American Literature is a subject almost as diverse as America itself. Americans are a mixture of nearly every other culture; and as Americans, authors are prone to write unique, sundry fiction for a variety of reasons. Kate Chopin incorporated much of her family legacy and personal taste into her writing. Through crass curiosity, Kate Chopin wrote the unspeakable into words and shocked American culture with both horror and amazement (Showalter 385).
The upbringing of a child can mold a person into something unique and new, but if done incorrectly can distort his/her view of the world. Catherine O’Flaherty was born February 8, 1850, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Thomas O’Flaherty and Eliza Faris; she was of Irish and American descent. Therefore, Kate grew up speaking both French and English (Koloski). In 1855, at the age of four, Kate’s father was killed in a gruesome railroad accident. Unfortunately, the death of her father would be the first of many in Kate’s lifetime (“Chronology”).That same year, Kate began her education at a strict Catholic school in St. Louis (Showalter 385). During her time at Catholic school, Kate was known to be the brightest in her class. She excelled in nearly every subject and won numerous awards for her intelligence. By the time she graduated, she was a popular, well known young woman (Wyatt). Though things ran smoothly during Kate’s adolescence, the country was in an uproar. The Civil War was at its climax, and due to loyalties, Kate’s best friend, Kitty Garesche, was forced to move to the south (Wyatt). Throughout her childhood, Kate was raised in a dominantly female setting, and all of the women were single for a number of reasons. Therefore, her perspective of men, (and life in general), was presumably biased. The strong female influence in her childhood is thought to be one of the reasons for her strong feminist tendencies (Koloski).
Though the upbringing of a child is crucial to his/her future; he/she has control over how he/she executes the remainder of his/her life. Kate seemed to run against the grain of her influences. She received a strict Catholic education; therefore, she was aware of the Word of God. However, her actual relationship with the Lord was unknown (Showalter 385). Kate had an inexplicable thirst for knowledge and yearned to learn as much as possible. During her life, she educated herself in the areas of evolutionary science and French naturalism among others (Cotto).
Life is a beautiful thing that should not be wasted. One can choose to push through terrible events or use them as inspiration. In 1870, Kate married Oscar Chopin, and together they had six children (“Chronology”). Oscar loved Kate, along with many of her distinguishing characteristics, such as independence and intelligence. However, he allowed her to engage in promiscuous behavior, which directly disobeys Ephesians 5:22-24, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” Wyatt states that throughout Kate and Oscar’s marriage, they suffered from economic difficulties. In New Orleans, Oscar could not hold down a job, and their family of eight was forced to move back to Oscar’s childhood home. In 1882, Oscar suddenly died of malaria, leaving Kate to single-handedly raise six children. She attempted to stay in New Orleans, but eventually she had to move her family back to St. Louis where they resided with her mother (“Chronology”). Unfortunately, upon their arrival, Kate’s mother died, leaving Kate emotionally distressed. Kate sought professional help, and her obstetrician encouraged her to write (Wyatt).
With plenty of pain, there comes inspiration for compelling fiction. Kate used her raw experience to write motley literature. Her diversity and surprising endings entertained readers for years. Her first short story was published in 1889, and her first novel, At Fault, was publicized in 1890. Five of her stories appeared in popular magazines between 1889 and 1891. Over twenty of her other works were published in book collaborations and magazines after 1892 (Koloski). Hugh Mifflin published twenty-three of Chopin’s short stories in a book called Bayou Folk. In 1895 twelve of her stories were published. Way and Williams published a collection of twenty-one short stories by Chopin in 1897 entitled A Night in Acadie (Wyatt). Though Kate’s career as an author was blossoming, it came to an abrupt end subsequent to the publication of The Awakening. In 1899, The Awakening was published. The novel focused on a woman’s unsatisfactory marriage, and the affair she engaged herself in. It stirred up much controversy, but critics were positive on her artistry. However, nearly every review claimed the message was “poisonous” (Koloski).
America advertises freedom of speech; however, people don’t have to agree with what others say. Kate’s career came to an abrupt end, but she left a dent in the ideology of literature. She had drawn a new line for what was considered acceptable (Cotto). Though she hit a rough spot in the end, Kate is considered to be one of America’s essential authors (Koloski). In 1969, Per Seyersted stated that Chopin “broke new ground” in American literature (“Chronology”). Now, Kate Chopin is best known for being the first American woman to write about female sexuality, which leads people to believe that she started the first feminist movement (Showalter 385). Kate wrote what she desired, not what other people craved. It was a refreshing change in the field of literature, and she is still admired for her independent and vivacious literature (Cotto).
With great ideas comes great fortune; remembrance is often the outcome of a publically renowned career. Kate Chopin was a strong, independent woman with a desire to speak her mind. She wrote what she wanted into her fiction without regard to common decencies. Though it may have seemed boorish during her day and age, it is something that is largely ignored, even accepted, in modern society (Koloski). Sadly, contemporary culture thinks of adultery as a normal occurrence. Exodus 20:14 plainly states “do not commit adultery”. The verse literally slaps the reader in the face; it is acutely obvious what God wants of Christians and humans in general. Kate Chopin had no worries about being forgotten; her writing was far too powerful to be thrown aside. Kate is worth reading about for her individuality, a trait that is difficult to find in a judgmental world (Cotto).
Personally, Kate Chopin is an admirable woman. She spoke her mind, and wrote with raw power. This is something that pertains much to life, especially if there is a desire for writing. She is an inspiration and an example to follow in some aspects; however, she can be ignored in several areas. Kate’s sexual freedom is vastly offensive, but understandable. She was educated in a strict Catholic school where she felt that celibacy was shoved down her throat constantly (Koloski). Her desire for rebellion is common among young people and is often exemplified today. It depends on how a reader interprets writing as to how it affects them. However, a good verse to keep in mind is 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Christians need to guard their hearts. Satan is lurking everywhere; he is crafty and clever. He is hiding in the shadows, waiting for a naïve victim, such as Kate. If her readers are not careful, they will be drawn under the influence of her books, making them susceptible to Satan and his immaculate deception.
"“Chronology”." “Chronology”. “Chronology”, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
Cotto, Joseph F. "This American Story: Kate Chopin, the First Feminist." Blogcritics.org. Blog Critics, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
Koloski, Bernard. "Kate Chopin Biography." Biography, Kate Chopin, The Awakening, The Storm, Stories. Kate Chopin International Society, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
Showalter, Elaine. The Vintage Book of American Women Writers. New York: Vintage, 2011. Print.
Wyatt, Neal. "Biography of Kate Chopin." Biography of Kate Chopin. Empirezine, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.