“The Night Came Slowly” Summary by Kate Chopin: Analysis & Full Text

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The Night Came Slowly” Summary & Analysis

“The Night Came Slowly” is a very short story or meditation by Kate Chopin from 1895. It’s about a woman who prefers nature and experiencing the outdoors over people. Here’s a summary of “The Night Came Slowly” followed by a quick analysis of themes. At the end, you can read the full text of “The Night Came Slowly”, which isn’t much longer than the summary.

“The Night Came Slowly” Summary

The narrator is losing interest in people—their lives and actions—and in books. Neither can talk to her like the night, the stars or the wind.

“Some one has said it is better to study one man than ten books. I want neither books nor men; they make me suffer.”

As she lies under a maple tree, the night comes slowly until the trees and foliage almost blend into the blackness of the night. Only a little light filters in through the trees from the stars.

“It came creeping, creeping stealthily out of the valley, thinking I did not notice.”

Human shapes pass by, but she doesn’t mind. She’s immersed completely in the night. Katydids sing; they don’t talk like people. Their song says “sleep”. The wind ripples the leaves.

She wonders why fools fill the earth. It was a man offering a “Bible Class” who’s voice broke the spell she was under. He was young and bold and coarse. What does he know about Jesus? She’d rather learn from the stars who have seen him.

End of “The Night Came Slowly” Summary

Analysis of Themes in “The Night Came Slowly”

Here are some themes that could be considered:

  • Nature: Both the soothing power of nature and the insignificance of humans compared to nature could be explored.
  • Religion: The failure of organized religion or the impossibility of human-invented religion to teach us how to live are potential themes.
  • Communication: This is a possible theme, although there might be fewer supporting details on this one.

The main thrust of “The Night Came Slowly” is the soothing power of nature. The narrator lies outside under a maple tree as night falls. She surrenders herself to the solemnity and charm of the night. She feels love from the wind. This is contrasted with people and books (written by people, whom she calls fools) that make her suffer.

Nature is also presented as an alternative to religion, which is supposed to teach us about the solemn and mysterious things, that the narrator experiences from the night. The young, coarse man’s offer of a “Bible Class” is what triggered the whole meditation on nature. She doesn’t believe people can teach her anything about Christ that she can’t learn from nature.

The difficulty of meaningful communication is also apparent. Her lack of interest in humans and books implies that she’s not getting anything significant from her interactions with them. She prefers the communication of the katydids who sing her to sleep rather than chatter (insignificant communication) like people.

Full Text of “The Night Came Slowly” by Kate Chopin

I am losing my interest in human beings; in the significance of their lives and their actions. Some one has said it is better to study one man than ten books. I want neither books nor men; they make me suffer. Can one of them talk to me like the night–the Summer night? Like the stars or the caressing wind?

The night came slowly, softly, as I lay out there under the maple tree. It came creeping, creeping stealthily out of the valley, thinking I did not notice. And the outlines of trees and foliage nearby blended in one black mass and the night came stealing out from them, too, and from the east and west, until the only light was in the sky, filtering through the maple leaves and a star looking down through every cranny.

The night is solemn and it means mystery.

Human shapes flitted by like intangible things. Some stole up like little mice to peep at me. I did not mind. My whole being was abandoned to the soothing and penetrating charm of the night.

The katydids began their slumber song: they are at it yet. How wise they are. They do not chatter like people. They tell me only: “sleep, sleep, sleep.” The wind rippled the maple leaves like little warm love thrills.

Why do fools cumber the Earth! It was a man’s voice that broke the necromancer’s spell. A man came today with his “Bible Class.” He is detestable with his red cheeks and bold eyes and coarse manner and speech. What does he know of Christ? Shall I ask a young fool who was born yesterday and will die tomorrow to tell me things of Christ? I would rather ask the stars: they have seen him.

Published in 1895, © Public Domain

I hope this summary, analysis and text of “The Night Came Slowly” was helpful.