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Kate Chopin is one of the first female writers to address female issues, primarily

sexuality. Chopin declares that women are capable of overt sexuality in which they

explore and enjoy their sexuality. Chopin shows that her women are capable of loving

more than one man at a time. They are not only attractive but sexually attracted (Ziff

148). Two of Chopin’s stories that reflect this attitude of sexuality are The Awakening

and one of her short stories “The Storm”. Although critics now acclaim these two stories

as great accomplishments, Chopin has been condemned during her life for writing such

vulgar and risqu? pieces. In 1899 Chopin publishes The Awakening. She is censured for

its “positively unseemly” theme (Kimbel 91). Due to the negative reception of The

Awakening Chopin never tries to publish “The Storm”. She feels that the literary

establishment can not accept her bold view of human sexuality (Kimbel 108). Chopin

definitely proves to be an author way ahead of her time. The Awakening is considered to

be Chopin’s best work as well as a unlikely novel to be written during the 1890s in

America. The Awakening is a story about a woman, Edna Pontelier, who is a

conventional wife and mother. Edna experiences a spiritual awakening in the sense of

independence that changes her life. Edna Pontellier begins her awakening at the Grand

Isle when Harmon 2 she is 28 years old. She has been married for ten years, and she has

two children. This situation proves to be different from the male characters of most other

novels because they almost always do not have to face the complications of marriage and

parenthood to reach self-determination (Bogarad 159). Chopin is able to portray this

awakening through Edna’s relationships with her husband, children, Alcee, and Robert.

Kate Chopin always writes about marital instability in her fiction (Wilson 148). The first

way in which Chopin is able to portray an awakening by Edna is through her relationship

with her husband, Leonce. Chopin describes Leonce as a likable guy. He is a successful

businessman, popular with his friends, and devotes himself to Edna and the children

(Spangler 154). Although Edna’s marriage to Leonce is “purely and accident”, he

“pleases her” and his “absolute devotion flattered her” (Chopin 506). However, it is

clearly obvious to the reader the Leonce acts as the oppressor of Edna (Allen 72). When

the reader first sees them together, Leonce is looking at his wife as “a valuable piece of

personal property which has suffered some damage” (Chopin 494). The most important

aspect to Leonce is making money and showing off his wealth. He believes his wife’s

role to be caring for him and his children. Therefore, the first step toward her freedom is

to be free of his rule. Edna is able to accomplish this first by denying Leonce the

submissiveness which he is accustomed to. She does this by abandoning her Tuesday

visitors, she makes no attempt to keep an organized household, and she comes and goes

as she pleases (Chopin 536). The next big step in gaining her freedom from her husband

is when she moves into a house of her own while Leonce is away taking of business. She

does not even wait to see what his opinion of the Harmon 3 matter is (Chopin 558). It is

quite evident the only thing Leonce worries about is what people are going to say.

Therefore, he begins to remodel the house so it does not appear that Edna has left him.

“Mr. Pontellier had saved appearances!” (Chopin 565). Leonce never really understands

what happens to his marriage with Edna. Instead he has to face the fact that he as well as

the children are of no consequence to his wife (Spangler 154). There is also the fact that

divorce is not a consideration because in the 1890s this right has not been generally

recognized. The reader must understand that as a matter of historical fact her options are

different from modern ones (Allen 72). Secondly, Edna must become free from her

children. For many years Edna has been a good mother, but now she sees her boys as an

opposition. Therefore, she refuses to live for them, but rather for herself (Seyersted 151).

While at the Grand Isle Edna tells one of her good friends, Madame Ratignolle, that she

“would give my life for my children; but I would not give myself” (Chopin 529). Edna

believes that she can direct her own life, but she also acknowledges her responsibility

toward her children. She knows how the patriarchal society condemns a freedom-seeking

women who neglects her children (Seyersted 62). The reader also comes to know Adele

Ratignolle well. As a friend of Edna’s, she represents the exact opposite. Chopin portrays

Adele as being totally devoted mother to her family and happy of her domestic lifestyle.

