The Secret to “The Secret Woman”

“Irene 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.” (Pg.44)

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette’s “The Secret Woman” tells us a story about a man and a woman being dishonest to each other. In the first page we can see how the husband is telling his wife how he has to tend to a patient of his. We can infer that he’s a type of doctor. He goes on to tell her that he won’t be able to attend the green and purple ball. And so the wife responses with tale of being too shy and timid to be in front of a crowd, so she’s saying she can’t attend the dance either.

We know that they are lying to each other but we just don’t understand why. Reading further down through the pages we know that the husband and the wife are at the dance but just not together. We reads that the husband, is believing he hears his wife’s voice or really a unique cough that his wife does. So the husband is frantically looking for his wife. And when he thinks he sees her, it’s a lady dressed in two satin slippers and black gloves. And he thinks to himself that can’t be her, except he finds out it is her because of a birthday gift. The husband continues to follow his wife, and notices how she rolled her hips softly and dragged her feet. We can see that the husband is confused at why his wife lied, and why she is appearing herself like that. She follows her someone and infers that he is cheating on him.

“She also amused herself by placing her little satanic hands, which were entirely black on the white bosom of a dutch woman wearing a gold head-dress…” (Pg. 46)

The quote above is showing how the husband views her now, as being tainted now and doesn’t hold her in high esteem like before. On pg. 43 he described her has having delicate hands, and wearing a white dress. And on pg. 42, he said she had a narrow face, pink, matt and long. We can interpret that if a female is openly dressing in a sexual way, she is considered not ladylike anymore. And this is what Colette is trying to show us.

2 thoughts on “The Secret to “The Secret Woman”

  1. Alaiya J.

    When I read the story I wondered why the author using infidelity as the driving conflict of the narrator. I like how you said it that he sees her as tainted, because it shows how even though this conflict is internal and ends up not being true, he manages to manifest his thoughts into a conflict with his wife.


  2. Izzy N.

    Your interpretation of the deeper meaning behind this story is super interesting. This is because it is completely different to what I had originally thought Colette was trying to bring to light.


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