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Kate Chopin: The Story Of An Hour (1894)

1182 words - 5 pages

Kate Chopin was a forgotten American voice until her literary reputation was resuscitated by critics in the 1950s. Today her novel The Awakening (1899) the story of a sensual, determined woman who insists on her independence, is widely read and highly honored, a feminist work which was decidedly ahead of its time. Born Katherine O'FIaherty into an upper-middle-class family in St. Louis, she married Oscar Chopin when she was twenty and moved to her husband's home in Louisiana. In the ten years that she resided in Louisiana she was aware of and receptive to Creole, Cajun, black, and Indian cultures, and when she later came to write fiction, she would incorporate people from these cultures in her work, especially her short stories. When her husband died as a young man, Kate Chopin returned to St. Louis with her six children. Financially secure, she began writing fiction as best she could while rearing her children. She is a good example of an American realist, someone trying to represent life the way it actually is lived, and she acknowledged her debt to the contemporary French naturalists Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant.Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband's friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard's name leading the list of "killed." He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.She was young, with a fair, calm...

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