secret. Irene, with her husband, acts like the picture of elegance and grace, a beautiful woman with no flaws. However, due to an unexplained desire to become someone else, she takes on a new persona behind her mask. Her husband draws the conclusion that she does this becuase she wants to “simply enjoy, until she felt tired and went back home, the monstrous pleaseure of being alone, free, honest in her crude, native state, of being the unknown woman…restored her to her…immodest innocence” (Collette 331). Though she lied to him about her whereabouts, her actions are not harmful, just the result of life experiences unclear to the reader. Irene, however, needs this time to be free of responsibility and labels, and just become someone new. This, though strange, is not harmful and should be allowed by the husband.

    Like

  35. AVERY M

    In response to the question “Do you think the wife knows that her husband has been spying on her?” about Collete’s story, I would argue that the wife has a suspicion that her husband is spying on her, but does not fully admit it to herself. When he notices her for the first time and makes an obvious gesture of recognition, Irene reacts in an unusual way. She speaks, “‘Is that a declaration, purple Domino?'” and then she (referred to as “it” by her husband) “shrugged its shoulders, jumped to the gorund and moved away” (Colette 329). It seems almost as if she wants to be followed and makes no serious effort to disguise herself from him; she speaks in her regular voice and uses a compact she knows he would recognize. One take on this scenario is that she suspects that the man is her husband, but is too caught up in her state of freedom to grasp that notion or care enough to abandon her act.

    Like

  36. Sam S

    The story, in my view, is an ode to the flaws in how modern relationships are conceived, and a open question about how to address that. It is no surprise, then, that the husband is not upset at his wife in the end.

    It is not controversial that in modern society, marriage is a fairly closed institution. Most marriages are polygamous, and usually involve a lot of shared life aspects like a shared dwelling, shared friends, lots of time together, etc. It is on this stage that the scene of the story is set, evidenced by the utter betrayal originally felt by the narrator as he notices his wife among the ball goers.

    However, by the end of the story, the narrator “disappeared into the crowd” because “he no longer feared…betrayal” (146). The narrator is able to do this because of a realization that the ball allows the wife to feel free and alone in a way she can not in other context. In this way, Colette is commenting on how some of the modern customs of marriage may be incompatible with the human need for solitude and freedom. However, this need not be harmful or malicious, and indeed Colette offers this realization of the narrator as a gateway into how one can healthily express their solitude while at the same time remaining committed to a relationship.

    Like

  37. Sam S

    I think that weather the wife knows the husband is spying on her or not is left intentionally ambiguous. The wife clearly experiences a sense of freedom throughout the ball, embodied by the way she effortlessly traverses the crowd and does “[amuses] herself” with various actions like kissing a stranger and placing her hands “on the white bosom of a Dutch woman” (146). The uninhibited nature of the wife, therefore, indicates that she no longer feels bound by any worldly concerns and is mentally in the state of her new, free persona. The author is highlighting how the wife is able to maintain love for her husband while feeling free by embodying the freedom she desires during the ball. That freedom needs to be absolute to fulfill its role (for if it is not absolute it is not freedom) and so rather then concern herself with if her husband is there or not the wife doesn’t even seem to consider this question during the ball.

    Like

  38. In the story, Colette, through the husband’s narration, described the wife as dainty and ladylike. She is often referred to using adjectives such as delicate, or white. However, as the husband continues to discover more and more about her sexual appetite, her descriptions turn dark. At the end of the story she is now described as having, “little satanic hands, which were entirely black…” (331). The husband now views her as tainted and dirty, and doesn’t hold her in as high of esteem as before. He never considered her to be a sexual being, nor did he think he would ever be caught going to one of those “balls.”

    I believe that Colette realized the double standard implicit in the MALE/female binary and chose stand up for women. She also explored the effects of anonymity on women’s behavior, and although the husband saw through the mask, the wife acted like a completely different person. The true question is: did the mask hide her true identity, or reveal it?

