The Awakening

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Kate Chopin was born in 1850 in St Louis, from an irish catholic father and a french creole mother and died in 1904. This half of century covers one of the most crucial periods in the history of the South America. The move from Antebellum (av. Guerre) society to a post-reconstruction south (12 years after the ‘Civil War’, from 1865 to 1877 . Note : The North won). The south lives this defeat like an invasion, a form of slavery. The South values : antislavery, large plantations, aristocratic way of life, the ideal of the Southern “belle” (chaste). The south tried to redefine itself and to recover from the trauma of the Civil War. Important landmark : Rise of Abolitionism, Civil War –(61-65), Reconstruction. * “It bled the south dry” – Ont laissé le sud exague. Southern people were at loss to redefine themselves, to find their places in the US Society dominated by Northern values, bondage (servitude). The theme of women’s bondage is omnipresent in Chopin’s fiction. For instance, with the parrot in cell : Edna, part of a world that’s still looking for his own identity. A very instable world. She’s struggling to find a place for herself in this society after throwing off the yawk of slavery. * The guilded age : of railroad barons, of entrepreneurs, economic speculation. Also known as Gold age because the main standard was gold. Chopin’s values were at variance (aller à l’encontre) with those of the GA. What mattered at that time was speed (Train), financial push. Social ambitions, represented with Léonce Pontellier. Léonce is the representation of the Guilded Age, he is obsessed with making money, accumulating riches, keeping in touch with important people, high society, who could be useful to him. He’s constantly saving appearances, for instance when Edna leaves the home, he only thinks about neighbor’s opinion. He puts up a notice in the paper to announce that his house is being redecorated. * The Women’s movement: wrote the book at the time when the Women’s movement had gained huge momentum (élan) in American Society. The fight for emancipation emerged in the North East, closely linked with the anti-slavery movement (clashed with Southern values). “White women and the ideal they have been associated with stood as a bulwark (rampart) against social and racial chaos.”It was very important that women should perpetuate this ideal image of the “angel in the house”. Otherwise, all of the Southern values would collapse. Close link between Gender relation. Chopin on Black People : in her other short stories, KC was the first American women author to describe a black man as beautiful. Other Louisiana writers wrote about happy slaves only. She broached (aborder) other more dary subjects, like friendship between white and black people, black man helping a white woman escaping a brutal husband. She crossed the “color line” : she saw black people as individuals( Désirées’ Baby) Theme : Misgeneration = Mix of the races. Decade 1890 : tremendous changes. Impact of the works of Darwin, Spencer and Huxley. Theory of Evolution. Fought to make themselves heard. 1890 : Elizabeth Star* gaved a speech entitled Solitude of Self. “ The isolution of every human should and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings.” = Edna’s credo. Female passion : considered as immoral and unhealthy. People were scandalized by the first long embrace in a film. “ The John-Rice-May Irwin kiss 1856”. Some widows or divorced women could be found at that time, but their salvation was ensured by a second marriage. Kate O’Flaherty’s Education :

* A woman’s world, with no men. Her father died when she was 5. Her maternal grandmother, Victoire Charleville, lived with the family until her death in 1863 when Kate was 13. It took her great pride in teaching little Kate (how to be self-reliant). She insisted that Kate speak French to her, she also gave her piano lessons. Another figure, her...
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