Who comes to mind when the term “American author” is mentioned? A lot of female authors of today would say Kate Chopin, one of the most independent writers of the nineteenth century. Although Kate Chopin didn’t live to see her work re-published, she is an important author to study because her stories are influential, her ambition arouses her readers, and her point of view supports independent women. Unlike most of the women during her time period, Chopin didn’t agree on letting the men be in control.
After a couple of her stories were published in Vogue Magazine, like “Desiree’s Baby” and “A Pair of Silk Stockings”, people began to start liking Chopin’s short stories (Powell). Vogue had even quoted how they “admired her brains and beauty” (Powell). It wasn’t until Chopin decided to give more of her belief of independence and write her first novel “The Awakening” for people of that time to start disliking her. Publishers cited what they considered “promotion of female self-assertion and sexual liberation” (Chopin, Kate – Introduction).
Libraries banned Chopin and her friends shunned her as her reputation started to fall. Kate Chopin may influence women today, but during her social period she wasn’t looked upon by many. Born into a prominent St. Louis family, Chopin was influenced by her mother and great-grandmother after the death of her father. Her family descended from French-Creole pioneers and that also influenced her to be involved with music, school, and arts (Kate Chopin: The Awakening, The Storm, Stories, Biography). Chopin graduated from a convent school at age seventeen (Kate Chopin).
In 1870 she married Oscar Chopin, who was also Creole descent, and they had six children. His death in 1883 was when Kate Chopin decided to become more serious about writing (Kate Chopin). She sold all the land her and her husband owned and moved back to St. Louis with her mother. Family friends who found her letters entertaining encouraged her to “write professionally” (Chopin, Kate – Introduction). Chopin started writing short stories and eventually began having her stories published in periodicals. Popular American periodicals published Kate Chopin, such as America, Vogue, and the Atlantic (Powell).
Her collections “Bayou Folk” and “A Night in Acadie” made her reputation grow as an important colorist at the time (Chopin, Kate – Introduction). Chopin started writing about her husband’s death and her response to it. After trying to publish “The Awakening” she was immediately rejected because during the time it wasn’t appropriate. The novel subjected as female sexuality and adultery (Chopin, Kate – Introduction). Her reputation declined greatly after that and Chopin wanted to give up on writing all together. Now that all her work is republished, people find it very inspiring, especially women.
Critics today say that “her work is focused on the pioneering use of psychological realism, symbolic imagery, and sensual themes” (Chopin, Kate – Introduction). A large amount of female writers today are encouraged by Chopin’s short stories, novels, and essays. One of Kate Chopin’s most famous short stories is “The Story of an Hour”. The main character, Mrs. Mallard finds out her husband just died. She didn’t hear the bad news the same as most widows would have. Finally she could do what she wanted without anyone else telling her what to do, is the way she saw it.
She was still young with a pretty face and she wanted to show it off. She kept whispering “free, body and soul free” (Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening). Mrs. Mallard started planning the days ahead of her. All of those days would be her own days to live by. As she opened the door to jump straight to all her new opportunities, there stood Mr. Mallard. Mrs. Mallard fell over, when the doctor came he said she had died of a heart disease. She enjoyed feeling independent and it when she found out it could no longer be she collapsed.
Although “The Story of an Hour” didn’t have a happily ever after ending, Kate Chopin showed her true meaning of the short story by using symbolism, comparison, and assertiveness (Chopin, Kate – Introduction). When Mr. Mallard died it was symbolic for Oscar Chopin, and how Kate herself felt as a woman afterwards. After the death, the story describes Mrs. Mallard looking out the window and everything looks like there’s more freedom, which is also symbolic for herself having more freedom without her husband telling her what to do.
Chopin uses comparison in her stories to show her readers what she’s been through and prove independence is important. In “The Story of an Hour”, not only did the author’s and Mrs. Mallard’s husbands die, but they have the same attitude about the situation (Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening). Chopin uses comparison with the character and herself to show what she really means and make it easier to describe the theme. Kate Chopin is most known for her assertiveness in this particular story and without it she may not be as well known today.
She spoke her feelings and true meanings through this action and that’s what led her to be so independent. Chopin knew people would frown upon this quality, but it was honesty. During the time Kate Chopin tried publishing her work, the morals were different than they are now. Her stories, to a lot of people, are very influential. Commentators have noted that “her influence on later feminist writing and consider her a major American short story writer” (Chopin, Kate – Introduction). Her work encourages people to stand up for what they believe in, regardless of what people think of them for doing so.
Also to let her readers feel freedom and that everyone is equal. A handful of her short stories have the same plot and story, but they all have different meanings in which influence writers today to strive for what they believe in. After “The Awakening”, people believed that it aroused the readers. Chopin didn’t intentionally want for this to happen, but she wasn’t like most women of that time. Short story after short story, her work became more visual and exciting. Of course during her time no one liked it, but now the excitement in her stories makes one of the most important qualities.
At the time, it was different from anything anyone has ever read. A woman’s freedom, which so many people took the wrong way, was a huge difference and conflict at the time (Chopin, Kate – Introduction). Many say she “broke a new ground of literature” (Powell). It’s Chopin’s inspiring excitement that arouses her readers and makes them want to come back for more. Most of what has been written about Kate Chopin is feminist in nature or is focused on women’s positions in society (Powell). The late 19th century, no women were independent.
Kate Chopin took a stand and that’s all she wrote about. After her husband’s death, she feels like she has more freedom and independence. Someone not telling her what to do all the time; what she’s been wanting so badly. Her work helps women recognize the consequences of action, and helps them find individual freedom (Kate Chopin: The Awakening, The Storm, Stories, Biography). Female writers look up to her greatly because of how she was able to take a stand and speak her mind, without caring what people thought of her.
She was one of the first women in her century to write outspoken fiction literature, revolting against tradition and authority (Chopin, Kate – Introduction). Chopin’s highly respected as a writer through the understanding of all the complications to get her word out for woman independence (Powell). Through her influential stories, ambition, and support of independent women, she became an inspiring American author. It may’ve took society half a century to grasp what Kate Chopin accomplished, but now she is finally known as a strong independent woman, and that’s all she wanted to be known for.
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