Analysis of Chopin's use of linguistic features in her literary works.
From the Victorian era, Chopin startled critics with her paradigmatic tale of a woman’s abortive struggle towards independence in an oppressive society. By using women as her protagonist, Chopin highlights their sexist roles in literature whilst restricting them from the expansion necessary to deal with their realisation. It thus seemed conducive to transform the novel into a series of letters in the form of English Sonnets, establishing the undeveloped characterisation of Edna with Robert, whilst they are separated from each other. The transformation aims to elucidate Edna’s role in society, by satirizing the narrow and stereotypical way in which woman are commonly portrayed in literature.
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The novel as a form does not offer the opportunity for character development in the same way a series of letters/sonnets do. For example, Edna openly declares her love for Robert, at the time of her death: “I’m the person who deserves your love.” The continuous sense of the author’s evaluation of the moral choices that her characters make is lost; they seem more autonomous throughout the sonnets because they speak for themselves without Chopin’s explicit authorial presence. The sonnet form successfully mimics letter writing as both forms are addressed to someone, whilst informing and shedding light on their own thoughts.
Moreover, when the two characters reveal their feelings to each other or reminisce of their time together at Grand Isle, the meter is tight, mirroring the natural sound of a heart beating. For example, Robert declares: “The bonds we made grew deeper than the sea.” This foreshadows events, making it clear to the reader the context of which the letter/sonnets are written, in the novel.
As the final sonnet concludes, the iambic pentameter in the rhyming couplets deliberately fails, creating the sound of a dying and irregular heartbeat, phonetically indicating Edna’s death. Both lines thirteen and fourteen consist of eleven syllables, breaking the strict rule of including five iambs with one unstressed and stressed syllable, to make up the meter. Unlike the rest of the sonnets, the final is in past tense which suggests that she has already died and is looking back on her words to Robert. The fact that she dies simultaneously as the sonnet concludes, highlights the end of their communication and hence concludes the transformation through her tragic death.
Phallogocentrism is a key attitude conveyed in Robert’s sonnets, particularly after he discovers that Edna only likes him to gain attention from her husband, whom she believes to be having an affair. For example, conventional values of gender roles are implied through this simile: “like a deceived husband not knowing you,” which aims to make Edna feel sympathy towards her husband, in an attempt to reduce her emotional desire for Robert, which contrastingly accentuates through the discourse of the transformation.
In conclusion, the third sonnet uses juxtaposition of Edna’s beauty to highlight her cunning and manipulative ways as a female protagonist. This is revealed through the line: “For there can live no hatred on your face,” which highlights Edna’s surfaced, innocent façade, concealing her inner desires, highlighting her non feminist attitude.