The Importance of Point of View in Kate Chopin’s Fiction Essay

The Importance of Point of View in Kate Chopin’s Fiction Essay

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The Importance of Point of View in Kate Chopin’s Fiction


The impact of Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, on society resulted in her ruin, both literary and social. Reviewers called it vulgar, improper, unhealthy, and sickening. One critic said that he wished she had never written it, and another wrote that to truly describe the novel would entail language not fit for publication (Stipe 16). The overwhelming condemnation of the entire book rather than just Edna’s suicide seems surprising in light of her successful short story career. The themes that Chopin explores in her novel are present in both Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie, her short story collections published before The Awakening, and the other short stories she published separately. The only reasonable explanation is that people misinterpreted Chopin’s short stories about male/female relationships as sentimental and witty stories rather than serious condemnations of the social order that left women so little choice while giving men little restriction. This misinterpretation even occurs today. In classes I have taken that cover Chopin, many students and instructors read her short stories as romance, as celebrations of motherhood, and as empowerment of the matriarchy, yet they read The Awakening and recognize Chopin’s criticism of society without seeing any serious contradiction in their earlier readings of her short stories. However, the overwhelming pattern in Chopin’s fiction seems to either satirize or undermine the worlds of her characters. One way in which she does this is through point of view. A look at this technique reveals the genesis of The Awakening in even the earliest of her published fiction dealing with male/female sexual relationsh...


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...man Writer in the South: 1859-1936. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1981.

Le Marquand, Jane. “Kate Chopin as Feminist: Subverting the French Androcentric Influence.” Deep South 2 (1996). 26 July 2002 .

Stipe, Stormy. “The Book That Ruined Kate Chopin's Career.” Biblio 4.1 (1999): 16-17.

Notes

[1] Patricia Evans notes in a discussion of Chopin’s place in the literary canon that “in the first modern historical survey of southern literature, The South in American Literature, Jay B. Hubbell identifies one hundred male writers, but only five women. He justifies this omission by stating, ‘their writing was generally sentimental and inferior’ (4).”

[2] In The Awakening, Robert LeBrun turns way from Edna when she proposes they live openly together. He cannot violate the codes of his world so blatantly.

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