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Analyse three short stories by Kate Chopin

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Analyse three short stories by Kate Chopin. What do you discover about marriage and the lives of women in late nineteenth century USA? From an early age Kate Chopin was exposed to a female dominated environment. Her father died when she was but five years of age, leaving her in the care of her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, all of whom were widowed and strong independent women. Influenced by her family, Chopin grew up as a confident young woman. Her unconventional attitude to life soon became apparent when during the American civil war she supported the rebel South in a Union-supporting city. Chopin's eccentric behaviour gained much disapproval; she walked the streets alone and was the first woman in St Louis to smoke. At the age of twenty, Kate Chopin (previously Katherine O'Flaherty), married a man named Oscar Chopin. We can assume that at this point Chopin was forced to conform to the ways of society and become a more conventional female role model as she fulfilled her duties as a wife and mother to six children. This sudden change in life style may have come as a shock to the once outgoing and strong willed Chopin. However once again her underlying rebelliousness was evident as rumours of an affair surrounded her. Chopin was widowed at the age of thirty two, leaving her with six children, a plantation and a village shop. Chopin's strength of character and independent nature led her to take on her husband's role and manage his business for a further two years before returning to St Louis to live with her mother. ...read more.


However, to conform to the way of society, women would have to appear content, however neglected and depressed they may feel. This is particularly illustrated by Chopin in the short story 'A Pair of Silk Stockings'. In "A Pair of Silk Stockings", Chopin starts by introducing the main character as being 'Mrs. Sommer's', the use of this title implies she is the property of her husband and no longer has her own identity. Kate Chopin uses Mrs. Sommer's character to illustrate what it may have been like to be unfulfilled in the role of wife and mother in the 19th century. It would appear that, like Chopin, Mrs. Sommers was more content with life prior to marriage. "The neighbours sometimes talked of certain 'better times' that little Mrs. Sommer's had known long before she had even thought of being Mrs. Sommer's". However, Mrs. Sommers does not allow herself to think about this, she appears to exist only in the present and does not allow herself to be consumed with unhappy thoughts of her future existence; "The needs of the present absorbed her every faculty. A vision of the future like some dim, gaunt monster sometimes appalled her, but luckily tomorrow never comes." Chopin uses personification to portray her misery as a monster that she keeps buried and doesn't want to face. Feelings such as these would have been seen as inappropriate for married women and many would have to conceal their unhappiness behind painted smiles. We soon discover that Mrs. Sommers has come into possession of a large sum of money. This would have been unusual for women of that time as all property belonged to their husbands and it was rare for a woman to work and earn any money. ...read more.


Mallard's husband that you discover her maiden name as she is no longer the property of her husband. Like Mrs. Mallard, many women were forced to act the part of a content wife; however, Mrs. Mallards death was her final act of deception as she left her husband and friends believing her death to be the result of overwhelming happiness at the return of her husband. In conclusion, Kate Chopin's stories show us that life for married women in the 1900's was one of repressed individuality and little self-esteem, even if you were fortunate enough to marry for love. Firstly, women had to conform to societies expectations of a wife and mother; this is best illustrated by Kate Chopin in 'Desiree's Baby', when Desiree is not only an object of male desire, but dutiful to the point of death. Secondly, women were forced to suppress their own needs and prioritise the needs of both their husband and their children. Chopin describes to us a day where Mrs. Sommer's steps out of those boundaries and fulfills her own needs rather than the needs of her family. Finally, women are required to lose all sense of self-worth and individuality in entering married life. This is best expressed through 'The Story of an Hour' where Mrs. Mallard experienced rebirth through the supposed death of her husband. However, the shock and disappointment of her husbands' reappearance is too much to bear, and sadly Mrs. Mallard is only able to achieve eternal freedom through death. Kate Chopin's many short stories were shocking to a society that never questioned the dominant status of men in 19th Century USA. ?? ?? ?? ?? Gemma Beech 11AMH English Coursework ...read more.

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