Kate Chopin Kate Chopin is one of the first female writers to address female issues, primarily sexuality. Chopin declares that women are capable of overt sexuality in which they explore and enjoy their sexuality. Chopin shows that her women are capable of loving more than one man at a time. They are not only attractive but sexually attracted (Ziff 148). Two of Chopins stories that reflect this attitude of sexuality are The Awakening and one of her short stories The Storm. Although critics now acclaim these two stories as great accomplishments, Chopin has been condemned during her life for writing such vulgar and risqu pieces.
In 1899 Chopin publishes The Awakening. She is censured for its positively unseemly theme (Kimbel 91). Due to the negative reception of The Awakening Chopin never tries to publish The Storm. She feels that the literary establishment can not accept her bold view of human sexuality (Kimbel 108). Chopin definitely proves to be an author way ahead of her time. The Awakening is considered to be Chopins best work as well as a unlikely novel to be written during the 1890 s in America.
The Awakening is a story about a woman, Edna Pontellier, who is a conventional wife and mother. Edna experiences a spiritual awakening in the sense of independence that changes her life. Edna Pontellier begins her awakening at the Grand Isle when Harmon 2 she is 28 years old. She has been married for ten years, and she has two children.
This situation proves to be different from the male characters of most other novels because they almost always do not have to face the complications of marriage and parenthood to reach self-determination (Bogarad 159). Chopin is able to portray this awakening through Ednas relationships with her husband, children, Alcee and Robert. Kate Chopin always writes about marital instability in her fiction (Wilson 148). The first way in which Chopin is able to portray an awakening by Edna is through her relationship with her husband, Leonce.
Chopin describes Leonce as a likable guy. He is a successful businessman, popular with his friends, and devotes himself to Edna and the children (Spangler 154). Although Ednas marriage to Leonce is purely and accident, he pleases her and his absolute devotion flattered her (Chopin 506). However, it is clearly obvious to the reader the Leonce acts as the oppressor of Edna (Allen 72). When the reader first sees them together, Leonce is looking at his wife as a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage (Chopin 494). The most important aspect to Leonce is making money and showing off his wealth.
He believes his wifes role to be caring for him and his children. Therefore, the first step toward her freedom is to be free of his rule. Edna is able to accomplish this first by denying Leonce the submissiveness which he is accustomed to. She does this by abandoning her Tuesday visitors, she makes no attempt to keep an organized household, and she comes and goes as she pleases (Chopin 536). The next big step in gaining her freedom from her husband is when she moves into a house of her own while Leonce is away taking of business. She does not even wait to see what his opinion of the Harmon 3 matter is (Chopin 558).
It is quite evident the only thing Leonce worries about is what people are going to say. Therefore, he begins to remodel the house so it does not appear that Edna has left him. Mr. Pontellier had saved appearances! (Chopin 565). Leonce never really understands what happens to his marriage with Edna.
Instead he has to face the fact that he as well as the children are of no consequence to his wife (Spangler 154). There is also the fact that divorce is not a consideration because in the 1890 s this right has not been generally recognized. The reader must understand that as a matter of historical fact her options are different from modern ones (Allen 72). Secondly, Edna must become free from her children.
For many years Edna has been a good mother, but now she sees her boys as an opposition. Therefore, she refuses to live for them, but rather for herself (Seyersted 151). While at the Grand Isle Edna tells one of her good friends, Madame Ratignolle, that she would give my life for my children; but I would not give myself (Chopin 529). Edna believes that she can direct her own life, but she also acknowledges her responsibility toward her children.
She knows how the patriarchal society condemns a freedom-seeking women who neglects her children (Seyersted 62). The reader also comes to know Adele Ratignolle well. As a friend of Ednas, she represents the exact opposite. Chopin portrays Adele as being totally devoted mother to her family and happy of her domestic lifestyle. She has a baby every two years. Although Adele shows her unselfishness in her care for the children, she also uses her children in order to draw attention to herself (Seyersted 152).
Until Edna goes to one of Adele childbirths she still believes that she has the ability to direct her own life. Adele reminds Edna of the mothers duties toward her children (Chopin 578). This event allows Edna it realize her view of her possibilities for a Harmon 4 self-directed life (Seyersted 151). Therefore, she finds her power to dictate her own life to be nothing but an illusion (Seyersted 62).
The next way Chopin is able to portray Ednas sense of freedom is through her relationships with Alcee A robin and Robert Lebrun. Edna likes Alcees company because he is charming, attentive, amusing, and a person of the world. He is a sexual partner who does not ask for, receive, or give love. When Edna kisses Alcee she is awakened to the idea that sex and love can be separated.
