Kate Chopin

lg-kate-chopinFor a Toastmasters speech, I read aloud Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour”.  This is the story of a woman, who hearing that her husband has died in an accident, realizes that his death frees her of her wifely obligations. The story was published in 1894 in Vogue.

The author, Kate Chopin, is one of America’s first feminist writers. Born in 1850, she grew up as part of of the original French settlers of St. Louis (similar to Creoles in Louisiana). She came of age during the Civil War, turning 13 in 1863. She was educated at the Sacred Heart Academy in St. Louis, and by her great grandmother, who taught her French. She married Oscar Chopin in 1870, and they lived in New Orleans, where he was a cotton factor.

After Oscar’s death in 1882, Kate eventually returned to St. Louis and lived with her mother. She had some income from properties that she and Oscar owned, but welcomed the small amount she earned through the stories she wrote.  Her first book-length publication, Bayou Stories, collected 23 short stories mostly set in the Cane River area of Louisiana, where she and Oscar were living when he died. These stories, and the stories in A Night in Acadie, are known for her use of local dialect. You have to practically read it aloud to figure out what they are saying.

Her best known novel, The Awakening, is about a woman who realizes that her conventienal life brings her no fufillment. She begins to expand her circle of friends and trys new hobbies. She is drawn to art and painting. She does not feel attached to her husband or even her children. This is 19th century literature where some activities, such as sex are not explicitly written about. There is a certain imagery that implies sex – you might have to read closely to pick it up.

The biography, Unveiling Kate Chopin by Emily Toth (1999) describes both Chopin’s life and her works. Many of her characters were based on people she knew. They were not always pleased with how they were represented.

If you are exploring southern literature or women authors, you should take a look at Kate Chopin.

 

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