Even though women’s rights were not highly regarded in the past American society, women characters in this novel such as Mademoiselle Reisz, Edna Pontellier, and Madame Ratignolle shaped America to be a society where women’s equality and freedom are possible.
The Awakening written by Kate Chopin can be regarded as dated, to some extent, since the quest for women’s freedom and equality in America has been achieved with the help of the feminist movement. In order to explore the role of women and the limitations placed on them Chopin made use of unconventional women characters. The use of such heroines in storytelling is a method to convince a reader that there are totally exceptional women. In essence, some story tellers portray females as submissive and unable to stand their ground in comparison to male counterparts (Stein 32). However, Chopin brought a different perspective of women who were unconventional, unique, and exceptional in nature and behavior (Koloski 5).
Analysis of How Gender Works in Chopin’s and other Course Texts
In this analysis Kate Chopin’s novels, such as An Hour and The Storm, are explored to facilitate the understanding of how gender works in relation to her work The Awakening. In Chopin’s story An Hour there is the conception of overriding instincts of a human being. It is the belief that both men and women can inflict upon others what they believe these living things should be (Koloski 6). Furthermore, the story of Kate Chopin is feministic in nature. There is the assumption that both sexes should have the right to give an opinion whenever they do something and whatever they decide to do; it means that none of the sexes can unduly impose his or her ideas on others (Petry 14). However, it is questionable whether it actually happens. Whether it is true or not that there is a single decision maker, it is hard to presume that both sexes have equal or distinct rights (Koloski 9). In fact, the rights of an individual are guaranteed to the extent that none of the parties in marriage has the right to infringe the rights of the other (Stein 34). Notably, the world is male-dominated and most decisions are made by men beginning from the household. For a long time, before Chopin’s work, the position of women in the society was merely reduced to household chores (Koloski 11).
The question of uniqueness of women is shown in the characters like Louise Mallard’s, who despite having been told of the death of her husband still had the courage to find her way out the room without a loud wail. Moreover, she comfortably sat back on the chair and stared at the window, thereby showing a sense of calmness (Koloski 15). At that point, none of the people could tell exactly who had been grieved. Therefore, this occurrence is unique on the third person’s perception. For example, it was the woman who died of heart attack after having seen the husband whom she had presumed dead (Petry 16). The woman’s character is used in the story to portray the image of a distinctive decision maker whose entire life is dependent on her own choices, a true nonconformist. As a result of her health condition she succumbed to the heart problem (Koloski 19). In the story one would imagine that it is the woman’s weakness to succumb to the heart disease, but, in reality, the pressure of the information exerted on her subsequently led to death (Stein 36).
It is arguable that Mallard believed her husband was alive after having seen him. Indeed, it might be challenging for one to have a strong belief in something they do not have a picture of (Petry 19). This means that Mallard was used in the story to depict the uniqueness of this kind of women (Koloski 22). The characteristic of the main character truly shows what does it mean to be an original woman in terms of actions and decision, making an individual respect her rights. In most cases, many people, especially women, may not show the kind of comfort in times of grief, as in the case of this unique character (Stein 41). In most cases what follows the death are the loudest scream, fainting, and tears all over one’s face, but not comfort (Petry 20).
The rationale for using unconventional women in Kate Chopin’s story is to justify the extent to which women around are fighting for freedom (Stein 44). More often than not, women need a bit of freedom and it happens that male counterparts infringe on it for malice purposes. In Chopin’s story An Hour, Louise’s husband is oppressive and does not allow his wife to enjoy her freedom (Petry 21). It is depicted from Louise’s calm reception of the purported husband’s death. It is evident that the response, which Louise’s sister received, was a surprise; possibly, she expected some sort of violent reaction from her sister. Readers are as well surprised at the behavior of this unique personality (Koloski 25).
There is an assumption that both males and females should have the right to express opinions in any activity they carry or in decision making, provided none of them excessively imposes his or her thoughts onto the other (Petry 24). Whether it is true or not, it is possible that there is a lone verdict architect who does not presume that both males and females have equal or distinct rights (Koloski 29). Indeed, the rights of an individual are essential for founding a family.
The story The Storm was written by Kate Chopin in the late nineteenth century when women were considered to be very innocent. She may therefore have been condemned for promoting immorality in her work. In this story one sees a totally different view on women’s behavior (Berkove 49). The main characters in the book are Calixta, who is a married woman with a child, and Alcee, who is also married and whose wife and children are said to be on holiday. Alcee and Calixta are portrayed as having known each other before their marriages and as there have always been lust between them.
