The Life and Work of Kate Chopin Essay Example
Kate Chopin is a renowned author who lived in the nineteenth century who mainly wrote short stories. Her short stories ranged from a variety of topics, however, they were mainly about feminism and the life of women living in the nineteenth century. As an author, these subjects reflected her own experiences from her life. She was raised by her widowed mother, and she was a housewife (American Authors). Kate lived in the South, so she experienced inequality due to her gender and observed racism toward other minority groups. She began writing after her husband died, privately publishing and printing her work. However, she gained popularity after publishing to magazines like Harper's magazine and Vogue. Her stories were well-received at first, but her stories became condemned by the public and critics after some time due to increasing male backlash. Critics claimed that her stories were too “vulgar” and that they portrayed men in a bad light (American Authors). After her death, scholars began to analyze her work, praising her for how she accurately portrayed controversial issues. One of her most well-known short stories is “Story of an Hour”, a story that challenges the foundation of marriage. In her story “Story of an Hour”, Kate Chopin illustrates the limitations women faced due to gender roles and the independence brought through death.
During the era in which Chopin published her work, there were strict societal standards and expectations that women had to follow. Women could not make their own choices and were forced to be dependent on men in their life, whether it is their father, relative, or husband. In many cases, the father chose who would marry his daughter, and she would have no say in who it was. It did not matter if she liked the man he chose, it was the father’s opinion that mattered. In the nineteenth century, a woman divorcing her husband was unheard of and looked down upon. The husband controlled most, if not everything about the marriage. As explained by Ahmetspahić and Kahrić in their analysis of Chopin’s work, “...a particular woman is viewed negatively if she is not married or if she is divorced from her husband. In any case, a woman is perceived in regard to her man” (Ahmetspahić & Kahrić, 11). Women were expected to stay married and have children, even if they had no desire to do so. The strict gender roles that oppressed women made it so that women were not able to express their true emotions. In her story, Louise Mallard, the protagonist, learned about her husband’s death. At first, she was consumed with grief, but while she was in her room alone, she realized that her husband’s passing made her a free woman. “When the storm of grief had spent itself, she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her...When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: ‘free, free, free!’” (Chopin, 1). Louise knew that these feelings were abnormal, and she was only able to express her true emotions by herself.
As she started realizing this new opportunity, Louise “...could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life” (Chopin, 1). These were all symbols of a new life that was ahead of her, and she became overjoyed that she could finally live for herself. Assuming her reaction, Louise was most likely in a controlling marriage where she could not live her life how she wanted to. Later in the story, however, she learned that her husband was alive and that his death was a mere false alarm. Louise was shocked as the realization that her few minutes of freedom being ripped away had dawned on her. Louise died from shock, the doctors incorrectly assuming that she died from happiness (Chopin, 6). In this story, death was true independence. When she believed that her husband was dead, she felt free, as she was released from the chains of her marriage. When she realized that her husband was alive, she died from shock. As explained by Ahmetspahić and Kahrić, “... it seems that her ultimate fate was the only way to get out of her marital situation. Death would be her door to escape marriage” (Ahmetspahić & Kahrić, 14-15). Her death was what ended up freeing her from subjugation, providing her with ultimate independence.
The nineteenth century and today are very different, especially when it comes to female gender roles. Unfortunately, some standards still apply, even if they are less extreme. Women are expected to stay at home and take care of their family, and arranged marriages are still common in many countries. These standards back in the nineteenth century made it difficult for women to express how they truly felt, and Kate Chopin was no exception. Her work was condemned by the public after she began writing about those controversial subjects she was passionate about. She flew too close to the sun and published stories with topics that the general public was unfortunately not ready to hear about and change their behavior. Now, Chopin is widely known and one of the precursors of feminism in writing.