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Kate Chopin


... the mysterious woman in black the romantic music, ... Freedom = character of living your life within the constraints that the world makes [or] ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin The Awakening
1850 - 1904
Chopin's major work was published in 1889. -
well-established as a national writer - it was
reviewed by critics who universally condemned it
as "shocking" and immoral
It is the story of a young womans gradual
awakening. - sexuality - individual "being" -
longing for an independence - suicide
She was very important as one of the earliest
examples of modernism American Literature.
  • Romantic elements The Awakening
  • the exotic locale
  • use of color
  • heavy emphasis on nature
  • romantic theme individuality and freedom
  • rebellion against society and death

  • Edna - two extremes in life
  • completely alone romanticism
  • frequent inner thoughts
  • memories of childhood
  • the personified sea (nature)
  • the mysterious woman in black
  • the romantic music, dinner party
  • desire to express herself

  • Naturalism The Awakening
  • Edna as hostage to her biology
  • She is female (children wife)
  • society dictates behavior
  • "no attempt to suppress her impulses"
  • welfare of her
  • children

  • Local Color The Awakening
  • characterizations of the people
  • the descriptions of places
  • fundamental meaning of the story
  • Creole society and its social mores
  • women making choices that create a life

STYLE Chopin interested in how one tells the
story as the story itself.
Perspective multiple Point of view Imagery
  • Appearance in reality
  • seen in the New Orleans experience
  • things are not always what they seem
  • things are different to different players.

  • All of these formed her style
  • theme based
  • her stories were very short
  • she was experimenting with style

  • Womens Rights
  • - Chopin was not your typical feminist nor
  • a suffragist
  • took women extremely seriously
  • due to her background (mother )

  • lack of interest in feminism and
  • suffrage she simply had a different
  • understanding of freedom.
  • - Freedom character of living your life
  • within the constraints that the world
  • makes or your God offers you,
  • because all of us do live within constraints.

  • Social Classes
  • Black v. White
  • Rich v. Poor
  • Male v. Female
  • comfortable with difference
  • part of life

  • Theme
  • No true beauty without complexity or
  • conflict
  • - tragedy and complexity are needed

Story information Creole is a white person
descended from the French or Spanish settlers
of Louisiana and the Gulf States and preserving
their characteristic speech and culture. . . .
  • Three groups
  • whites - highest class
  • free Blacks - emancipated slaves
  • middle class
  • 3) slaves household property
  • the lowest class
  • They had a complex social organization
  • which included foreign groups Germans,
  • Irish, and Spaniards.

  • Culture
  • father was dominant
  • his word was law
  • not always a faithful spouse
  • ruled like a king
  • dutiful in the sense he went places
  • with his wife

  • Young men
  • given their own quarters
  • entertainment
  • had mistresses
  • (Black or mulatto)
  • couldnt marry them
  • accepted custom
  • marriages business
  • wives passive and innocent lovers

  • Young Women
  • needed a dowry
  • marry before 25 years old
  • coming out event (theater)
  • beginning search for a husband

  • Three kinds of French
  • traditional French
  • Acadian
  • Black Creole
  • Louisiana natives francophone
  • French-speaking

Kate Chopin The Early Years
  • Born in St. Louis, MO in 1850
  • Life was full of tragedy largely death
  • Attended Sacred Heart Academy
  • After her fathers death, raised by her mother,
    grandmother, and great-grandmother (all widows)

Role of the Civil War
  • St. Louis was a pro-North city
  • Only documented female friend was forced to
    retreat to the South
  • A noted time of change

  • Though one of 5 children, Chopin was the only one
    to survive beyond 25 years of age
  • Many family members died around Holy Days,
    instilling a strong sense of skepticism
    surrounding religion

  • Married Oscar Chopin at the age of 20
  • Both French Catholic background
  • He adored her, admired independence and
    intelligence and allowed her unheard of freedom
  • Gave birth to 5 boys and 2 girls before she was 28

More Tragedy
  • Oscar was not an able businessman returned to
    his old home in rural Louisiana (from New
    Orleans) and died of swamp fever
  • Chopin moved her family to St. Louis to live with
    her mother
  • Mother died the next year- this began her writing

Inspiration for The Awakening and Reception
  • Based on stories of people shed known in New
  • Content and message of The Awakening caused an
  • Parallels between Chopin and Edna because both
    defied societal rules

  • Like a Bildungsroman, but centered around growth
    as an artist
  • The Awakening is a tale of a woman who struggles
    to realize herself and her artistic ability

Historical and Cultural Background
  • Written at the end of the 19th century
  • Conflict between the old and new
  • Worlds Fair
  • Darwin
  • Criticism of the Bible
  • Womens Suffrage
  • Industrial Age (Machine Age)

  • In addition to the changes the country was
    facing, Louisiana had its own set of problems
  • Mix of three cultures American, Southern, and
  • Aftermath of the Civil War still reverberating
  • Ednas father is a good example of this.

Creole Culture
  • Catholic
  • Creole women were very conservative
  • Frank and open in discussing marriages and
    children b/c of understood moral nature and
  • Deep and personal commitment to fidelity
  • Adele is a good example of this

Creole Culture Continued
  • Louisiana operated under a different legal system
  • Feminist movement had little hope in the state
  • A woman belonged to her husband
  • Under Article 1124, married women were equated
    with babies and the mentally ill and were deemed
    incompetent to make a contract

Industrial Age and Lower Class Womens
  • With the Machine Age, the crafts women had always
    produced in their homes became a mass-producible
  • Conditions were hazardous, the pay was low, and
    womens income was the property of their
    husbands, but first move toward female

Upper and Middle Class Women
  • Expected to stay home as idle, decorative symbols
    of their husbands wealth
  • angels of the house
  • Pregnant frequently
  • Cared for their homes, their husbands, their
    children played music, drew and sang
  • Often brought a dowry or inherited wealth to the
  • Adele

  • Women began to rise up (Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
    Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Coffin Mott)
  • Declaration of Sentiments
  • Labeled unfeminine, immoral
  • 15th Ammendment (1870) gave right to vote
    regardless of color or creed

Climate of the Time
  • The Awakening is representative of the time
  • Chopin was ostracized
  • Praised for her skill as a writer, but demonized
    for content
  • Not a healthy book.
  • Sex fiction.
  • Unhealthy introspection and morbid.
  • The novel encapsulates the struggle of women
    during this time and speaks to the painful

Literary Context
  • Romantic Movement
  • Assertion of the self, power of the individual,
    sense of the infinite and transcendental nature
    of the universe
  • Relationship between nature and man
  • Making success of failure, American landscape,
    power of man to conquer the land, and

Romanticism in The Awakening
  • Exotic locale
  • Emphasis on nature
  • Use of color
  • Overriding romantic theme Ednas search for
    individuality and freedom

Naturalism and Realism
  • Stresses real over fantastic
  • Societal changes- Bible, Darwin
  • Uncaring aspects of nature and destiny of man
  • Life was viewed as relentless
  • Realism in The Awakening
  • Portrayal of Edna as hostage to her biology
  • Women as economic possessions
  • Edna as a victim of nature and fate
  • Local color
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