Monday, December 1, 2014

Author Overview: Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin is an American author who is really fascinating. She was mostly known for her short stories and her novella The Awakening. Her stories were often rejected by publishers and critics because of her strong female characters and their awareness of their own sexuality and their independent thinking. Kate Chopin was a boss; she didn't care what any one thought and continued to smoke her "unladylike" cigarettes and churn out the feminist fiction in the 1890's. She is often over-looked and is lesser known than she should be so I'm here to spread the Chopin love. Many themes are found in multiple of her works, and she always examines gender, race, and class in a really thought provoking way. Here is a quick overview of some of her most well-known works and a few of my thoughts on them. 

The Awakening, novella published in 1899:

I first read The Awakening  when I was a sophomore in high school, and I got absolutely nothing out of it because I was too young, but I remember filing it away in my brain to pull back out when I felt I could connect with it and understand it more. I reread it this year, about four years after the first reading and really loved it. 

The Awakening is the story of Edna Pontellier who is a middle-class wife and mother and completely smothered by those two roles. She "awakens" and recognizes that she doesn't know herself and never had the chance to know herself because she was always responsible for someone else's happiness before her own. 

This is such a powerful piece. Edna is an amazing character and this story is so thought provoking and has so much to talk about. Some of the passages are so great, and really speak on the power of women in a time when that was frowned upon. 
"I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me."
-Kate Chopin 

Short Stories
The Story of an Hour published 1894
This is perhaps Chopin's most well-known and shortest work. The whole story takes place over an hour, starting after Mrs. Mallard finds out that her husband has been pronounced dead at sea. Her reaction is a bit surprising, and this story has one the greatest examples of irony I have ever read. This is a great place to start if you have never read anything by Chopin.

Desiree's Baby published 1893
Another short story that deals with race and gender, but also the evil that fear can makes humans commit. This is one of my favorite short stories by Chopin and really makes an impact. New Orleans was the setting for the majority of Chopin's works and she builds perfect atmosphere and transports the reader to New Orleans in the late 1800's. Desiree is a married women who has a baby with her husband but is then kicked out of her home and disgraced because the baby shows evidence of African American decent. This story also has an interesting twist at the end. 

The Kiss published 1895
This is another very short story and perhaps my favorite of Chopin's. She is able to pack such powerful and important themes in such short works, it's amazing. I won't tell you anything about this one because it's so short, but please go read it! 

The Storm  published 1969 
This story is actually a sequel to another one of Chopin's stories entitled At the Canadian Ball, but it can also be read as a stand-alone, and that was the way I read it. I really liked this story as well (are you sensing a pattern here?) This story was not published until after Chopin's death, 

Go discover the wonderfulness that is Kate Chopin and report back to me. As always, leave me your recommendations for anything in the comments, but particularly short story collections or authors. 

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