Essay, Research Paper: Kate Chopin And Awakening

Literature: Kate Chopin

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A Style of her Own Kate Chopin uses symbolism and realism to enhance her theme
of social conflict in the lives of women during the nineteenth century. These
conflicts seemed to travel from one woman to the next, unnoticed by the rest of
society. Chopin used these conflicts as a basis for all of her short stories and
novels. This inevitably started turmoil about issues that never were brought out
before. This, in turn, opened the eyes of society to the individuality of women.
In The Awakening, by Chopin, a woman named Edna realizes that she is an
individual and has individual feelings. She and her family lived at Grand Isle
during the summer and her husband, Leonce, goes to the city every week, and is
at Grand Isle during the weekend. This allows Edna the freedom to do and think
what she pleases. A young man named Robert, lives at Grand Isle during the
summer also. He flirts continuously with Edna, and she seems to like this sort
of attention. Robert and Edna always went to the waterhole on the hot summer
days to cool off. Of course, they would never go when the sun was high in the
sky. Then, Robert would walk Edna back to her house and they would talk for
hours. Everyone at Grand Isle could see the attractions between Edna and Robert,
even Robert. Edna, on the other hand, did not see this attraction immediately.
When Robert leaves for the Rio Grande, Edna is left feeling depressed and
lonely. She decides that Robert wants nothing more to do with her, since he has
written everyone letters of his journey except her. At this time, Edna is now
living back in the city on Esplanade Street. Her husband is abroad and her
children are visiting family. She is all alone. This allows Edna more freedom to
meet new people without her husband right next to her. This was normal for Edna
since her husband was often tending to business. During time that Leonce was
away, Edna realizes that her life was not how she wanted it to be. While alone
Edna “awakens” to the fact that she is an individual and has individual
feelings. She also realizes she does not love her husband as she vowed to. At
this point Edna knew what she wanted, and it was not marriage to Leonce, but
divorce. She then moves out of her house without telling her husband. When she
does tell Leonce, he tells everyone that he and Edna were merely remodeling the
house and Edna needed a place to stay. He says this because he cannot stop her,
being across an ocean. Leonce’s lies just go to show that men had more
important things to do in life than please their wives. Wives were the bearer of
their children and rarely the apple of their husband’s eyes. Edna inevitably
tells her women – friends what is really happening; that she is leaving her
husband. All of these women tell her of what she is about to do to her life,
reputation, and her children. Edna feels that she should come before her
husband, but walks a thin line when asked if she puts her children before
herself. When Robert returns to see Edna, she is full of excitement. When Robert
learns that she lives alone and is away form Leonce, they share a special moment
together. It was not accepted, during the nineteenth century, for women to
divorce and remarry, Edna felt torn and weak. She does not know what to do with
her life. In the end, She walks into the ocean and swims until she can swim no
further. It is inferred, in this, that Edna drowns. In Edna’s drowning there
is a lot of symbolism. Her death shows, in an odd way, the birth of women’s
freedom of individuality. Her choice was to sacrifice her life because her fight
for individuality and freedom had failed. She knew she would never be accepted
being the extremist that society would label her as. Yet, now everyday, you see
women who have divorced and remarried. Her death was a plea for women to
understand their individuality and freedom. In “Desiree’s Baby” Chopin
uses themes, such as, independence of women and marriage between people of two
different races. When Desiree’s husband notices that his child has a black
tint to him, he feels that she has hidden something from him. Desiree’s
feelings overcome her and she drowns herself and her child. Again, symbolism is
a powerful part of Chopin's stories. Desiree’s suicide symbolizes the
independence that women do not have because of a male dominated society. Women
had few options, and one of them was, unfortunately, death. In “The Storm”
Chopin again uses symbolism to emphasize the main event of the plot. In this
particular story a storm begins, and all of the sudden everyone in the house
begins in an uproar of commotion. A boy gets lost and everyone is trying to
help; yet, no one can help. When the storm ends the commotion also ends, the boy
is found and everyone is calm. The storm is used to show the exaggeration of the
commotion and calmness of the household. This particular story shows the
significance of Chopin’s use of symbolism to emphasize a particular point of a
story. Chopin’s realistic tone is revealed in many ways. One way is the
language or slang that she uses to make the reader feel as if he/she is in the
conversation, just listening, not reading words. “At the ‘Cadian Ball” is
one of the stories that portrays this tone. For example, Chopin uses words such
as, “w’en” and, “betta make has’e then it’s mos’ day” to
illustrate the dialect of southern Creoles. This creates a more natural style in
the short story. Chopin uses very little variation between story lines. She uses
names such as Alce and Esplanade Street as important parts of many
stories. Grand Isle also seems to be a repeated destination in many of her
writings. The realistic style that Chopin uses are also very similar. She uses a
southern dialect and the French language frequently. This all shows that Chopin
only writes about people and places that she is most familiar with which makes
the writing more realistic. When an author writes about something they are
familiar with, they know first hand the issues or the characters, and therefore,
the plot is much more thought out. Chopin’s writing, when published in the
nineteenth century, was not accepted as good, wholesome, literature. “In her
own city of St. Louis the libraries refused to circulate the book, and the Fine
Arts Club denied her membership because of it. Kate Chopin was not merely
rejected; she was insulted…” (Ziff, p 486). Some critics believe that
Chopin’s, The Awakening, is all about sex. Others believe that it is about
women’s social and personal problems. After reading just The Awakening, I may
have thought it was just about sex. However, after reading many of her other
short stories and seeing the connection among all of them, I believe that
Chopin’s focus is on women’s hardships in life. Chopin uses many stylistic
devices to claim a realistic style and to show problems in the lives of women
during the nineteenth century. She uses the unnoticed problems in women’s
lives to inform society. She also uses real situations to show the significance
of these issues. Chopin’s style is like no other author, which is what makes
her a writer of literary merit.

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening and Selected Short Stories. New York, NY: Penguin
Books, 1984. Klein, Leonard S. (editor). The Critical Temper. New York, NY:
Fredrick Ungar Publishing Co., 1979. Works Cited Chopin, Kate. The Awakening and
Selected Short Stories. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1984. Ziff, Larzer. “Life
and Times of a Lost Generation.” The Critical Temper. Ed. L.S. Klein. New
York: Temper, 1986. 486 – 487.
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