Calixta is portrayed as an unconventional woman in a number of ways. She was expected to be aware of all the belief systems, cultural rules, and religion norms that existed in the late nineteenth century (Berkove 53). Indeed, during that time women were expected to be faithful and obedient to their husbands. Such moral values were taught to children by parents. Calixta fails to conform to the standards that may have been instilled on her by accepting to sleep with Alcee. In such a way the author portrayed the deceitful character of Calixta.
Her unconventional behavior is very dangerous. In fact, even the writer keeps reminding the audience that The Storm is very destructive and scary; however, as one continues to read the fear dissipates and is replaced by desire (Hebert 30). Readers may therefore come to the conclusion that The Storm does not only destroy the character’s belongings, but it also destroys the faith and trust that are foundations upon which marriages rests. The writer describes the act of deception made by Calixta which completely captivates readers. As a result of the act of deception, they suddenly forget the fact that whatever Calixta and Alcee are doing is wrong. The writer succeeds in this by describing details of the sexual experience of Alcee and Calixta (Beer 52). Nevertheless, Chopin sarcastically makes a remark using trickery words to let readers know that Alcee could not have married Calixta because she was a maiden. Now they are both married to different people and the law does not allow them to have extra-marital sexual encounters.
Undeniably, Calixta and Alcee do not feel guilt or even regret after having sex, instead the writer describes them as being delighted. As Alcee rides away after the sexual encounter, he is smiling at Calixta (Beer 58). She, on her part, is shifting her pretty chin in the air and is laughing loudly as if in appreciation of what has taken place between them. However, when Calixta’s husband returns home with the child she appears to be happy that they have returned. Nonetheless, she does not seem to be apologetic for what she has done in her husband’s absence. Calixta is described as full of energy and cheerfulness (Berkove 55). The husband has thought that she would be worried of the storm and brought her a can of shrimps which he thought could make her feel better.
Calixta is cynically described when she is laughing so loud and so much that anyone might hear them from far away. This description is cynical because of the happiness she derives from the illicit affair which happened due to her unsatisfying marriage. The write could as well show the audience that a secret love affair makes one happier than a trustworthy marriage (Beer 64). As for the man, Alcee is similarly happy and for that reason he writes to the wife telling her to continue staying at Biloxi. Due to her ignorance, Alcee’s wife becomes happy and wants to stay for some time because she can rest from the marital life (Hebert 31). The vacation seems to be her first free breath since she got married. It gives her the opportunity to reflect on her maiden days. Even though she is devoted to her husband, the vacation becomes so important to her that she is even willing to forgo conjugal life with her husband, giving him the opportunity to wander outside their marital life (Beer 67).
The short story The Storm tackles the theme of adultery. The writer tried to show that it is natural and does not necessarily have a negative effect. Throughout the story the regular change in the description of scenes evolves the style of imagery. This style plays an immense role in the development of the characters and the theme of adultery (Hebert 35). It is very important to note that the actions of women in that era denote that most people were not happy in their marriages and there was the need to seek happiness elsewhere. Finally, it can be deduced that people were happy but not with their spouses. Women in the late nineteenth century were described as people who were unfaithful and not as innocent as they were portrayed before. The author, however, did not directly use situations, but employed irony to illustrate her points of view (Hebert 36).
Focusing on Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening, it is important to indicate that there is a conflict between the story and the social context of this work as it is evidenced in the following statement:
“He turned and hurried away to one of the far cottages, where Mademoiselle Reisz was shuffling away. She was dragging a chair in and out of her room, and at intervals objecting to the crying of a baby, which a nurse in the adjoining cottage was endeavoring to put to sleep. She was a disagreeable little woman, no longer young, who had quarreled with almost every one, owing to a temper which was self-assertive and a disposition to trample upon the rights of others” (Chopin 28).
In comparison to the other texts outlined previously, the above statement does not meets the expectation of the narrative plot since the novel The Awakening raises the theme of women’s oppression and the struggle to bring change in the American society, possibly, by means of the feminist movement. Nevertheless, it is evidenced that Mademoiselle Reisz, a woman, has violated rights of several people (Chopin 29). Moreover, the reader may presume that she is struggling to gain her rights and freedom which are often violated by men.
In summary, women such as Mademoiselle Reisz, Edna Pontellier, and Madame Ratignolle from Kate Chopin’s The Awakening can be highly recognized for their contributions in shaping the American society and fighting for women’s rights and freedom. For instance, Mademoiselle Reisz tramples on everyone’s rights as a sign of dissatisfaction and struggle against the limitations put on her. Most unconventional women want to have freedom and the right to take part in decision making. Moreover, some of them are rather happy when they remain free from any relationship bondage, for instance, Louise.