This paper aims to capture the possible conflicts in the literary styles used by the author in writing her book. The degree of agreeableness of the plot and the style of writing will also be considered. Criticism that the author was subjected to shall also be captured. The paper will start by outlining the context in which the narrative was written and will proceed to give a critical view of the plot, and the style employed by Kate in writing her novel.
Kate grew up in an environment surrounded by women, both at school with the nuns and at home with the family. She lacked male role models as she grew up. She never got a chance to witness male domination and female submission that was rampant in the marriages of the late nineteenth century. Hence, the sexual awareness and the freedom of the female that dominated her writings were justified by the environment in which she was brought up.
After graduating, she got married in 1870 to Oscar Chopin. She bore six children. Kate enjoyed freedom in her marriage unlike most of the women in her time. They lived happily in their family. In 1882, Kate’s husband died of swamp fever leaving her to run their plantation and store. She later moved back to Missouri together with her children shortly before her mum passed on. This marked a series of tragic deaths that encompassed the author's life.
Chopin commenced writing works of fiction in 1889 giving her a platform to express her strong views on marriage, family and sex while providing for her family. Through basing her characters on real individuals and setting her story at a given community and region, she succeeded in publishing controversial stories in a format that was socially acceptable. The readers of her literature could see the described passion as curiosity of a confined culture as opposed to the universality of the nature of humans.
Her novel, The Awakening, was published in the year 1899 at the peak of her fame. The work is currently regarded as a classic. It marked the end of the authors writing. Her earlier writings had been easily accepted as they appeared to contain a narrative reporting rather than a critical observation. The objective tone used in the awakening received a lot of support. When the novel was being published, the feminist movement had not strongly emerged. Even the laws of Louisiana still recognized a woman as a husband’s property. This led to the scorning of Kate’s novel because it discussed the emotional and sexual requirements of a woman openly. The negative reception of her narrative greatly hurt her and she later published only three stories before brain hemorrhage claimed her life in 1904.
Chopin after passing on was vividly remembered for her works in New Orleans but was not recognized as a literary talent till fifty years later when The Awakening was rediscovered. The new generations could easily accept Kate’s ideas of equality and female sexuality. People got to embrace the author’s realistic and candid views and have since found it to be so informative about the initial feminism in America. The critics of the modern world have discovered the rich detail and the imagery used therein. The ironic voice has also been found to be a rich source of critical analysis. Currently, The Awakening has earned credit by the way it uses the structural and formal techniques to explore various themes of desire, patriarchy, motherhood and marriage, the women’s independence and sexuality.
Chopin utilized her writing as a means to explicate indirectly her life by narrating her story through the characters that she created. Being one of the modern writers, she concentrated on the social matters that affected women during her time. Kate’s time was characterized by unfairness of a patriarchal society. The author incorporates the touchy themes to express the meaning of life as she understood it. She intended to promote the awareness of the higher quality of women and their significance, a course that was a necessity during her time. In literature, women get to unveil their strength through elevating their own recognition. Most critics see Kate as being among the leading feminists of her era as she had the willingness to publish stories that touch on sensitive matters of women. She was not frightened to make suggestions on the desires of the women. Her idea of concentrating on the gender imbalance was greatly enhanced by her feelings towards the society, her upbringing and the period she lived in.
The mode in which the author was educated and raised also contributed to inspiring the author in her work. It is said that her father heavily influenced her as he joyously stimulated her focus in writing. Kate’s success in storytelling was also fortified by her great grandmother who owned a great base of knowledge. The grandma told her the cultures that were acceptable by the French and that were disallowed in America by then. The themes present in such stories consisted of freedom, morality, desire and convention. Hence, Kate grew hearing of the struggles that the women encountered. These stories gave the author some grasp on what she could write on and the style that she could employ in her writing. In the novel The Awakening, at times characters could communicate in French. This depicts that she used the knowledge she acquired from her grandma to improve her stories. Kenneth Eble tells of Kate’s “imagination that went on underground”-“the inspired life which seems to have gone on from her childhood apart from her regulated existence” (pg. 2). Some quotes used to describe Edna who is the main character, directly points to her life. For instance, she says in her description of Edna that, as a child, Edna lived her life all within herself, at a very early age she had comprehended instinctively the dual life of outward existence and the inward life (pg. 2).
