Kate Chopin wrote for a reason and with a sense of passion and desire. She lived the way she wanted to and wrote what she felt, thought, and wanted to say. Kate wrote for many years and her popularity was extreme until critical disapproval of her novel, The Awakening, a story that portrayed women’s desires of independence and control of their own sexuality. Most men condemned this story, while women applauded her for it. Kate wrote with a sense of realism and naturalism and she created a voice that is unique and unmatched.
The voice gave a view of the female role in society and contributed to the beginning of the later feminist movements. In 1915, Fred Lewis Pattee wrote, “some of Chopin’s work is equal to the best that has been produced in France or even in America. She displayed what may be described as a native aptitude for narration amounting almost to genius” (qtd. in Amazon. com “About the Author”). Kate Chopin was a 19th century American author who cared about women and their rights. She was a bold writer who had a huge impact on how the world should treat women. On February 8, 1851, Katherine O’Flaherty was born in St.
Louis, Missouri. Kate was born to the parents of Thomas O’Flaherty and Eliza Faris. Her father was a wealthy Irish immigrant and a successful businessman. Sadly, Kate’s father died in a railway accident when she was only four years old. Kate’s childhood was influenced mostly by her mother and great-grandmother. Kate spent much time with her family’s Creole and mulatto slaves, becoming familiar with their dialects. She attended Sacred Heart convent where she was a very poor student, but an avid reader. At the age of eleven Kate’s great-grandmother as well as her half-brother died.
These two deaths caused Kate to seclude herself in the family attic to study more books (Authors and Artists par. 5). Kate’s schooling was irregular and she herself attributed her education more to her reading, than to the education she received at the Sacred Heart convent. At the age of seventeen she graduated with a passion for literature and storytelling. She spent two years as a belle in St. Louis society becoming aware of feminist social issues (World Biography par. 2). “She began to smoke cigarettes and wrote a feminist fable, ‘Emancipation.
She read and admired the works of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, and George Sand” (qtd, in Bloom 10). Kate preferred to spend time alone reading instead of attending socials all night. Although Kate spent a lot of time reading by herself, it did not stop her from writing what she saw in the world around her. In June 1870, Kate married a cotton trader and Creole named Oscar Chopin. Together they moved to New Orleans. While Oscar worked as a cotton factor and began handling sales, finances, and supplies for other plantation owners, Kate lived her care-free life (Authors and Artists par.7).
Kate began to write about what she saw. She adopted two strange habits for women; smoking cigarettes and walking unaccompanied through the city. Kate took on the demanding social and domestic schedule of a Southern aristocrat. These memories would later serve as material for her short stories (World Biography par. 2). In 1880 Kate and her family were forced to moves to her father-in-law’s home in Cloutierville, Louisiana’s Red River bayou region. Here they became active members of the Creole community. Sadly in 1883 Oscar died of swamp fever, forcing Kate to take over.
Kate came in contact with every part of the community, including the French-Acadian, Creole, and mulatto croppers who worked the plantation. These impressions later influenced her fiction (World Biography par. 2). After Oscar’s death Kate found herself stuck having to handle five children while $12,000 dollars in debt. Kate managed to run the family business until 1884 when she moved back to St. Louis. When she returned home she began writing about her life in Louisiana and this is when her career began. Kate settled in with her mother and began to write.
Within a year Kate’s mother died and Kate was left in a state of depression. Following the deaths of Oscar and Kate’s mother, Kate was consulted by a doctor. He encouraged Kate to write (World Biography par. 3). Many of Kate’s friends also found her letters entertaining and encouraged her to write short stories. She began to write about the Louisiana past. After being rejected many times Kate got her short stories published in the most popular American periodicals, including America, Vogue, and the Atlantic (World Biography par. 3).
Kate’s reputation grew because of her early success with Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie. Her first novel, At Fault, was published in 1890 in her home city. Nine years later Kate’s first poem, “If it Might Be,” was published. Kate wrote over one hundred short stories during the 1890s (Bloom 10). Kate was very successful, but she became known only as a local color writer and her qualities were overlooked. This did not stop Kate from writing. Kate wrote only one or two days each week and even then she only wrote in her living room while her children played.
Kate also had a salon in St. Louis where she hosted St. Louis celebrities (Authors and Artists par. 15). This is where Kate wrote many articles, short stories and periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, Criterion, Harper’s Young People, St. Louis Dispatch, and Vogue (Feminist Writers par. 1). Kate’s first collection reflects her skills as a local colorist and center on the loves of the Creoles and Acadians in her Parish. Many of Kate’s stories addressed many themes, including women’s emancipation and marital discord (Authors and Artists par 10).
“Considered one of the foremost Southern regionalist writers, Kate Chopin’s fiction details the culture in which she lived during her childhood and marriage” (qtd. in Feminist Writers par. 2). Kate published her final novel, The Awakening, in 1899. The Awakening is known as her masterpiece and is a seminal work in American feminist fiction. Fiction was Kate’s greatest strength (Authors and Artists par 18). In her stories of Bayou Folk, A Night in Acadie, and The Awakening Kate writes about the sexual, racial, and moral background of polite southern Louisiana life (Feminist Writers par 2).
The Awakening received many negative reviews because of the way Kate portrayed women and their desires. With the rejection of A Vocation and a Voice and the harsh reviews of The Awakening Kate’s career slowly began to end. Kate slowly began to abandon her career. After the publication of The Awakening Kate was rejected from certain social circles in St. Louis. She was also later rejected to getting other books published and the criticism caused her writing to slow down (Feminist Writers par. 6). In 1904 Kate became very ill; however, she was still interested in the World’s Fair in St. Louis.
After a day of exhaustion Kate collapsed with a cerebral hemorrhage. Two days later, on August 22, 1904, Kate sadly passed away (Authors and Artists par. 23). Today Kate is known through her interpretations of the Creoles in her collections Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie, and her second novel, The Awakening (American Biography par. 2). It took half a century for people to grasp what Kate Chopin had accomplished with her work. Kate was once just considered an author of local-color fiction. Today she is recognized for her examination of sexuality, individual freedom and the consequences of action (Authors and Artists par.10).
Kate was familiar with the newest developments in science and literature, and her aim was to describe man’s “immutable impulses. ” Kate wrote with balance and maturity, showing that women should have the same rights as men. Today Kate’s stories have become favored subjects among women critics. Kate’s work also has been recognized by critics in countries ranging from France to Japan (Authors and Artists par. 25). Because of The Awakening Kate abandoned writing because she faced critical abuse. Today this novel has grown to be respected and recognized as a masterpiece.
Today, The Awakening has become required reading for any student studying the history of women’s cultural oppression (Feminist Writers par. 2). Many authors today have helped show that Kate was a significant figure in American fiction, particularly feminist literature (Authors and Artists par. 2). Kate Chopin is known as one of the most important women in 19th century American fiction. Kate grew up in a world where women were seen as very little importance. She wrote to change that. Kate wrote with passion and a sense of realism. She proved to the world around her that women were just as equal to men.
Conclusively, Kate Chopin is known to be the first feminist writer and a woman ahead of her time. Even though during her time she was looked down upon for the things she wrote, she is celebrated and acclaimed by people around the world today. Kate’s writings provided her with the means to live how she wanted-both mentally and physically-rather than play the role society expected of her. Kate Chopin proved to women they had a right to express themselves however they wanted to. This is why Kate is known today as one of the most important women in 19th century American fiction.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 September 2016
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