The Life and Works of Kate Chopin Essay
The Life and Works of Kate Chopin
Behind every great author is an interesting life. It is this life that provides the material which the author uses in his or her texts. In the case of American author Kate Chopin, her works serve as a mirror of the kind of life she had. Her most famous works reflect her experiences. In turn, these works also reflect the experiences of other people; as a result, many readers could relate to her stories. Indeed, the works of Kate Chopin are reflective not only of her life but of others as well, which make them appeal to wide audiences.
Kate Chopin was born Catherine O’ Flaherty on February 8, 1850 (Toth 3). At the tender age of five, she was sent to a Catholic boarding school named The Sacred Heart Academy. It was an institution run by nuns who were known for their intelligence. This was where she began to write, for it was said that she started to keep a book of poems and essays around 1867 (Wyatt). Two months after she was admitted to the school, her father Thomas passed away due to a railroad accident. After this tragedy, Kate went back home.
For two years, she lived in a matriarchal household; she was surrounded by her great grandmother, grandmother, and mother (Toth 10). All these women deviated from the norm during that time; these were women who were smart and lived their lives without the influence of men. It was the strength and independence of these women which were reflected in Chopin’s heroines (Wyatt). In 1870, Kate O’ Flaherty married businessman Oscar Chopin (Wyatt). Unlike other women during that time, Kate was given by Oscar freedom that was not afforded to other women.
He tolerated her independence and appreciated her intelligence. The couple had seven children. In 1882, Oscar died and Kate was forced to run his business. Two years later, she sold the business and moved back to her mother’s home. In an attempt to support her family, Kate began to write. Her first novel, “At Fault,” was published in 1890; it was followed by “Bayou Folk” (1894) and “A Night in Acadia” (1897), which are both collections of short stories (Wyatt). Two of Kate Chopin’s most famous works are “The Story of an Hour” and “The Awakening.
” Both texts convey themes of women’s liberation. In the short story, “The Story of an Hour,” the heroine Louise Mallard had a heart condition (Toth 10). She was informed that her husband died due to a train accident. While she was initially saddened by the news, she was soon overwhelmed by the thought of her freedom from her husband. She died because of heart disease, as caused by extreme happiness over her husband’s demise (Toth 10). Meanwhile, “The Awakening” proved to be her most controversial work.
The novel is about Edna Pontellier, a wife and mother who left her domestic duties behind and went on a journey to self-discovery (Toth xix). The book caused an outrage because women during that time were expected to fulfill their domestic roles strictly in a patriarchal society, and Chopin’s heroine broke the stereotype. As a result, critics attacked the novel (Toth xix). What makes Kate Chopin’s works appealing to audiences is the relatability and universal appeal of her characters. Chopin’s female characters are strong and empowered; they are brave enough to challenge the expectations of a male-dominated society.
All the women who felt oppressed or limited by the system could truly identify with the likes of Edna Pontellier (Toth xx). In every generation, there are people who could relate to her character. During the 1970s, Edna served as forerunner of the Sexual Revolution, while she became a relatable figure for the Baby Boomers during the 1980s (Toth xx). Indeed, the universality and relatability of Chopin’s characters make her works appealing to many people, including this author. Kate Chopin was truly one of American literature’s best authors.
Her works are not only representative of her life, but of other lives as well. Her texts spoke and continue to speak to a wide audience because she was able to capture their experiences. Indeed, the literature of Kate Chopin will stand the test of time due to their universality. Works Cited Toth, Emily. Unveiling Kate Chopin. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1999. Wyatt, Neal. “Biography of Kate Chopin. ” Virginia Commonwealth University Website. 1995. 10 June 2009 <http://www. vcu. edu/engweb/eng384/katebio. htm>.