Kate Chopin: A Woman Ahead of Her Time

Only available on StudyMode
  • Pages: 5 (1834 words)
  • Download(s): 77
  • Published: April 12, 2011
Open Document
Text Preview
Abandoned by friends due to her supposed ‘immoral’ works, Kate Chopin was a mind ahead of her time. Stuck in the strict 1800s, her expressions of loathing marriage and sexual freedom in the lives of women were less than ideal to their modern culture (Chopin, “The Story of an Hour” 2241-2243). Her writings often consisted of marriage being below dreams of music and art, and even love not being able to hold a marriage together (Davis 62). The reality of these ideas compromised Chopin’s short stories and novels; the feeling of repression of women and the crushing restraint of marriage (Anderson et al. 480) Born as Katherine O’Flaherty in St. Louis, Missouri, she was daughter to an Irish father and French mother who often encouraged her education in music and reading. Her grandmother also taught her the French language as a child. These different ideas exposed to her are what would set up her individual mindset later in life. Despite her themes of writing, she was married to a man named Oscar Chopin when she was nineteen. She later had six children and did not start writing until after her husband’s death. Her writings had made her disliked by society, who considered it immoral to most people (Anderson et al. 480). However, Chopin saw society in return as degrading to women, who were unable to work and live for themselves because of the “male-dominated” world they lived in (Chopin, “The Story of an Hour” 2242). With Chopin’s last years, her writings became more “somber” and were not well received. Chopin became depressed and her failing health was hard for her to deal with. On August 20th, 1904, Chopin died of a stroke, possibly due to a hereditary form of circulatory trouble (Wolff 225). Chopin’s theme is unique in the sense that they were written during a time of women’s inferiority, especially since most of her main characters attitudes towards marriage is as much against society’s morals as they themselves are. These characters would often choose things like music and art over getting married, and in one case, found it even more important than love. Chopin does not tend to speak out against divorce either, in her work, and makes the first known woman character who was an alcoholic (Davis 61-63). Her writings were said to disrupt the “Sacred Institutions” of marriage and American womanhood by disregarding moral codes without repenting it (Beers et al. 430). Many said she should devote herself, and her characters, to her “holy office” of a mother and wife (Beers et al. 430). She was often condemned as “sordid and vulgar” (Beers et al. 430). Her reputation of avoidance to these statements coincided with the rise of feminist criticism. However, despite this negative aspect, Chopin often gave accurate portrayals of French Creole culture, and was a literary pioneer who inspired the modern American woman (Beers et al. 430). In Chopin’s short story “Désirée’s Baby”, Désirée is an adopted child, her origins unknown. She was taken in by a very rich family and grew up to marry another rich man, Armand. Together, they bear a child, but as the child grows, rumors grow with it. The child’s skin is darker and appears to have African American blood in him. Armand immediately blames Désirée, for her blood-line is unknown. Then, in shame, he throws Désirée out, along with the baby, and burns all evidence of themselves being married and having a child together. While he burns these records, he happens upon a letter from his ‘mother’ to his father. With the end of the letter, and the story, it reads: I thank the God for having so arranged our lives that our dear Armand will never know that his mother who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery (Chopin, “Désirée’s Baby” 573).

This theme of repression of women is shown by the mere and unsettling fact that Armand could just throw Désirée out, baby and all. He could simply erase her existence with him with one bonfire, because he is “the more powerful” (Chopin,...
tracking img