Summary of The Awakening and Other Stories
Wiser than a God is a story by Kate Chopin focusing on the life of a woman named Paula von Stolz. Paula is a gifted pianist who has went through relentless training throughout her life. Having managed to focus on her musical career, Paula sought to escape any instance that would enable her to fall in love with anyone. Yet, Paula encountered a dilemma on the death of her mother, when a suitor named George Brainard proposed to marry her. George is a wealthy and handsome man who Paula eventually grew to like, hence giving her the dilemma on choosing between her career and romantic love. Yet, Paula said that marriage is not something that “enter[s] into the purpose of my life”, hence eventually deciding against marrying George (Knights 129-138).
The Christ Light tells the story of the spouses Rydon – Abner and Liza Jane. Both Abner and Liza Jane frequently fought against one another, as their marriage grew sour in time. Liza Jane, being the dominant one, then abandoned Abner to escape their quarrels. Yet, in one Christmas evening, Liza Jane went back to Abner in their house. The mother of Abner was keeping him company following the departure of Liza Jane. Yet, the return of Liza Jane – portrayed in a ghastly reverie by Chopin, served as a shocking moment for Abner. Upon the return of Liza Jane, she agreed to stay with Abner and mend their relationship (Knights 151-155).
The theme presented in The Maid of Saint Phillippe provides that of the life of a woman named Marianne who eventually escaped home to become a powerful female hunter (Knights 156-163). In Beyond the Bayou, Chopin noted a particular case of emancipation by a woman named La Folle, whose childhood traumas in crossing the bayou left her unable to see what it contains. The adoration La Folle had towards the son of his master, P’tit Maitre, named Cheri enabled her to explore the bayou, as she had to bring the latter to the doctor situated beyond it (Knights 166-172). The lives of the young Cajun people became the highlight of the story entitled At the Cadian Ball, where the belle named Calixta failed in her pursuit for the only person she finds attractive in a soiree, Alcee. Although Alcee initially decided to go with Calixta, a former love interest of his named Clarisse reversed her initial decision to reject him after catching his attention by saying that “something terrible has happened”. Such folly led Alcee to find himself romantically linked with Clarisse, while Calixta eventually went for a man he did not find necessarily attractive but satisfying enough for a life partner named Bobinot (Knights 183-192). The Storm looks into the sequel on the lives of the same characters of At the Cadian Ball, in which all of them are already married. Alcee and Calixta met up once again to make illicit romantic advances with one another during a storm that separated them from their respective families, who expressed worries over their safety. Clarisse even found herself in relief after the storm upon realizing that Alcee wanted more vacation time with himself, seeing as they already expressed their need to have space from one another. Eventually, all the characters worked out well with one another (Knights 342-347).
The story of Desiree, a half-white, half-African-American woman who lived without her family by her side, served as the focus of the story Desiree’s Baby, showing how a woman of such a disadvantaged status has struggled to live (Knights 193-198). Tonie stood as a story highlighting the exploits of an angler in his failure to attain the love he sought from a woman out of his league (Knights 229-239). In Sabine recounted the story of a woman named Sabine, who found formidable assistance from a Creole person named Gregoire Santien in getting away from the abuses of her husband (Knights 246-254). Abuse is another theme present in The Dream of an Hour, which featured the protagonist Louise Mallard in her joy on hearing about the death of her abusive husband, which turned out false when he came back to their house, ultimately causing her death by shock (Knights 259-261). An apparent showing of a lesbian relationship is the main feature of Lilacs. Such is the story of a certain Adrienne Farival who kept returning to her former home, a convent where she had a close relationship with a nun named Sister Agathe and experienced the cold treatment from the Mother Superior, who doubted their relationship and eventually banished her from ever visiting again (Knights 262-273). Feminine sexual freedom is the highlight of The Kiss, where Nathalie, the protagonist, kept a romantic relationship with two men named Braintain and a certain Mr. Harvy (Knights 278-280). Her Letters served as an exploration of the concept of possession as an idea controlled by either of the two things: an individual or as an individual controlled by an idea (Knights 281-288). Lastly, An Egyptian Cigarette features a woman smoking what looks like a drugged cigarette from an Egyptian priest, hence enabling her to escape from the abusive realities besetting her (Knights 332-335).
In sum, the stories in The Awakening and Other Stories have put forth the feminist ideas of Chopin deemed unconventional during her time. The book, in itself, encapsulates the main criticisms of Chopin towards the male-centric society that has bound her. Chopin has presented various contrasts in portraying different personalities to drive her point against male centrism. Many of the female characters Chopin has portrayed took on roles traditionally associated with males, while some have shown strong desires to escape abusive instances initiated by male personalities, usually their husbands or partners. Individualism, for instance, is a dominant trait possessed by many of the characters of Chopin. Women who desire to pursue their own destinies usually require them to step out from the shadows of their male counterparts or oppressors; without doing so, Chopin has asserted that women will continue to serve as objects attached to men. The profound importance of stepping out of the shadows requires women to amass a strong sense of courage, given the firm establishment of male dominance within society. For example, social taboos, such as those involving sexual freedom, tend to serve as suppressing factors for women that induces discrimination towards them, whereas the same does not apply to men, seeing as their virility stands as their defining trait. In many ways, Chopin has attempted to deconstruct the male-centric norm she has deemed as highly oppressive to women by placing subtle reminders in her story that her characters are humans with free will, not agents continuously bound by limitations due to their gender or sexual preference. Given the foregoing, Chopin has firmly stated her point in emphasizing gender equality through removing unjustified oppression against women by society.
Knights, Pamela (Ed.). The Awakening and Other Stories. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.