KATE CHOPIN: BOLD WRITER AHEAD OF HER TIME
THE AWAKENING, ATHENAISE: A STORY OF A TEMPERAMENT,
AT THE CADIAN BALL, & THE STORM
Elizabeth Fox Genovese of Emory University shared in a PBS interview that "She [Kate Chopin] was very important as one of the earliest examples of modernism in the United States or, if you wish, the cutting edge of modernism in American literature" (PBS Interviews). Kate Chopin published At Fault, her first novel, in 1890 and The Awakening, her last novel, in 1898 (Guilds 924). During these years Chopin wrote numerous other works and most, like At Fault and The Awakening, centered around upper-middle class Creole or French women involved in womanly uncertainties; such as, extramarital affairs, acceptable behavior in society for females, duties as a wife, responsibilities as a mother, and religious beliefs. Chopin was an extraordinary woman, and no indication was made, during the investigation of this research paper, reflecting her having regrets regarding her position as a wife or mother. This document is an attempt at comparing the issues the main characters experienced and presenting Chopin's unique skill in writing about the culture she observed during her years of living in Louisiana. The tragedy of this author's existence is that during her life the literary world did not recognize such exceptional skill.
This author was born Katherine (Kate) O'Flaherty Chopin in February of 1850 to a father of Irish descent and a Creole (French settlers of the southern United States, esp. Louisiana) mother (Guilds 293). Chopin was a bicultural mixture of strength. Due to measures beyond her control, she grows up in a life surrounded by strong willed women. These ladies were passionate women Chopin loved and respected; her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother. They each added their individual spice of life to a brew of pure womanhood. Thus, seasoning a woman that would become one of the most influential, controversial female authors in American history. Kate Chopin created genuine works exposing the innermost conflicts women of the late 1800's were experiencing. The heroines of her fictional stories were strong, yet confused, women searching for a meaning behind the spirit that penetrated their very souls.
Living a normal youth, Chopin immediately suffers the loss of her father in 1855, at the young age of five. This is later followed by another extremely difficult year in 1863 when she loses two people she loved very much, her great-grandmother, Victoire Verdon Charleville, and her half-brother, George O'Flaherty, a Confederate soldier. Chopin goes on to marry at the age of 20 to Oscar Chopin and bears 6 children. Mr. Chopin dies of malaria after 12 years of marriage and, lastly, her mother passes three years after Mr. Chopin. Chopin is devastated, left to raise 6 young children alone. Thus, began a writer's career based on an essential need to support her family.
The Awakening was Chopin's major work and the most recognized in the literary world. This story centered around Edna Pontellier, a woman searching for meaning of self' in a society that held distinct understandings of a woman's role in life, as a wife, mother, and woman. Edna didn't excel in any of these areas by any stretch of the imagination. Chopin wrote this character in a form that was difficult to accept during the year it was published, 1899. This fact caused most critics to negatively examine her best work. Chopin endured extreme humiliation for a creation that is in current day considered an excellent novel. The intriguing characters supporting the lead role are a clear array of life during this era and the location it is written about.
Leonce Pontellier loved his wife, although, his concern for her was questionably expressed by the author. Leonce valued his wife as property and he consider her the sole object of his existence (Culley 7). He felt he had made a good...
Bibliography: Chopin, Kate. "At the ‘Cadian Ball." The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 5th ed. 2 vols. Ed.. Nina Baym. New York: W. W. Norton , 1998. 457-463.
Chopin, Kate. "The Storm." The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 5th ed. 2 vols. Ed.. Nina Baym. New York: W. W. Norton , 1998. 464-467.
Guilds, John Caldwell. "Nineteenth-Century Southern Fiction" Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company, Columbus, OH, 1970.
Koloshi, Bernard. "KATE CHOPIN – A Study of the Short Fiction" Twayne Publishers, New York, 1996
Bernard Koloshi 's gives an analysis of Chopin 's works from a variety of approaches as literature was identified with in the early 1900 's
PBS: Kate Chopin – A Re-Awakening: Interviews. Louisiana Educational Television Authority, 1998, n. page. http://www.pbs.org/katechopin/interviews.html
This site, based on a television presentation by the PBS, gives further information on Chopin
Petry, Alice Hall. "Critical Essays on KATE CHOPIN". G. K. Hall & Co., New York, 1996.
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