She has a baby every two years. Although Adele shows her unselfishness in her care for

the children, she also uses her children in order to draw attention to herself (Seyersted

152). Until Edna goes to one of Adele’s childbirths she still believes that she has the

ability to direct her own life. Adele reminds Edna of the mother’s duties toward her

children (Chopin 578). This event allows Edna it realize her view of her possibilities for

a Harmon 4 self-directed life (Seyersted 151). Therefore, she finds her power to dictate

her own life to be nothing but an illusion (Seyersted 62). The next way Chopin is able to

portray Edna’s sense of freedom is through her relationships with Alcee Arobin and

Robert Lebrun. Edna likes Alcee’s company because he is charming, attentive, amusing,

and a person of the world. He is a sexual partner who does not ask for, receive, or give

love. When Edna kisses Alcee she is awakened to the idea that sex and love can be

separated. Although she loves Robert truly, she separates her feelings for Robert in order

to control her desire (Bogarad 160). Edna first meets Robert Lebrun during her summer

stay at the Grand Isle. At the summer’s end Edna goes home and Robert goes to Mexico

for business. When Robert returns because business does not go as he plans, Robert and

Edna are together. However, Edna does not feel the closeness at first that she expects and

in some way he “had seemed nearer to her off there in Mexico” (Chopin 572). Although

they do finally confess their mutual love, they know they can never be together in reality

because of Leonce (Spangler 154). Robert knows he can not return the love to Edna

which she gives him because he only feels free to love Edna when there is no risk

involved (Bogarad 160). Robert does love and wants Edna, but he can not bring himself

to join in Edna’s rebellion to break up the sacraments of marriage (Bogarad 161). In

reality the men of her life split her. “Robert sees her as a angel, and Alcee sees her as a

whore” (Bogarad 160). Edna does awaken to her true love for Robert, but uses Alcee as a

convenience (Arms 149). This type of behavior of a women during this time is unheard

of. The last way Chopin is able to explore Edna’s independence and awakening is by her

tragic death. At the end of the novel Edna is very upset Harmon 5 that she loses Robert.

There is “no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert”, but she also

realizes that there will be a day where “the thought of him would melt out of her

existence, leaving her alone” (Chopin 581). Edna goes to the sea and “for the first time in

her life” stands naked in the open air. “She felt like some new-born creature, opening its

eyes in a familiar world that is had never known” (Chopin 582). Edna feels that she can

not sacrifice herself to the consequences of sexual activity, and she also is not willing to

live without these experiences. Therefore, Edna drowns herself (Allen 72). She realizes

nature and man dictate the life of a woman, and to be independent is much harder to

obtain for woman than a man (Seyersted 62). In the development of a male novel the

reader expects the man to make the stoic choice and in a female novel a women the

reader expects the female to come to her senses, returning to the cycle of marriage and

motherhood. However, Edna chooses neither, and this is the point of Chopin’s novel

(Bogarad 161). Another story which Chopin is able to express her attitude toward

sexuality is “The Storm. Although “The Storm” is today considered a well-written short

story, Chopin never publishes it in the 1890s because it is so daring (Kauffmann 62).

“The Storm”, written six years later, is the sequel to the short story “At the ‘Cadian Ball”

(Skaggs 91). “The Storm” is divided into five scenes. In the first scene the reader finds

Calixta’s husband, Bobinot, and their son, Bibi, waiting out a storm at Friedheimer’s

store (Chopin 490). In the second scene Alcee takes shelter at Bobinot’s home, where

Calixta is home alone (Chopin 491). In this second scene Chopin uses dialogue to portray

a growing sexual desire for one another (Kimbel 108). Chopin describes Calixta’s lips

“as red and moist as pomegranate seed” (Chopin 491). She describes their sexual

encounter in great detail. Calixta releases a Harmon 6 “generous abundance of her

passion,” which is like “ a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of

his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached.” She also uses the vivid words,

