The Shocking Ideas of The Awakening
Ideas that resist existing social boundaries commonly are rejected at first, because people don’t want to wake up from their reliable lives. Kate Chopin, however, believed that an awakening was in order, and she attempted to open the eyes of society through her novel The Awakening. The public’s reaction to Chopin’s novel was not one of acceptance. "Too strong a drink for moral babies, and should be labeled ‘poison,’" was the how the Republic described Chopin's work (Seyersted 174). This is how society viewed a novel that is intended to give people insight into the minds and feelings of women as human beings. Of course, over the years, society grew to not only accept Chopin’s ideas, but to embrace them as part of the American way of life.
Kate O'Flaherty Chopin was raised in St. Louis in the 1850's and 1860's. Chopin maintained a close relationship with her French grandmother during this time, which in turn lead to her appreciation of French writers. When she was five years old, Chopin’s father, Thomas O’Flaherty died. Chopin needed a father figure in her life, so her mother stepped up to fill his shoes and be the head of the household. Chopin grew up knowing that women could be strong and intelligent and that they did not have to be submissive creatures (Skaggs 2). She loved her mother and considered her "A woman of great beauty, intelligence, and personal magnetism" (Seyersted 14).
Growing up around independent women, however, did not dissuade her from marriage. Her marriage to Oscar Chopin by all accounts was a happy one. Taking on the role of a high society lady as well as wife and new mother, Chopin fit in well with the New Orleans culture. She enjoyed the Louisiana atmosphere so well that most of her writings were based here. Chopin continued living in Louisiana raising her six young children until the sudden death of her husband brought her back to St., Louis (Skaggs 3).
Oscar Chopin died while their youngest child, Lelia was only three. Soon after Chopin moved her family to St. Louis to be with her dying mother. In the grief of her losses Chopin had to rediscover who she was. This challenge came out in her writing of heroines searching for self-understanding (Skaggs 3). No longer Eliza O'Flaherty's daughter or Oscar Chopin's wife, Kate Chopin was forced to find a new role for herself. Her new role would be a writer.
A few key figures in her life influenced Chopin to write. Doctor Frederick Kolbemheyer was a life long friend on whose support she always relied. Raised in Austria and then exiled for his beliefs, Kolbemheyer was a philosopher and encouraged Chopin to read Darwin, Haxley, and Spencer. Their beliefs were very similar and he must have supported her when she denounced the Catholic religion after her mother's death. The beloved friends wrote to each other often while Chopin was in Louisiana. Seeing the talent in her writing, Kolbemheyer encouraged Chopin to publish...