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Naturalism And Kate Chopin Essay

882 words - 4 pages

The writing of Kate Chopin shows elements of both Realism and Naturalism; Chopin’s characters are dynamic, the story is almost nearly always open ended, and there is a definite experience of the commonplace - textbook characteristics of Realism; however, these same characters are displayed with an underlying determinism and cover taboo topics - denoting a stronger sense of Naturalism (Scheidenhelm). Therefore, despite how it may appear at first, Kate Chopin is not an author of the Realism genre but instead is part of the Naturalism genre.

An excellent article by Richard Lehan, “Literary Naturalism and Its Transformations,” describes the “naturalistic narrative”: “There is thus a romantic dilemma at the heart of a naturalistic narrative: naturalistic characters pursue an ideal that puts them in motion at the same time that it is beyond achieving.” (228) This brings us square into the plot of Chopin’s last published, and perhaps most well-known work - “The Awakening” (Chopin 881-1002); the main character was faced with a conflict, loss, and ostracization due to her desire to be something other than what society expected of her. In a separate article by Linda Kornasky for Angelo State University, she explains some of the troubles Chopin faced when she published “The Awakening”:
During the recovery process for The Awakening, Kate Chopin's critics frequently expressed their disappointment that this novel, which had been mischaracterized as trivial and/or obscene by many reviewers...and thus it did not immediately become an important literary milestone to novelists then coming of age. (197)
As mentioned in the introduction, a hallmark of a naturalistic tale was covering taboo topics in a work. “The Awakening” covers many topics that at the time would have been considered taboo - namely extramarital affairs and the independence of a woman.

In fact, perhaps due to the reaction to “The Awakening,” the follow-up to “At the ‘Cadian Ball” (Chopin 219-227) was not published until many years after her death; in “The Storm” (Chopin 292-596) we revisit Calixta, Bobinôt, and Alcée many years after the events of “At the ‘Cadian Ball” and mostly see how unhappy and discontent Calixta is with her life. The story once again covered the topic of extramarital affairs (TABOO), though it is distinctly different than the kind found inside “The Awakening” - the congress was portrayed as something that they could not have stopped no matter how they tried, and something that they could not make permanent due to their stations in life. Classic determinism, and as it takes the forefront in the story rather than any of the free-will and real portrayal of characters,...

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