    Like

  39. So we see the both of them are together but not, each independent of the other, but the husband hears a familiar voice and is astonished to think she has indeed come alone. Or maybe not so alone after all. Soon he would know the truth about her and whether she is here to meet a lover. But some pleasures are just for the brief moment. It isn’t to meet a lover or any man, she is there, he decides. Maybe it is just a matter for the senses. A certain desire for sensory pleasures we allow ourselves, that have no other meaning but for the moment and for the physical.

    ” . . . he was sure that she was neither waiting nor looking for anyone, and that abandoning the lips she held beneath her own like an empty grape, she was going to leave again the next moment, wander about once more, collect some other passer-by, forget him, and simply enjoy, until she felt tired and went back home, the monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest in her crude, native state, of being the unknown woman, eternally solitary and shameless, restored to her irremediable solitude and immodest innocence by a little mask and a concealing costume.”

    Does the wife ever catch on that she has been spotted? Does it matter since the husband knows she’s not there out of an act of disloyalty to him (yet an act of loyalty to her real self maybe).

    Like

  40. QUINN F

    In response to the question “Who do you think is more in the wrong in this situation? The husband or the wife?” from Period 1’s question on “Secret Woman,” I believe while both are definitely flawed that the wife should be considered more in the wrong. This is because they both were on the same playing field with their lies in the first place about the ball, and although the husband didn’t reveal himself to his wife immediately it doesn’t condone her actions in partaking in a somewhat romantic manner with someone other than her husband. I do acknowledge that his response to this encounter was not an appropriate one, however from the viewpoint of his wife lying, going to the ball, and meeting another man it is definitely a cause for concern on what may be going on.

    Like

  41. QUINN F

    In response to the question “Do you think he should’ve told her or continued the one-sided secrecy?” from Period 1’s question on “Secret Woman,” I believe that he should not have continued the one-sided secrecy. Regardless of what the outcome from spying was in this story, there is nothing good that can come from spying on your significant other. The only two outcomes are either they mess up and you get hurt, or you get caught spying when they haven’t done anything wrong and your lack of trust in them becomes apparent, which hurts them. If any part of you wants to still continue a relationship prior to the moment you begin spying… then don’t. The only way to take on obstacles in relationships is through open conversations with complete honesty. That is the only way the relationship will remain fair and working.

    Like

  42. MAYA L

    Answering “Who do you think is more in the wrong in this situation? The husband or the wife?” from period one’s question on Colette’s “The Secret Woman,” I believe both of the characters were in the wrong. They both lied to each other about going to the ball, even though this has clearly been something they had already made plans to do together, shown when the man said “I was looking forward to this ball” (142). Though Irene was more in the wrong by cheating on him, the man said that “he was sure she was neither waiting nor looking for anyone,” (146), implying that she didn’t intend to cheat, and so he wasn’t as hurt as he assumed he would be. Because she didn’t actually hurt him, their biggest issue is their lack of communication and the fact that they’re keeping secrets from each other, which is something they’re both doing wrong.

    Like

  43. MAYA L

    Answering “Do you think he should’ve told her or continued the one sided secrecy?” from period one’s question on Colette’s “The Secret Woman,” I think they should have “continued the one sided secrecy,” though I doubt it was all truly a secret. They both seem to know the other’s lying to them, and they are both content with the dishonesty. Though this does not make for a healthy relationship, the man seemed to understand Irene’s desire to “forget him, and simply enjoy, until she felt tired and went back home” (146). They’re both keeping secrets from each other, and they seem to know and not care. If they’re happy with keeping the same home life as long as they’re allowed an occasional lie to feel “the monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest,” (146) then that’s their business. I think telling her would have just broken the unspoken rule they seem to have established between themselves.

    Like

  44. Charles V

    In response the question, “What purpose does the continual usage of colors and descriptions of the costumes serve in the story other than just simply describing disguises?” I believe that darker colors vs. lighter colors set the mood and change the viewpoints right off the bat. The black and purple suggest mystery and the gold and white create more of a pure mood. The “Secret Woman” really makes you think and interpret different things in order to find the true identity. The tone also changes throughout the story with a different take on gender norms and the relationships between the husband and wife. The color overall has a deeper meaning and has a sort of mystery behind it.

