Research Paper on Kate Chopin and Her Works

2380 Words 10 Pages
Kate Chopin is best known for her novel, The Awakening, published in 1899. After its publication, The Awakening created such uproar that its author was alienated from certain social circles in St. Louis. The novel also contributed to rejections of Chopin's later stories including, "The Story of An Hour" and "The Storm." The heavy criticism that she endured for the novel hindered her writing. The male dominated world was simply not ready for such an honest exploration of female independence, a frank cataloguing of a woman's desires and her search for fulfillment outside of the institution of marriage.

Chopin, fatherless at four, was certainly a product of her Creole heritage, and was strongly influenced by her mother and her maternal
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Per Seyersted, Chopin's biographer, writes in his introduction to The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, Volume 1, that the reason why editors turned down a number of her stories was very likely that her women became more passionate and emancipated (46). Given that "The Story of an Hour" was published in 1894, several years after it was written, we can comprehend the importance of moral grounds as a basis for rejection. Marriage was considered a sacred institution. Divorce was quite rare in the 1800s and if one was to occur, men were automatically given legal control of all property and children. Even the constitutional amendments, granting rights of citizenship and voting, gave these rights to African Americans first, not women. Women were not granted the right to vote in political elections until 1920. Obviously then, a female writer who wrote of women wanting independence would not be received very highly, especially one who wrote of a woman rejoicing in the death of her husband. The fact that she pays for her elation with her life at the end of the story is not enough to redeem either the character or the author.

In Donald F. Larsson's entry on Kate Chopin in Critical Survey of Short Fiction, we learn that consistently... strong-willed, independent heroines... [Who] cast a skeptical eye on the institution of marriage is very characteristic of her stories (11). In "The Story of an Hour", we do not so much see as intuit Mrs. Mallard's skeptical eye.
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