The Shift of Power in “The Secret Woman”

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette’s short story “The Secret Woman” tells the story of how dishonesty between a husband and wife can lead to a shift in power because of a shift in perception. In the opening of this story we see the husband lying to his wife explaining that he is unable to go to the green and purple ball because of a patient he has to take care of. In response the wife tells her lie, telling him that she is too shy to be able to go to the ball and put herself in front of a group of people. This promotes the idea that she lacks courage and depends on him, seeing this in the way she made her husband think that she was against the idea of the party.

“As for me.. Can you see me in a crowd, at the mercy of all those hands..” (Pg. 328).

Despite their lies they end up at the ball, just not together. When he first sees his wife he doesn’t think that it’s her, under the impression that she wouldn’t be there. Once he realizes that it is in fact his wife he follows her and notices the way she is projecting herself, surprised, rolling her hips and dragging her feet. Once following his wife, we see that he looks at her more of an object that her own person.

Once seeing his wife for who she truly was, flirtatious, secretive or promiscuous, the way he described her shifted.

“She laughed, and he admired her narrow face, pink, matt and long, like a delicate sugared almond…” (Pg. 327).

This quote shows the way the man viewed his wife in the beginning but once he saw that she was actively choosing this for herself the way he saw her shifted, shown by the stark contrast in how she was described in the end.

“[T]he 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” (Pg. 331).

Her freedom was shocking to him because of who he thought he had known her to be, once he saw that she was in power of her own situation, her own person, he didn’t really know how to deal with it. In the end I think he may have felt unsure of himself in the end, now seeing her at this party he wasn’t sure of his role in their relationship anymore, because he realized his role was always fake and apart of her lies.

One thought on “The Shift of Power in “The Secret Woman”

  1. Isabella K.

    I totally agree with this entire post. I also think these double standards become especially apparent in this story, along with this MALE/female binary as you described.

    Liked by 1 person

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