Although she loves Robert truly, she separates her feelings for Robert in order to control her desire (Bogarad 160). Edna first meets Robert Lebrun during her summer stay at the Grand Isle. At the summers end Edna goes home and Robert goes to Mexico for business. When Robert returns because business does not go as he plans, Robert and Edna are together. However, Edna does not feel the closeness at first that she expects and in some way he had seemed nearer to her off there in Mexico (Chopin 572). Although they do finally confess their mutual love, they know they can never be together in reality because of Leonce (Spangler 154).
Robert knows he can not return the love to Edna which she gives him because he only feels free to love Edna when there is no risk involved (Bogarad 160). Robert does love and wants Edna, but he can not bring himself to join in Ednas rebellion to break up the sacraments of marriage (Bogarad 161). In reality the men of her life split her. Robert sees her as a angel, and Alcee sees her as a whore (Bogarad 160). Edna does awaken to her true love for Robert, but uses Alcee as a convenience (Arms 149). This type of behavior of a women during this time is unheard of.
The last way Chopin is able to explore Ednas independence and awakening is by her tragic death. At the end of the novel Edna is very upset Harmon 5 that she loses Robert. There is no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert, but she also realizes that there will be a day where the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone (Chopin 581). Edna goes to the sea and for the first time in her life stands naked in the open air. She felt like some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that is had never known (Chopin 582). Edna feels that she can not sacrifice herself to the consequences of sexual activity, and she also is not willing to live without these experiences.
Therefore, Edna drowns herself (Allen 72). She realizes nature and man dictate the life of a woman, and to be independent is much harder to obtain for woman than a man (Seyersted 62). In the development of a male novel the reader expects the man to make the stoic choice and in a female novel a women the reader expects the female to come to her senses, returning to the cycle of marriage and motherhood. However, Edna chooses neither, and this is the point of Chopins novel (Bogarad 161). Another story which Chopin is able to express her attitude toward sexuality is The Storm. Although The Storm is today considered a well-written short story, Chopin never publishes it in the 1890 s because it is so daring (Kauffmann 62).
The Storm, written six years later, is the sequel to the short story At the Cadi an Ball (Skaggs 91). The Storm is divided into five scenes. In the first scene the reader finds Calixtas husband, Bobinot, and their son, Bibi, waiting out a storm at Friedheimers store (Chopin 490). In the second scene Alcee takes shelter at Bobinot home, where Calixta is home alone (Chopin 491). In this second scene Chopin uses dialogue to portray a growing sexual desire for one another (Kimbel 108).
Chopin describes Calixtas lips as red and moist as pomegranate seed (Chopin 491). She describes their sexual encounter in great detail. Calixta releases a Harmon 6 generous abundance of her passion, which is like a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached. She also uses the vivid words, he possessed her to describe in great detail the actual sex act (Chopin 492). No other author of this time uses such language to describe the act of sex (Jones 82). In the third scene the storm is over and Alcee rides off to his destination.
Bobinot and Bibi return home to find Calixtas in an unusual good mood. They eat supper and the evening ends in much happiness. The fourth and fifth scenes reveal a great deal about Alcee and his relationship with his wife, Clarisse. In the fourth scene Alcee writes Clarisse a loving letter telling her not to hurry back, but stay a month longer if she wishes.
In the fifth scene Clarisse receives the letter. The reader finds out that Clarisse is charmed upon receiving her husbands letter yet relieved to forgo their intimate conjugal life for a while. The ending proves to be very ironic. Although an affair has taken place, one may expect for them to get caught and the marriages be broken up.
However, the storm had passed and everyone was happy (Chopin 493). Calixtas adulterous experience is accidental and innocent. The affair seems to refresh both marriages, Alcees and Calixtas. Chopins theme here again is that freedom nourishes. The Storm is remarkable considering that it is written in the 1890 s and for the use of the controversial language which unites humans in sexual ways. The story reveals Kate Chopins desire of womens renewal birthright for passionate self-fulfillment (Bogarad 158).
In conclusion, Kate Chopin breaks a new ground in American Literature. She is the first woman writer in the country to express passion as a subject to be taken seriously. She revolts against tradition and authority in order to give Harmon 7 people the realization about womens submerged life. She also is the pioneer of the amoral treatment of sexuality, of divorce, and of womens urge for an existential authenticity (Seyersted 153). In The Awakening and the short story The Storm Chopin implies that sex, even outside marriage can be enjoyable without any personal guilt and without harming others to whom one is emotionally and legally bound (Jones 80). Furthermore, Chopin is at least a decade ahead of her time and one of the American realists of the 1890 s (Seyersted 153).
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