    Like

  45. hsmeaton78

    In response to period 2’s second question, I had to google first what a Pierrot is and I can say that it fits well into the story. In essence, a Pierrot is a sort of like a mime but with a sad, white-painted face, loose white clothes, and usually a pointed hat (most pictures make them resemble clowns to me). The way the husband sees Irene in her costume catches him much by surprise, “he was astonishes to find that she rolled her hips softly and dragged her feet a little as though she were wearing Turkish slippers”, since Irene appears very comfortable and at home in the ball, which contrasts her fear of “all those hands”. I believe the Pierrot description of Irene represents her mimicking the crowd she is in, while also using the actual disguise of a Pierrot to hide not only her appearance but also her real personality.

    In response to period 2’s third question, I believe the husband didn’t confront his wife for two reasons: the first being he also lied about going to the ball and the second is that during his detective work, he concluded that Irene didn’t do anything he found wrong. The story very explicitly states that the husband told a “schoolboy lie” about being busy and therefore unable to attend the ball, so if he were to confront his wife at the same ball they would both look like hypocrites. As for my second point, the moment the husband sees Irene kiss the man at the ball, he refrains from stopping her since “he was sure that Irene did not know the young man, drunk with dancing, who she was kissing…collect some other passer-by, forget him, and simply enjoy.” While it may seem weird, the husband recognizes that Irene doesn’t feel any emotional attachment to these men at the ball and most likely just filling some kind of need that he is either unable to provide in their relationship or allowing Irene to just relish some freedom at the party.

    Like

  46. Sarah K

    “The Secret Woman” was my favorite and I feel the most intriguing stories out of the three short stories I read. I enjoyed the plot and the character relationship that the author builds. I am going to be responding to question three of the Questionaires questions on flipgrid, “Why do you think the husband never confronted his wife?” Starting off at the beginning of the story Colette leads the reader to believe that the couple has a very open relationship with each other. The husband is telling his wife all about his upcoming business trip and she seems to feel very comfortable and not suspicious of any of his upcoming plans. However, Colette notes that the husband commits a bit of a white lie, saying that he is just going to the opera with one of his patients, which as we know is not what he does at all. After her husbands announcement of his plans she asks, “Don’t you want to go to the green and purple ball? Even without me, if it amuses you darling…”(327). The husband’s response to her question, in simpler terms, was that the ball was not his thing and he did not want to go. Later on in the story we watch as he is present at the ball, and so is his wife. However, his wife is kissing other men and dancing other men. I feel that if the husband had not lied to her in the first place about going he most definately confronted her because she was commiting acts of infedelity but because he lied it puts him in the uncomfortable position of his wife being upset with him because he lied, even though what she did was in my opinion worse than his lie. Additionally, although if he told her he was going to attend the ball I think he would of confronted her, I do not think the wife would have attended the ball because she knew he was going and she knew what her attended actions were if she went to the ball. The purpose of her asking her husband to make sure he was sure he didn’t want to go was to confirm whether or not she could go or not, as we see here after she asks the question, “She had tremble, there passed through her one of those long shudders…” (328).

    Like

  47. Athanasios P.

    In response to DQ 3 for period 3, I believe Colette’s use of symbolism pertaining to Irene suggests that Irene feels constricted by society’s behavioral norms and at times wishes to be free from them to indulge in her natural urges and desires. In the beginning of the story, Colette describes Irene as having a “narrow face, pink, matt and long, like a delicate sugared almond,” (327). This symbol of a sugared almond conveys Irene’s character within society and as perceived by her husband, where she is a delicate, sweet, innocent woman. Later, when the husband finds Irene at the ball, she is “looking like Pierrot,” (328), and this comparison is drawn several more times. Pierrot is a quintessential character of French pantomime, so the stressing of Pierrot as a symbol of Irene signifies that at the ball, she is attempting to pantomime, or express something through her actions. Under the cover of anonymity, Irene is free to express her true desires, so she engages with people sensually at free will. Another symbol adds to this meaning, and it is presented when detailing Irene’s actions, where “abandoning the lips she held beneath her own like an empty grape, she was going to leave again the next moment, wander about once more, collect some other passer-by, forget him, and simply enjoy,” (331). The symbol of the empty grape implies that Irene is eating the grapes around her at liberty, eating grapes off of a bunch being a ubiquitous symbol of satiation and abundance. Rather than aiming to cheat on her husband, Irene is, because she is protected by anonymity, solely giving way to her underlying urges and desires, and that is to have fun and be sensual outside of the constraints imposed by society. She wants an escape from her sugared almond image.

