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Kate Chopin – 'the Awakening' Essay

4511 words - 18 pages

Kate Chopin - 'The Awakening'BiographyKate Chopin was born Katherine O'Flaherty in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1851. Her mother's family was Creole, descended from French settlers, and her father, а successful merchant, was an Irish immigrant. She was educated at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Louis beginning in 1860, five years after her father's accidental death, and was graduated in 1868. In 1870, she married Oscar Chopin, who took her to live in Louisiana, first in New Orleans and later in Natchitoches Parish, the setting for many of her stories. In 1882, Oscar died of swamp fever; Kate Chopin managed her husband's properties for а year and in 1884 returned to St. Louis. (Seyersted, 110-115) The next year her mother died, and in 1888 Chopin began writing out of а need for personal expression and to help support her family financially. Her stories appeared regularly in popular periodicals, and she published а novel, At Fault, in 1890. Bayou Folk, а collection of stories and sketches, appeared in 1894, the year her widely anthologized "The Story of an Hour" was written. А Night in Acadie followed, and she was identified as one of four outstanding literary figures in St. Louis by the Star-Times. Her celebrated novel, The Awakening, received hostile reviews that upset her, though reports about the book being banned were greatly exaggerated. She did, however, write relatively little after this controversy and died five years later in St. Louis, where she was attending the world's fair. (Boren et al, 3-5)Until the 1970's, Kate Chopin was known best literarily, if at all, as а "local colorist," primarily for her tales of life in New Orleans and rural Louisiana. Chopin manages in these stories (about two-thirds of her total output) to bring to life subtly the settings and personalities of her characters, usually Creoles (descendants of the original French settlers of Louisiana) or Cajuns (or Acadians, the French colonists who were exiled to Louisiana following the British conquest of Nova Scotia). What makes Chopin especially important for modern readers, however, is her insight into human characters and relationships in the context of their societies whether Creole, Cajun, or Anglo- Saxon-and into the social, emotional, and sexual roles of women within those societies.Chopin's desire and hope for female independence can be seen in two of her earliest stories, "Wiser Than а God" and "А Point at Issue!" (both 1889). In the first story, the heroine Paula Von Stoltz rejects an offer of marriage in order to begin а successful career as а concert pianist because music is the true sole passion of her life; it is an act which anticipates the actions of Edna Pontellier in The Awakening. In the second story, Eleanor Gail and Charles Faraday enter into а marriage based on reason and equality and pursue their individual careers in separate places. This arrangement works very well for...

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