Critical analysis of Kate Chopin’s works
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Even though the state of Louisiana was a part of the United States in 1860, the majority of its population was of French descendent. Kate Chopin was a descendent of a Creole (white people descendent from early French and Spanish settlers, or people of mixed French or Spanish and African descent), she was primarily seen as a local colorist because of the fact that Chopin wrote about the Cajuns (descendants of French settlers in Acadia, Canada; in the 1600) and Creoles of Louisiana.
Kate Chopin's first short story been analyzed is" Desiree's Baby" (1893), is about the effects of love and pride have on our actions, also the importance of pure race or pedigree within the Creole community during that particular period of time in Louisiana. The second short story is "A Pair of Silk Stockings" (1897), where the author portrays the struggle of a woman searching for a balance between family life as a mother and personal satisfaction. The last one is "The Kiss" (1899); Kate Chopin emphasizes the equality between men and women, and the capacity of every woman to make their own decisions. Besides the fact that all the stories seems to be different, they contain important points in common, one very visible is the fact that all women must make a decision in their lives; another evidence is the time frame of when those stories were written, for instance there were plantation owners, business men, servants and poor people. Social status was significant during that time and the author expose to us, how women lived on that society, the issues they face and the manipulation of men and society as well.
Racial discrimination played major part in people's lives during the 1800's. "Desiree's Baby" story emphasize that love changes people for the better, and changed Armand's life while was in love with his wife, he became a better man "he has not punished one of them - since baby is born". Pride doesn't leave much room for mercy and kindness and it makes people think of "self" first and of others only if it benefits; it is unreasonable, Mr. Armand's case were a powerful weapon that cause catastrophe on his family.
Desiree had to make a decision: live without her perfect husband or simple escape from this world; it would be very difficult for her to be part of the half African descents, because she would be rejected by the society, probably would not marry again and her baby would suffer discrimination. But she was not thinking only of that when she depart, the sadness from breaking her marriage was crucial on her decision, because for while she was infinitely happy "I'm so happy; it frightens me" and shortly all the happiness was gone, since her husband reject her, was not worth to live. The writer demonstrates the Desiree's fragility with the description of her clothing when she leaves "Desiree had not changed the thin white garment or the slippers which she wore". Désirée walks across the fields with her baby, into the swamp.
The city in which "A Pair of Silk Stockings" is set is unnamed, but its large enough to have a department store, theatre, and a trolley car, that city could be New Orleans, because the author lived there. In this story, Mrs. Sommers spend one afternoon as any other person in her cosmopolitan city, taking advantage of all the fine things that town could offer. For once she felt free of her responsibilities as a mother and did not worry about how much money she spent. She felt confident wearing a new pair of silk stockings and buying other items for her; was her decision on how to spend the money "she did not wish to act hastily, to do anything she might afterward regret", but at the end she chose to spend on herself, even though her children needed clothes and other things. Her husband was never mention; the family seems to be really deprived. All the household tasks and the administration of the finances fell on her, the assumptions might be that, she was either separated or widow. The author finds a happy ending for Mrs. Sommers, she deserved those moment of happiness after all.
The female character on "The Kiss" story seems to manipulate the male characters to a certain degree. Mr. Brantain believes to be the big player, following by Mr. Harvy; what power of one person can have over another in the institution of marriage? Chopin reveals that human being is free to make own decision, male or female, but on this history the manipulation is visible. Nathalie was a young, materialistic, intelligent and selfish woman; the status she needed could be provided only by a wealth husband, she chose the "unattractive but enormously rich" Mr. Brantain "She was confidently waiting for him to declare himself and she meant to accept him", even thought she was in love with Mr. Harvy. As the author end the story with "A person cannot have everything in this world", suggest that unfortunately for Nathalie Mr. Harvy want to marry her but since she was taken, he leaves. Also Mr. Braintain would not admit his wife, maintain the affair, "she had Braintain and his million left"
Kate's husband died, leaving her young and with children. She knew how hard life was for women in the 1800's, the pressure of society, financial difficulties and the responsibilities with children. She started writing to support her family and she wrote controversial stories for her time such as female sexuality and independence. The women on our stories are strong but vulnerable and concern on how society perceive them, was common that wives depended on their husband to survive; There were not many choices of work for women during that time and they had to accept the male dominance, emotionally and financially. Mr. Armand for example was a plantation and slave owner, how could her innocent wife could argue with him? On "A Pair of Silk Stockings" story a man is not cited, but Mrs. Sommers is the one who control the family finances, she was an expert on finding bargains " Mrs. Sommers was on who knew the value of bargains", she was smart. Mr. Braintain and Mr. Harvy battle to win Nathalie's heart, they manipulate her to choose which men she wants, Nathalie feels that she achieved both her goals for a moment, having both men, but it did not work so well, when she realized that she was being controlled the whole time.
Unfortunately women struggle does not end, even after 150 from the time those stories were written, women still facing difficulties today. The civil right movement brought women and men together; we must have same rights now and more opportunities to work, education is fundamental for women to take one step ahead on the independence path. Desiree could live her life perfectly well, if that happened on this present time, she could work and provide for her son. It was a little unreasonable for Nathalie to expect to have both men, in the 1800's (The kiss) but today women work and can live independent, without been dominated by men, either through marriage or not. And Mrs. Sommers (A Pair of Silk Stockings) just wanted to feel alive and enjoy her life for a day, without worry about her financial situation. Women spoil themselves whenever is convenient and do not expect gifts nowadays.
Although the narrator does not take sides but merely reports them, the ending of "Desiree's Baby", demonstrates the irony and the ambiguous nature of racism. Among Creoles, who pride themselves not only on their racial purity but also on their French heritage, the proper pedigree is especially important. On November 2009, Mr. Keith Bardwell is from Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana (The Lufkin Daily News Sunday, issue of Time Magazine) , refuses to grant a marriage license to an interracial couple. "I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way."Bardwell added that he has "piles and piles of black friends" but believes the children of mixed raced couples "suffer"; maybe he forgot that the President of United States: Barack Obama comes from an interracial marriage. Marriage between blacks and whites was outlawed until a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Interracial Couples from Louisiana had to travel to Washington, D.C., in order to get marry. There are still people in the US that refuse to put behind them something like that, the changes are slow motion; That fact happening in 2009 show that lot of discrimination still remains very much alive. The prejudice against interracial couples is greater in Louisiana and in the South until nowadays.
According to Kate chopin's story, the women had to make important choices in life, the dependence e/or manipulation from their partners or society was notable. Women came a long way to be where we are now; but sexism and discrimination are some of issues present in our society after all. In some countries, especially underdeveloped ones, women are treated as objet of pleasure to men and the one in charge for all shores in a house; they are not motivated to get education since they will be home rising kids. The most religious countries are even worse, because women are not equal to men and suffer all types of abuse by men. Changes are a slow process but if it got here in the U.S.A. will get to those countries one day; it will be a time when gender will not exist and human being race will predominant as a whole.
- http://www.kingkong.demon.co.uk/gsr/silkstox.htm Work Cited
- Chopin, Kate. "Desiree's Baby." Literature for Composition. Ed. Sylvan Barnet et al. 7th Ed. New York: Longman, 2005, 30-34.
- "The Creoles of Louisiana" by George W. Cable; Copyright 1884 by Charles Scriber's Son, First Edition 1884; First Pelican Pouch edition 2000, Gretna, Louisiana.