Realizing Morality

cadian ball

In “At the ‘Cadian Ball,” I noticed one of the aspects of realism that we have not discussed much in class. Characters in realist fiction are allowed to both portray more complicated morality, and accept more complicated morality on the part of other characters. After Calixta was observed poking fun at Bobinot, Madame Suzonne whispered to the woman next to her explaining what would happen if any of the other girls would have done the same thing. She says, “[Ozeina] should immediately be taken out to the mule-cart and driven home” (188.) The narrator follows the line up with the obvious interpretation, “The women did not always approve of Calixta” (188.) The narrator’s inclusion of the word, always, in this interpretation of the scene shows that there were times when the women did approve of Calixta. In fact, this scene shows that more often than not the other women approved of her by connecting the narrator’s statement about the women’s approval in connection with a specific event in which Calixta stepped out of line. But even if Madame Suzonne had felt that she had the authority to have Calixta punished for her flaunting of the social norms, she would only have been sent home to contemplate what she had done, and the next time they saw each other Madame Suzonne would not feel scandalized to be in her presence. Because of the realist filter on reality (which tries to communicate unfiltered reality), the other women at the ball are given the freedom to understand that people are not perfect and that occasionally straying from proper etiquette does not make Calixta a bad person. However, if this scene were written in the sentimental style, Calixta’s step away from proper etiquette would have been followed up with (instead of whispers and a flat statement of occasional disapproval) Madame Suzonne busting out into the center of the room, raising the back of her hand to her forehead, yelling out, “I declare,” and faking a swoon before working up the anger of the rest of the partygoers and having Calixta set apart as a pariah.

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