Emergence of a New Woman in Kate Chopin’s Short Stories
The turning of the 19th century instilled a desire in all women to be free and liberated from their husbands. They desired freedom, liberation and happiness. Such characteristics were portrayed throughout the short stories written by Kate Chopin. For the majority of Kate Chopin’s life, she was brought up without a male figure and was constantly surrounded by females (Toth, 1999). Kate Chopin was a woman whose feminist viewpoints were far ahead of her times, which of course garnered her more than her share of criticism. In a time when women were expected to behave "properly" and sexual desire was considered to be something only experienced by men, Chopin spoke with exceptional openness about human sexuality (Skaggs, 1985). “She criticized society for its extreme close-mindedness in a time when righteousness was considered to be an attribute, and she helped to generate more enlightened attitudes among both the women and men of her time.”(Toth, 1999) The reason for such themes to be brought up in her works of literature is because she grew up in a female dominated environment where she was not a stereotypical product of her times and where she did not conform to the societal pressure of traditional female roles in a marriage.
Various stories written by Kate Chopin have the recurring theme of freedom and a New Woman. The themes represented in the short story, “Regret” can also be contributed to this theme. Throughout the short story, Kate Chopin portrays to the audience a theme that demonstrates the negative correlation between marriage, children and freedom. Kate Chopin's story, "Regret," is about an unmarried, middle-aged woman who is suddenly given the responsibility of caring for a neighbor's small children. In this short story, the author speaks of a protagonist who goes through her entire life never depending on men and enjoying her independence and liberation (Chopin, “Regret” 259). However, the...
Cited: Chopin, Kate. “Regret.” Short Fiction: Classic and Contemporary. 6th ed. Ed. Charles Bohner and Lyman Grant. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006. 259-262.
_______. “A Respectable Woman.” Short Fiction: Classic and Contemporary. 6th ed. Ed. Charles Bohner and Lyman Grant. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006. 263-266.
_______. “The Story of an Hour.” Short Fiction: Classic and Contemporary. 6th ed. Ed. Charles Bohner and Lyman Grant. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006. 267-269.
_______. “The Storm.” Complete novels and stories. New York: Library of America by Penguin Putnam, 2002. 926-929.
Rocks, James E. “Kate Chopin’s Ironic Vision.” Revue de Louisane 1.2 (1972): 110-120.
Rpt. In Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Vol. 14. Detroit: Gale, 1984.
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