Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin was an American author who
lived during the nineteenth century, but because of The
Awakening, a novel which was considered scandalous at
the time, she has just recently been "Öaccepted into the
canon of major American writers"(Trosky 105). Through
Kate Chopinís main character of The Awakening, Edna
Pontellier, she is able to portray her feelings and desires
that were otherwise suppressed by the ideals of American
society at that time. Kate Chopin was born on February 8,
1851 in St. Louis, Missouri. She was brought up in a family
that was a member of the prominent French- Creole
community. During her childhood she possessed a love for
reading. Her favorite types of literature were fairy tales,
poetry and novels. She secluded herself for almost two
years, away from her family and school in her attic,
spending the majority of her time reading (Trosky 102).
After her schooling, Chopin spent her days as a belle in St.
Louisí high society. She was greatly admired for both her
beauty and wit. She continued her readings, becoming
more interested in contemporary works. In 1869, she
traveled to New Orleans where she met Oscar Chopin,
whom she married. Though married, Chopin remained
fairly independent, practicing habits such as smoking and
walking alone in the city, two things unheard of from
women at that time.(Trosky 102) In 1883, Oscar Chopin
died of swamp fever. By 1884, Kate moved with her six
children back to St. Louis. Around this time, Chopin began
her writing career, writing in periodicals and publishing
collections of short stories. She received good reviews and
continued to write at an impressive rate. Her acclaim was
short lived though, following the publication of The
Awakening. "This work, which would eventually be
recognized as her masterpiece and a seminal work in
American feminist fiction, first proved her most notorious
publication and her literary undoing."(Trosky 103) At the
time, Chopinís novel was considered scandalous and
immoral, for it dealt largely with a womenís sexuality. At
the time The Awakening was written, a novel would be
judged on itís moral message as much as its artistic merits.
After the negative response of critics, Chopin published a
few more works, but nothing was well received. She
received little recognition, which when given, described her
as an author of southern local color stories(Trosky 103).
Local color writing was a movement which tried to capture
the feeling of a particular region through descriptions of
local speech and manners("The Age of Realism").
Eventually all of her publications went out of print. Around
the same time Chopinís health was declining, and on
August 22, 1904, she died of a brain hemorrhage.(Trosky
103) Kate Chopin lived in and wrote during a period in
American literature which was known as the Age of
Realism. The Age of Realism occurred between the years
of 1871 and 1913. "Realism was in part a revolt against
romanticism and its idealized portrayal of life." ("The Age of
Realism") Authors of realism wanted to show life as it really
was. It encouraged writers to write about the problems and
conditions around them, often using the dialects and
language of ordinary people.("The Age of") Chopin was
often compared to other realist writers of her time, such as
George Washington Cable, who wrote similar to Chopin.
The works of both Cable and Chopin were seen "Öalmost
entirely as an emancipation of Southern local
color"(Springer 200). Cable, like Chopin was an author
who wrote the Creoles. Both he and Chopin published a
great deal of their work in magazines("The Age of
Realism"). The Age of Realism is evident in Chopinís
works, which usually deal with those Americans of French
decent living in Louisiana or in St. Louis.(Springer 201)
She wrote about the real world, that of which she knew
from her experiences growing up. Chopinís major themes
revolved around: a womanís role in society, marriage, and
a womanís sexual nature and growing independence.(Davis
52) These topics were almost unheard of, for they were
considered very wrong, "Ö[violating] several nineteenth
century principles of womanly literature decorum."(Davis
60) As stated earlier, Chopin wanted to be independent,
something unexceptable for women at that time. Her desire
for independence was portrayed in The Awakening, by the
novelís main character Edna Pontellier. The Awakening
takes place at Grand Isle, not far from New Orleans. Edna
Pontellier is a woman who becomes very unhappy with her
life. She finds herself in a marriage that is not out of love,
but something expected of her. She has two children,
whom she loves, but at the same time feels burdened by.
As time goes on she grows more and more unhappy. Soon
Edna begins to fall in love with another man, Robert
Lebrun. Robert, becoming frightened by his feelings