Throughout the years, many authors have pushed beyond safe to write about what is important. Rather than take the easy way out, they have gone beyond their peers in an attempt to write about something real. Kate Chopin was one of those authors. She wrote about women as they really think and wish to act. Her presentation of the female self has had an immense impact on breaking through conventional constraints placed on women.
Many critics wonder how Kate Chopin wrote so far ahead of her time. As a child, she was strongly influenced by the environment in which she grew up. After the death of her father at the age of five, she lived in a house run entirely by women (Louisiana). These women had a big impact on her view of the world. Chopin’s great-grandmother, her first teacher, recounted stories of her great-great grandmother who filed for divorce, had a child out of wedlock, and ran a highly successful keelboat line in St. Louis (Boren 18). However, her great-great grandmother was not the only independent woman in her family.
Many of the other women who influenced her life demonstrated independent lifestyles. Virtually all of her female relatives she was exposed to far outlived their husbands and never remarried (Toth 11). Chopin remained fascinated by the lives of her female ancestors as seen in several of her works that directly depict their life (Boren 18). The French nuns at Sacred Heart Convent that she attended as a child also held unconventional ideas of women, encouraging them to become educated and engage in intellectual activities (Louisiana). All of these women contributed to Kate Chopin’s view of women as independent, which she later voiced in her writings.
The majority of Chopin’s writing is in the form of short stories. Several in particular exemplify her stance on women’s rights. One of these stories, titled “The Story of an Hour”, portrays the feelings of a woman who feels constrained in her marriage (Heeden). After the main character, Louise Mallard, learns of her husband’s death, she catches a glimpse of freedom and cannot stand to go back to her dreary life (Heeden). When she discovers that her husband is in fact alive, her heart gives out and she dies.
This story was seen as controversial at the time Chopin wrote the piece. Magazines she submitted the story to described it as “a threat to family and home” (Heeden) “The Story of an Hour” can surely be read as a criticism of marriage, which traps women (Toth 10). Per Seyersted calls it Chopin’s “most startling picture of female self-assertion” (Skaggs 52). This story certainly made waves in the idea that women should be solely submissive and docile. As time would tell, it was only one of many.
Another story that follows this same way of thinking was entitled “Athénaïse”. The title character hates being married and runs away to New Orleans. She describes marriage as “a trap set for the feet of unwary and unsuspecting girls” (Boren 32). In this work, Kate Chopin presents...