Kate Chopin Essay

1592 words - 6 pages

Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin is an American writer of the late nineteenth century. She is known for her depictions of southern culture and of women's struggles for freedom. At this time in American history, women did not have a voice of their own and according to custom, they were to obey their father and husband. Generally, many women agreed to accept this customary way of life. Kate Chopin thought quite differently. The boldness Kate Chopin takes in portraying women in the late nineteenth century can be seen throughout The Awakening and other short stories. The following is an overview of her dramatic writing style.

Elaine Showalter states, "Chopin went boldly beyond the work of her precursors in writing about women's longing for sexual and personal emancipation." (170). Chopin said that she was not a feminist of a suffragist. She was not an activist and she never joined the women's suffrage movement or belonged to a female literary community. Chopin saw freedom as a matter of your won spirit or soul without constraints. She did not try to encourage the women's movement in her writing; rather, she wrote what she felt. In writing what she felt, Chopin came to believe that " a true artist defied tradition and rejected respectable morality and the conventions and formulas to literary success." (Showalter 171).

It could be said Chopin had a "literary awakening." In the early stages of Chopin's career, she tried to follow the literary advice and examples of others of her time. These efforts proved to be worthless. Chopin translated "Solitude", a story by Guy de Maupassant, in which Maupassant "escaped from tradition and authority…had entered into himself and looked out upon life though his own being and with his own eyes." (Seyested 701). Chopin did not want to imitate Maupassant; she just wanted to express herself in her writing the way he had done so in his.

In The Awakening Chopin seems to tell her story through the main character Edna Pontellier. Her breaking away from the conventions of literary domesticity is shown through Edna breaking away from the conventional feminine roles of wife and mother (Showalter 170). Kate Chopin shows boldness by taking the main characters and having them completely change their views on life. Edna is a young woman who discovers that her pampered married life is not what she wants. So she rebels to find fulfillment for her psychological, social, and sexual drives. Edna is married to Leonce Pontellier. Leonce is Edna's older husband who expects his wife to obey the region's social conventions. He sees Edna as a "piece of personal property" (Chopin The Awakening 2).

Chopin tells in the novel that Edna is "fond of her husband," with " no trace of passion or excessive and fictitious warmth" (18). Edna married Leonce primarily to secure a fatherly protector who would not make too many domestic, emotional, and sexual demands on her. Edna also has no motherly...

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