    Like

  48. Athanasios P.

    In response to DQ 5 for period 3, I think the husband lied to his wife and told her he was not going to attend the ball because he wanted to dissolve any suspicions she might have that he was discontent with their marriage or that he wanted to engage in promiscuous, immoral activities. In the beginning of the story, the husband “relished, without impatience, a state of malaise and pleasure which permitted the imperceptible passing of the hours,” and at one point, “placed round his neck the indifferent arms of a very plump girl,” (327). This description of the husband’s activity at the ball shows that he was there to have fun and let loose with his behavior, maybe being a bit risque, which he would not have been able to do if his identity was known. At the ball, he finds his wife, and his immediate suspicion is that “‘She’s here for someone, with someone. In less than an hour I’ll know everything,’” (329). Because those attending the ball are anonymous, many engage in immoral behaviors because they know there are no consequences. Aware of this, the husband is primed to believe that Irene is attending under the influence of unchaste motives, and proceeds to follow her to discover them. This is possibly why he did not want Irene to know he would be going to the ball, because Irene would likely assume the same of him, and might begin to question his loyalty to their marriage. However, all ended up well because through tailing Irene, the husband realized that she was there for the same reason he was: to experience “the monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest” in their “crude, native state” of being anonymous (331).

    Like

  49. BENJAMIN GUERRERO

    Question: Why do you think that the husband never confronted his wife?

    In the short story “The Secret Woman” by Colette, I believe that the husband did not confront his wife because he did not believe that she was being disloyal. This is prevalent in the story when the husband thinks to himself that, “he was sure that she was neither waiting nor looking for anyone, and that abandoning the lips she held beneath her own like an empty grape, she was going to leave again the next moment, wander about once more, collect some other passer-by, forget him, and simply enjoy, until she felt tired and went back home, the monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest in her crude, native state, of being the unknown woman, eternally solitary and shameless, restored to her irremediable solitude and immodest innocence by a little mask and a concealing costume”(146). This quotation found at the very end of the short story suggests that the husband does not believe that his wife is disloyal because he believes that she is dancing and kissing other men solely for the physical pleasure, and the joy of freedom. After watching his wife switch between men very quickly he confirms that his wife is not looking for “love”. He is so confident in this, that he is able to leave the ball without confronting his wife.

    Like

  50. BENJAMIN GUERRERO

    Question: Who do you think is more in the wrong in this situation? The husband or the wife?

    I believe that in the short story “The Secret Woman” by Colette, the wife is more “in the wrong” for this situation because she lied about a lot more than the husband did. Even though I think they were both not acting in an appropriate manner, I feel like the husband was acting out of curiosity and fear for his relationship, while the wife was acting with the intent to deceive. The husband made a false claim that he had work and couldn’t attend the ball, with the intent to go to the ball alone in disguise and see if his wife would actually go and how she would act. This is dishonest and not ok but it is much better than what his wife did. His wife not only lied about her intentions not to go to the ball, but she also lied about some personality traits of her own. When asked by her husband if she wants to go by herself, she declines and says that she is too shy to go by herself. The fact that the husband didn’t drive any suspicion from this suggests that she acts significantly more different (reserved/shy/timid) around him than she does alone in public (open/expressive). This means that she is consistently deceiving her husband and that she is basically living a double life. The final and most obvious reason the wife is more in the wrong in this situation is that she was kissing other men at the ball. So not only is she lying to her husband, but she is cheating on him as well. This is why the wife is more “in the wrong” for this situation.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s