The name Kate Chopin is synonymous with feminism. For generations she has caused women to about their situations in life and caused men to fear her because she made women analyze. She started writing after she was widowed and left with a plantation and children to rear while living in a male society. Instead of remarrying just to save the plantation, she chose to stay single and move from Louisiana with her children to her hometown in Missouri. Her physician advised her to write to overcome her depression.
Little did anyone know that this advice would lead to the writing career of one of the foremost American female writers. From the beginning, men saw her stories and novels as threatening. It wasn’t until after her death that she was recognized for the talented writer that she really was. The reason the men of her generation was her feminist themes. Two examples where this strong theme is evident are “The Storm” and The Awakening.
Chopin’s story “The Storm” is, as the title suggest, about sexual tensions of a repressive waera. It was considered scandalous for a female from the privileged class to even entertain the thought of sexual tension during the Victorian Era, and especially to write about it. The storm deals with two people, Alcee and Calixta, who were in love during their youth. They go on to marry others that society says are right for them.
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They feel trapped by the rules of society and still desire each other. The reader is introduced to Calixta at their home, sewing and doing other household chores, "unaware that the storm is coming." This suggests to Wilson that "her sexuality is repressed by the constraints of her marriage and society’s view of women, represented in this passage by the housework." Airing out on the porch are her husband’s Sunday clothes, which Wilson says "allude to society in the form of the church." The story continues with other illustrations using the storm until, finally, after Alcee and Calixta’s sexual encounter, the storm finally begins to pass and everything in the world seems renewed and fresh. (Wilson 2)
In The Awakening the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, is a young woman married to a businessman, but she is dissatisfied with her marriage. In her society this idea was considered unthinkable. She wants to wants to retain her individuality, her artistry, and to be sexually fulfilled. In her novel, she seeks an identity for women that is neither wife nor mother. To achieve this end, she incorporates progressive ideas of androgyny and female-female intimacy into her writing; yet ultimately the text, through characters who cannot escape essentialist and sentimental ideologies, demonstrates the failure of her attempt. (McDonald) In fact, the pressures of society of that era leads to the suicide of the protagonist.
Kate Chopin dared to write about topics that were groundbreaking for women in the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds. During this time women weren’t even capable of having enough knowledge to vote. If a woman chose any path in life that did not include marriage, then she was seen as a failure. In her writing, Chopin was groundbreaking in the area of feminism. The questions that are raised by the articles used for this essay, is where did she get the courage to tackle the topics that she did, and why didn’t more women join here in their craft?
Faust, Langdon Lynn. American Women Writers. New York: Inger. 1983.
McDonald, Erin E. "NECESSARILY VAGUE": KATE CHOPIN'S GENDER-AWAKENING.
24, May, 1999, http://www.womenwriters.net/domesticgoddess/macdonald.html
Wilson, Robert. "Feminine Sexuality and Passion: Kate Chopin’s ‘The Storm.’" The University
of British Columbia, October 22, 1992. http://www.interchg.obc.ca/rw/eng304-1.htm.
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