“he possessed her” to describe in great detail the actual sex act (Chopin 492). No other

author of this time uses such language to describe the act of sex (Jones 82). In the third

scene the storm is over and Alcee rides off to his destination. Bobinot and Bibi return

home to find Calixts in an unusual good mood. They eat supper and the evening ends in

much happiness. The fourth and fifth scenes reveal a great deal about Alcee and his

relationship with his wife, Clarisse. In the fourth scene Alcee writes Clarisse a loving

letter telling her “not to hurry back,” but “stay a month longer” if she wishes. In the fifth

scene Clarisse receives the letter. The reader finds out that Clarisse is “charmed upon

receiving her husband’s letter” yet relieved to forgo “their intimate conjugal life” for a

while. The ending proves to be very ironic. Although an affair has taken place, one may

expect for them to get caught and the marriages be broken up. However, “the storm had

passed and everyone was happy” (Chopin 493). Calixta’s adulterous experience is

accidental and innocent. The affair seems to refresh both marriages, Alcee’s and

Calizta’s. Chopin’s theme here again is that “freedom nourishes”. “The Storm” is

remarkable considering that it is written in the 1890s and for the use of the controversial

language which unites humans in sexual ways. The story reveals Kate Chopin’s desire

“of women’s renewal birthright for passionate self-fulfillment” (Bogarad 158). In

conclusion, Kate Chopin breaks a new ground in American Literature. She is the first

woman writer in the country to express passion as a subject to be taken seriously. She

revolts against tradition and authority in order to give Harmon 7 people the realization

about women’s submerged life. She also is the pioneer of the “amoral treatment of

sexuality, of divorce, and of women’s urge for an existential authenticity” (Seyested

153). In The Awakening and the short story “The Storm” Chopin implies that sex, even

outside marriage can be enjoyable without any personal guilt and without harming others

to whom one is emotionally and legally bound (Jones 80). Furthermore, Chopin is “at

least a decade ahead of her time” and “one of the American realists of the 1890s”

(Seyersted 153). Although first condemned for her controversial novels and short stories,

Kate Chopin, is able to lay the foundation for the theme of women’s sexual independence

for many authors

A Comparison of Hawthorne’s Works In both of Hawthorne’s short stories and The

Scarlet Letter, the author uses distinct symbolisms that have more than one meaning. In

The Scarlet Letter, the red rose bush and the weeds located at the entrance of the prison

symbolize both good and evil. Throughout the novel, the rose bush represents Pearl, and

how good things can come out of bad experiences. Hawthorne suggests the red rose as

being “some sweet moral blossom”, and represents Hester’s relationship as a love both

good and bad. Also in The Scarlet Letter, the letter “A” symbolizes more than one thing.

The first and clearest form of the letter is that of “Adultery”. It is apparent that Hester is

guilty of cheating on her husband when she surfaces from the prison with a

three-month-old-child in her arms, while her husband has been away for two years. The

second form that it takes is “Angel.” When Governor Winthrop passes away, a giant “A”

appears in the sky. People from the church feel that, “For as our good Governor Winthrop

was made an angel this past night, it was doubtless held fit that there should be some

notice thereof!” The final form that the scarlet letter take is “Able.” Hester helped the

people of the town so unselfishly that Hawthorne wrote that because such helpfulness

was found in her, “The people refused to interpret the scarlet “A” by its original

significance”. They said that it meant Able; “So strong was Hester Prynne, with a

woman’s strength.” While the letter “A” is a most complex and misunderstood symbol,

Pearl is even more so. Throughout the story, she develops into a dynamic symbol – one

that is always changing. God’s treatment of Hester for her sin was quite different than just

a physical token: He gave Hester the punishment of bearing a very unique child which

she named Pearl. This punishment handed down from God was a constant mental and

physical reminder to Hester of what she had done wrong, and she could not escape it. In

this aspect, Pearl symbolized God’s way of punishing Hester for adultery. In Hawthorne’s

short stories, The Minister’s Black Veil, in particular, the black veil worn by the minister

suggests more than one meaning. It shows sin, darkness, concealment, and death all in

one. Therefore, Hawthorne consistently used symbols that had more than one purpose

and meaning for both the novel and the short stories. The mood indicated in The Scarlet

Letter and in the short stories is relatively dismal and gloomy, and there is minimal

difference between them. In both works, death is included, making it depressing. In The

Scarlet Letter, there are love struggles, like that shown between Hester and Reverend

Dimmesdale. In the stories, there are some struggles and romance as well. In Dr.

Heidegger’s Experiment, there were the young men fighting over the young beautiful

lady, and in The Minister’s Black Veil, there is love between the minister and his fianc?e.

Because of his concealment of his sin, she refused to marry him, but nevertheless stood



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