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Taking On A New Perspective Essay

1105 words - 5 pages

Though patriarchal attitudes dominated the minds of the American people during the nineteenth century, Kate Chopin’s work encouraged women to look at their circumstances from a critical point of view, one in which women were unfairly treated, unable to fully embrace their feminine ideas, and express their own desires. In addressing how her female characters cope in various domestic settings, Chopin show how they can have a voice and exercise agency along with the consequences of their “rebellion” from social norms. Chopin was able to write the short stories as such due to her own unconventional upbringing and late lifestyle.
Before she was known as Kate Chopin, she was born as Katherine O’Flaherty in St. Louis, Missouri on February 8, 1851 to Thomas and Eliza O’Flaherty. Her mother was of French-Creole descent, while her father was a native of Ireland. Unfortunately, her father was killed in a train accident when she was a little girl and she lived in an untraditional matriarchal household made up of her widowed great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother. Chopin would then obtain her formal education at the Academy of the Sacred Heart – St. Louis were “it mixed women’s wisdom, rigorous intellectual challenges, homely chores, and the celebration of women” (Toth, “Unveiling Kate” 15). Chopin was taught to think independently, but to also be acquiescent to men so although Chopin grew up surrounded by strong women, it did not prepare her “to accept completely the limitations on a woman’s autonomy that have traditionally accompanied wifehood.” However, all of her education and experiences only added to the irony of her happy marriage, just like in her stories.
In the nineteenth century, American society promoted the growth of the “Cult of Domesticity” – the idea that there should be public and private spheres of society. Alison Kemper, literary scholar and critic, expounds: “the workplace was increasingly more centered outside of the home. Therefore, the family residence came to be regarded as a haven from the greed and corruption of the modern world. Many felt that women, as keepers of this refuge, should be set above, yet apart from, such a world” (11). Kate Chopin emphasized this facet of everyday life because this was the life she had to live and was exposed to the most. She was able to portray both sides of following the standards that society set and completely shedding them to do what she loved – writing as an individual with a sense of independence, intelligence and courage. Chopin’s work was undoubtedly was influenced by the principal attitudes that surrounded her about women and the importance of their independence. So much so, that it could be speculated that her work would not have been as radical if she had not experienced such strong female presences in her life for she would not have the courage to explore female unconventionality if she had not been surrounded by it herself. This is not to say that she would never had wrote if...

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