Why and how does she use them?
Kate Chopin is an author who examines the position of women in 19th
century Louisiana. She describes their plight, living in a society
designed by men, one that confines women’s behavior. It was
imperative for Kate Chopin to highlight her male characters, as they
ultimately are responsible for her heroines’ actions. The “Awakening”
and “Desiree’s Baby” are two examples that deal with the issues
resulting from a male dominant society, though the stories vary in
their approach. Men and marriage are however the common factors that
symbolize the obstacles that Kate Chopin’s women face.
In “The Awakening” Edna, the main character enjoys being married at
first but later she finds it to be very limiting and oppressive. A
free spirit by nature, she rebels against her husband and the life
that he stands for. She hates the implications that women in her
society “belong” to men, and that their place is at home doing
domestic chores and raising children. This impression is reinforced
when Kate Chopin lets the reader view the situation through Edna’s
eyes, saying that women are regarded “as one looks at a valuable piece
of property…” (p.11) Furthermore, men decide women’s role in life
declaring that “if it is not a (woman’s) place to look after children,
who on earth was it?” (p.15) This role is so precisely defined,
ensuring that women will stay within the walls of the house with their
Marriage was the process by which men gained total control over women.
The author indicates that a marriage at that period of time was not
always carefully planned but was rather a spontaneous and passionate
act. For example, Edna’s “ma...
... middle of paper ...
... was arrogant and overconfident of himself
and his heritage, and was sure that the fault was Desiree’s never
questioning his own ancestry. By jumping to conclusions he never gave
her a chance to explain herself to him. At the end, Desiree who had
been overwhelmed and desperate drowned herself and her baby.
Kate Chopin developed her female characters as reaction to male
attitudes. She used men, marriage and the rules by which women were
confined to demonstrate her point. She described men as the ones who
placed obstacles in women’s way, created social rules and put
restrictions that confined their lives. These boundaries were at times
physical but almost always emotional, and eliciting defiant behavior
and reactions from the women involved. Placed by men, these
limitations helped in shaping the female character of Kate Chopin’s
heroines in her stories.
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