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The Awakening Kate Chopin Essay

1091 words - 4 pages

Critical Essay "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin"Kate Chopin was writing before the phrase "women's movement" had been coined"(Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography), but the stirrings of this twentieth century movement were beginning to simmer in the United States. Late 19th century customs demanded that woman be defined in relationship to the men in their life - wife, mother, daughter - and not as separate human beings with a defined-self outside their family relationships. Society strongly discouraged women's attempts to develop a separate and independent self. Kate Chopin's work was praised and admired until the publication of her novel "The Awakening" in 1899. The resentment and dislike that followed traveled throughout established literary cliques. The book was banned from certain libraries in her hometown of St. Louis and written off as having disagreeable glimpses of sensuality and "language unfit for publication"(Cambridge Literature: Resource Notes of "The Awakening"). Now, after a century the novel is appreciated more then ever because of its flawless example of modern day women's needs and potential, also the successful example it sets by proving that women are not to be mindless and unsophisticated.Born Kate O'Flaherty on February 8, 1851, Chopin was the daughter of an Irish father and a French-Creole mother. Their home was St. Louis, where her father was a successful businessman, but died in a train wreck when Kate was five years old. Chopin attended the St. Louis Academy of the Sacred Heart. She read many books and essays. This gave her a diverse background for thought. She met and fell in love with Oscar Chopin. They were married on June 9, 1870 and in October they moved to New Orleans. Eventually the mother of six, Kate dressed as she pleased, smoked, and explored the city on her own. She often ignored the more formal events of society but appeared successful at finding a balance between societal demands and her own needs. Her husband, Oscar supported his wife's independent spirit and often-unconventional ways. Oscar Chopin died of malaria, on December 10, 1882.Kate Chopin was saddened and depressed by the sudden death of her husband. In 1884, Chopin moved her family to her mother's home in St. Louis. She turned to her books, her friends, and eventually to her writing for support. "At Fault", her first novel, was published in 1890. "The Awakening", her second novel, was published in 1899 but it did not enjoy favorable reviews. She wrote little after this setback and died in 1904 of cerebral hemorrhage at age 53."The Awakening" is the story of one woman's struggle for self-identity. Edna Pontellier is a twenty-eight year old wife and mother of two children. Her husband, Leonce, is a successful New Orleans businessman with conventional expectations of his wife. The family summers at Grand Isle, a vacation resort on the Gulf. It is here that Edna begins her awakening. In addition to Edna, the novel centers on two other female characters....

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