The plot of the story widely agrees with the context in which the author writes. Chopin’s works were able to address the disparaging emotions she had towards the male dominated society that she lived in. Throughout the novel, various viewpoints on women have been expressed. The women are portrayed as being inferior to men. The society did not regard women as smart beings. Therefore, the fact that Kate’s story conveyed that men were dominant and women lived under their roof while following their orders, she clearly rose to the occasion to save the women of the day when she published this novel.
In the novel, she further expresses her concern on the male dominated society. She says, it seemed to her that it was folly for a woman who was a mother of children to spend in days, in the house ensuring comfort of her household (pg. 77). This depicted how the females were considered to be. They were meant to be employed in the house than in the society. They had to accomplish the chores in the home while the men worked to bring money at home. The woman’s submission to her husband was not subject to question because the society by then considered this as wrong. In fact, women were like dolls who could be controlled by a single master. They had to be obedient to every compelling wish of their husbands without thinking or posing questions regarding their wishes.
Chopin also thought about women as beings meant to worship their husbands and idolize their children. She says that women were meant to idolize their children and worship their husbands (pg.10).
Toward the end, the author depicts women as trying to get involved in the initiative to achieve self-independence in a society dominated by the males. They begin to realize their rightful position in the universe and humans not just as possessions that could be controlled by the men. This is evidence in the book through the character Edna, when the author says that she begun to understand her position in the world as a human being and she began to be aware of her affairs as a person in the world within (pg.17). St. Louis Post review postulates that Edna’s husband who has been treating his wife as a personal property becomes aware of the humanity in his wife (pg. 5).
Kate’s context is justified again by the period in which she lived in. During 1880s, women faced various challenges. As earlier stated, they were viewed as inferior sexes as compared to the men of the time. Finally, women had woken to comprehend their place in the society. As a result, they resorted to being defiant in spirit and nature. They began to rebel in their quest for sovereignty, in a male dominated society. Many authors with similar minds began to write in a bid to address this issue. The majority of writers including Kate were able to depict women by their character, as beings and not as dedicated and self-sacrificing women as the society dictated. Critic Seyersted says, that rebelling against authority and tradition with boldness that we cannot easily understand today with honesty and no sensationalization; Kate undertook to offer the truth about the women in a hidden life (261-269). He spoke of Kate as a woman who was driven by passion and who was bold to advocate for a better approach towards women. The author impacted positively on her people during her era as she was able to pass information to her readers and her people too, concerning what women experienced during her time.
The experiences of the women are depicted in the plot through the main character Edna. The author describes the character as a daring, strong and courageous woman who woke up to her minds and apprehended that she had to break through the constraints offered by her society. She goes to the extent of committing injustices in bid to express her personal freedom and independence.
The plot or the story greatly suits the context of Kate’s writing. The narrative style of writing and her use of real characters also enable her to pass to people the hidden issues that the women faced without stating it directly. Kate was able to open the minds of readers to the real issues and the circumstances of the women during her time. The era also compliments her work by providing her with reasons and ideas to write this novel. By using the novel, she expressed her thoughts about her life without causing conflicts of ideas.
The novel was rightly timed in history. The author rose to the occasion to satisfy the needs of the society by then by offering them a platform for voicing their concerns. The author was able to include the underlying thoughts of women and what was expected of them. It is commendable to say that the author was criticized much about her writing because she communicated her feelings with utmost honesty. The famous Los Angeles Sunday Times termed Kate, as wanting to address the doctrine of the right of a person to have what he wants no matter if it may be good for him or not (pg. 4-5). This newspaper acknowledges that her efforts surely were of significance during her time. Kate’s views of the society, her upbringing, the style she used and the period she lived in, all incorporates in the novel The Awakening to express the inequalities between the female and the male.
The context of the story, therefore, perfectly agrees with the setting of the story. This enables perfect communication of the views of the author to her readers and her society.
Chopin, Kate. The awakening. Charlottesville, Va.: University of Virginia Library, 1997. Print.
Eble, Kenneth. "10." A forgotten novel: Kate Chopin's The awakening. Salt City, Utah: University of Utah, 1956. 261-69. Print.
Los Angeles Times. 1899. “The Awakening.” June 25, p. 12.
Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: a critical biography. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget ;, 1969. Print. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 1899. “The Newest Books.” May 20, p. 4-5.