by Kate Chopin
Analysis: Writing Style
More than anything else, Chopin's style in this story is one of fluidity. She transitions smoothly and rapidly not only among five characters' points of view – Bibi, Bobinôt, Calixta, Alcée, and Clarisse – but through an explicit sexual encounter and its aftermath. In addition to negotiating a deceptive act, and keeping all her characters' secrets, she also moves fluidly back and forth between different kinds of language. In this passage, for example, she smoothly unites two very different ways of speaking: the dialect Bobinôt uses to speak to his son and the sophisticated language the narrator uses to tell the story.
'My! Bibi, w'at will yo' mama say! You ought to be ashame'. You oughta' put on those good pants. Look at 'em! An' that mud on yo' collar! How you got that mud on yo' collar, Bibi? I never saw such a boy!' Bibi was the picture of pathetic resignation. Bobinôt was the embodiment of serious solicitude as he strove to remove from his own person and his son's the signs of their tramp over heavy roads and through wet fields. (3.3)
Note the abrupt change of diction and vocabulary halfway through this passage. We move from Bobinôt's clipped words and casual phrasing – "w'at," "yo'," "oughta'" – to more complex, perhaps overly serious phrases like "pathetic resignation" and "embodiment of serious solicitude." The way Bobinôt speaks is very different from the way the narrator describes a scene.
We're reminded not only of the difference between Bobinôt and the narrator, then, but also of the differences between Bobinôt and Calixta – who speak in a more informal, Cajun dialect (source) – and Alcée and Clarisse – who use more formal language, similar to that used by the narrator. (See "Setting" for more on these class differences.) Yet here the two kinds of dialogue are not even separated by a paragraph break. They occur practically in the same space, a reminder of the author's skill and fluidity in combining elements of language.