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Kate Chopin

.. oment when Kate was faced with another death. In June 1885, her mother had died. Chopin was “literally prostrate with grief” (Unger 207). “In later years, Chopin’s daughter would sum up the effect upon her mothers character: When I speak of my mothers keen sense of humor and of her habit of looking on the amusing side of everything. I dont want to give the impression of her being joyous, for she was on the contrary rather a sad nature.. I think the tragic death of her father early in her life, of her much beloved brothers, the loss of her young husband and her mother, left a stamp of sadness on her which was never lost(Unger 207). Chopin began writing fiction very seriously in 1889.

No one knows exactly why she took up her pen, but several influences probably contributed. First, she had always been a voracious reader; second, she needed to provide for her large family; third, her many friends with literary interests, especially Dr. Fredrick Kolbenheyer, encouraged her; and finally, she had through almost 39 years living learned some things she wanted to say (Skaggs 4). She wrote her first story “Wiser than a God,” in 1889. She had written three other stories by the end of 1889. She published her first novel, At Fault, in 1890 at her own expense.

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She made good progress until she wrote, The Awakening, her second novel on April 2, 1899. It was ahead of its time by suggesting a sinful sexual maturity in a young married woman. It was given a very harsh critical reputation and thus banned for many years. “Certainly her friend Dr. Kolenheyer influenced her significantly, apparently she was active in cultural organizations and maintained something of a salon during the 1890s; yet the St. Louis Fine Arts Club ostracized her after the publication of The Awakening” (Skaggs 4).

Chopin was 39 years old when she published her first story. “Her unusual degree of personal maturity before beginning to write may explain the speed with which she found her focus. Few writers have moved so far so rapidly as she did between writing At Fault in 1889-1890 and The Awakening in 1897-1898” (Skaggs 4). Kate Chopin was a beautiful young woman. She has a charming girlish figure, and at the time she was writing, the premature gray of her black hair contrasted her brilliant brown eyes.

She has a fair complexion to her small plump figure which caused her friends to compare her to a beautiful French marquise. She is an avid listener and is a quiet and stimulating woman. “As for her method of composition the effortless ease of her style make plausible the account of how she wrote a story as soon as the theme occurred to her, recopied it, and sent it off with practically no revision” (Johnson 91). A well read and loved “Story of an Hour,” is about a woman with heart trouble. She hears of the death of her husband but doesnt die over this.

Instead she dies at the sight of him being alive. This short story was published in 1894. The Criticism of “The Story of an Hour”, it begins with the complexities of marriage. (April 1894-as elsewhere, the date indicated the date of composition as determined by Per Seyersted in Works), one of her most powerful efforts, offers a provocative glimpse of the complexities in marriage. Running to a scant three pages, it tells of Mrs.

Mallards reaction to the sudden and unexpected news that her husband has been killed in a railroad disaster. “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease-of joy that kills.” The story concludes upon just that note. There is no omniscient voice to explain or moralize Mrs. Mallards hysteric joy. It merely stands, stark and matter-of-fact (Unger 212-213). First published in 1969, Kates vivid story, “The Storm,” is about a married woman who suddenly commits adultery.

“She responds not with shame but with joy at her sexual awakening and continued her love for her husband” (Magill 390). In this 5-part short story, the narrative structure allows Chopin to present varying perspectives on a single situation as a means of suggesting that “reality” is, at best, relative. The situation is simple enough: Calixtas husband, Bobinot, and her son, Bibi, are in town when a storm hits; alone at home, Calixta is about to shut the windows and doors against the storm when her former lover, Alcee Laballiere, rides into the yard seeking shelter. While the storm rages, Calixta and Alcee renew their passionate feelings for one another; their desire finally leads them into making love. When the storm abates, Alcee departs and Calixta welcomes her family back home. The story concludes, “So the storm passed and everyone was happy.(Magill 391) Like all Chopins best fiction, “The Storm” does not offer pat moral truisms, indeed, the shocking element of this storys conclusion is that the retribution one might expect for the act of adultery never comes.

In section two, the crucial love scene is played out against ironic allusions to Christian symbolism: the assumption, and immaculate dove, a lily, and the passion. Chopin offers a moral tale in which a womans experience is not condemned but celebrated and in which she uses that experience not to abandon her family but to accept them with a renewed sense of commitment. Unlike The Awakening, “The Storm” allows a woman to gain personal fulfillment and to remain happily married. As in most naturalistic fiction, morality-like reality-is relative (Magill 391). The Awakening is about the repressive world of 19th century America.

This is where a young woman leads a regular, conventional life of an upper-class wife and mother. When she turns 28, she finds herself confused about life in general. She is so suffocated that she is willing to do anything, including defying Louisiana Creole morals, to gain spiritual independence. She awakens herself but never finds acceptable means of spiritual fulfillment. Her awakening even continues to her death.

Kate Chopins The Awakening has become one of the classics of feminist literature because of its theme of sexual awakening and a womans right to freedom of choice in matters of love (Magill 159). Chopin was ahead of her time. Her novel, The Awakening met with critical abuse and public denunciation. A reviewer writing for the magazine “Public Opinion” in 1899 stated that he was “Well satisfied” with Ednas suicide because she deserved to die for her immoral behavior. Chopin never wrote another novel and gradually gave up writing altogether (Magill 159).

After her devastating critical reputation from The Awakening, Chopins writing career was virtually over. The Awakening went out of print until 1969 when Per Seyersted issued in two volumes, The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. It was only five years after her publication of The Awakening that Kate Chopin died. She died of a stroke cause by a brain hemorrhage. After her death on August 20th, 1904, her work was forgotten and all but impossible to obtain.

She lived a life of death, love, success and failure. In the end she lived an all-in-all achieving life.


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