Power in “The Secret Woman” by Collete

After reading “The Secret Woman” on my own, I was left wondering about many instances in the story. I was most intrigued by the lies told between the main character Irene, and her husband. At first glance, I did not really think about the meaning behind Irene cheating on her husband, but after the discussion in class, its importance came clear.

Irene and her husband both lied to each other and ended up at the opera ball alone. When Irene was at the ball, I found Collete’s description of Irene’s disguise and movements very powerful. In addition, when it is revealed that Irene’s intentions were unloyal to her husband, I was pretty surprised but I also think that the woman cheating being surprising represents a double standard. After her husband discovered this, he was stunned that she had power over herself and her choices, and he did not know how to handle the situation. I think after he caught her he felt like he did not have the power in their relationship anymore and she was in control, which he did not like.

This story reinforces the idea that in society, men cheating is normalized, but when a woman is cheating it is absurd and frowned upon.

8 thoughts on “Power in “The Secret Woman” by Collete

  1. Your comment on how they both do they same things but get completely different reception via the writing was very interesting along with the mention of double standards and binaries!!

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  2. CORA B.

    I agree with your perspective. I also agree that this story made be confront some of by own biases because I was also surprised that the woman was cheating. I also agree that her actions made him feel powerless which is kind of flipping the binary which is very interesting.

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  3. Khylie A.

    I agree with your perspective. I feel the story highlighted the double standards in cheating. I also found it interesting how the main concern of the man was the self-empowerment and independence of his wife rather than her cheating (which was something that had been alluded to him almost doing himself).

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  4. kewerthmann

    I agree with you. The story really showed double standards. When a man cheats (like what he was going there to do) it was not a big deal and people did not think it was an awful thing. However when a woman cheats, as Irene did in the story she is described as a horrible person. There are double standards in this.

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  5. Joe H.

    Annika, I agree with your post. I didn’t realize until after reading the story that a large reason I was so confused was that it was the woman that was cheating. It made me confront some of my own biases. Great review!

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