The short “Tète à Tète, à la Femme” is unremarkable at first glance much like its author Beatrice Hastings (writing under the name Beatrice Tina). Just a conversation between friends Marjorie and Beatrice about the merits of free marriage (“not [marrying] at all”) versus a legal marriage. Beatrice, a forward-thinking woman in the eyes of Marjorie surprises her friend by adamantly opposing Marjorie entering a free marriage with her beau, George. She gives extensive examples of free marriages that have failed and generally talks over Marjorie’s attempt to rebut the grim perspective Beatrice presents. It all seemed very straightforward until I began to look closely at the text in Voyant software. What immediately stood out was the number of times “George” was used. Within the story Beatrice was used 4 times, Marjorie 10, and George 14. The only other word that appears as much as George is free. This immediately flipped the story from a simple conversation between two friends to a commentary on the power and presence of men over women, even when they are supposedly having a private discussion. Marjorie suffers the most as she struggles with the strong ideologies George follows and Beatrice’s own forceful opinions that pull her in different directions. In the end Marjorie is not only unaccustomed to making decisions but unwilling to do so and is more comfortable to let others make them for her.
Esplin, Olivia J. 9714899, "Male Presence and Indecision In “Tète à Tète, à la Femme”" (2018). Modernist Short Story Project. 3.