Kate Chopin And Awakening A Style of her Own Kate Chopin uses symbolism and realism to enhance her theme of social conflict in the lives of women during the nineteenth century. These conflicts seemed to travel from one woman to the next, unnoticed by the rest of society. Chopin used these conflicts as a basis for all of her short stories and novels. This inevitably started turmoil about issues that never were brought out before. This, in turn, opened the eyes of society to the individuality of women.
In The Awakening, by Chopin, a woman named Edna realizes that she is an individual and has individual feelings. She and her family lived at Grand Isle during the summer and her husband, Leonce, goes to the city every week, and is at Grand Isle during the weekend. This allows Edna the freedom to do and think what she pleases. A young man named Robert, lives at Grand Isle during the summer also. He flirts continuously with Edna, and she seems to like this sort of attention. Robert and Edna always went to the waterhole on the hot summer days to cool off. Of course, they would never go when the sun was high in the sky.
Then, Robert would walk Edna back to her house and they would talk for hours. Everyone at Grand Isle could see the attractions between Edna and Robert, even Robert. Edna, on the other hand, did not see this attraction immediately. When Robert leaves for the Rio Grande, Edna is left feeling depressed and lonely. She decides that Robert wants nothing more to do with her, since he has written everyone letters of his journey except her. At this time, Edna is now living back in the city on Esplanade Street. Her husband is abroad and her children are visiting family.
She is all alone. This allows Edna more freedom to meet new people without her husband right next to her. This was normal for Edna since her husband was often tending to business. During time that Leonce was away, Edna realizes that her life was not how she wanted it to be. While alone Edna “awakens” to the fact that she is an individual and has individual feelings.
She also realizes she does not love her husband as she vowed to. At this point Edna knew what she wanted, and it was not marriage to Leonce, but divorce. She then moves out of her house without telling her husband. When she does tell Leonce, he tells everyone that he and Edna were merely remodeling the house and Edna needed a place to stay. He says this because he cannot stop her, being across an ocean. Leonces lies just go to show that men had more important things to do in life than please their wives.
Wives were the bearer of their children and rarely the apple of their husbands eyes. Edna inevitably tells her women friends what is really happening; that she is leaving her husband. All of these women tell her of what she is about to do to her life, reputation, and her children. Edna feels that she should come before her husband, but walks a thin line when asked if she puts her children before herself. When Robert returns to see Edna, she is full of excitement. When Robert learns that she lives alone and is away form Leonce, they share a special moment together.
It was not accepted, during the nineteenth century, for women to divorce and remarry, Edna felt torn and weak. She does not know what to do with her life. In the end, She walks into the ocean and swims until she can swim no further. It is inferred, in this, that Edna drowns. In Ednas drowning there is a lot of symbolism.
Her death shows, in an odd way, the birth of womens freedom of individuality. Her choice was to sacrifice her life because her fight for individuality and freedom had failed. She knew she would never be accepted being the extremist that society would label her as. Yet, now everyday, you see women who have divorced and remarried. Her death was a plea for women to understand their individuality and freedom.
In “Desirees Baby” Chopin uses themes, such as, independence of women and marriage between people of two different races. When Desirees husband notices that his child has a black tint to him, he feels that she has hidden something from him. Desirees feelings overcome her and she drowns herself and her child. Again, symbolism is a powerful part of Chopin’s stories. Desirees suicide symbolizes the independence that women do not have because of a male dominated society. Women had few options, and one of them was, unfortunately, death. In “The Storm” Chopin again uses symbolism to emphasize the main event of the plot.
In this particular story a storm begins, and all of the sudden everyone in the house begins in an uproar of commotion. A boy gets lost and everyone is trying to help; yet, no one can help. When the storm ends the commotion also ends, the boy is found and everyone is calm. The storm is used to show the exaggeration of the commotion and calmness of the household. This particular story shows the significance of Chopins use of symbolism to emphasize a particular point of a story. Chopins realistic tone is revealed in many ways. One way is the language or slang that she uses to make the reader feel as if he/she is in the conversation, just listening, not reading words. “At the Cadian Ball” is one of the stories that portrays this tone. For example, Chopin uses words such as, “wen” and, “betta make hase then its mos day” to illustrate the dialect of southern Creoles.
This creates a more natural style in the short story. Chopin uses very little variation between story lines. She uses names such as Alc?e and Esplanade Street as important parts of many stories. Grand Isle also seems to be a repeated destination in many of her writings. The realistic style that Chopin uses are also very similar. She uses a southern dialect and the French language frequently.
This all shows that Chopin only writes about people and places that she is most familiar with which makes the writing more realistic. When an author writes about something they are familiar with, they know first hand the issues or the characters, and therefore, the plot is much more thought out. Chopins writing, when published in the nineteenth century, was not accepted as good, wholesome, literature. “In her own city of St. Louis the libraries refused to circulate the book, and the Fine Arts Club denied her membership because of it. Kate Chopin was not merely rejected; she was insulted..” (Ziff, p 486).
Some critics believe that Chopins, The Awakening, is all about sex. Others believe that it is about womens social and personal problems. After reading just The Awakening, I may have thought it was just about sex. However, after reading many of her other short stories and seeing the connection among all of them, I believe that Chopins focus is on womens hardships in life. Chopin uses many stylistic devices to claim a realistic style and to show problems in the lives of women during the nineteenth century. She uses the unnoticed problems in womens lives to inform society.
She also uses real situations to show the significance of these issues. Chopins style is like no other author, which is what makes her a writer of literary merit. Bibliography Chopin, Kate. The Awakening and Selected Short Stories. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1984.
Klein, Leonard S. (editor). The Critical Temper. New York, NY: Fredrick Ungar Publishing Co., 1979. Works Cited Chopin, Kate. The Awakening and Selected Short Stories.
New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1984. Ziff, Larzer. “Life and Times of a Lost Generation.” The Critical Temper. Ed. L.S.
Klein. New York: Temper, 1986. 486 487.