Feministic Elements Portrayed by Kate Chopin’s Writings
From the historical epoch in which Kate Chopin’s most of works are set, it is evident that the society is characterized by patriarchal notions about women which further promote elements of oppression and encourage oppressors by providing them with valid justifications to defend their actions. Women’s sexuality is trivialized as negligible given their demeaned position in the familial unit (Chopin 23). Chopin explores various facets of femininity and addresses prevalent notions of gender in one of her most coveted stories “The Storm.” Given the horrid details compounded in the story where Alcee and Calixta are involved in an illicit affair, the narration partakes a somewhat unconventional manner in which the author highlights the ramifications of uninhibited female sexual tension. The approach applied by Chopin in narrating this story between the two characters has been depicted as non-judgmental with more focus being directed towards acknowledging the sexual nature of women contrary to the notions upheld in the society at that time. The failure to condemn the actions of Calixta which were improper in the social setting, and by avoiding veering into morality on marriage and its related expectations, it is evident that author’s sole aim is to present feministic attitudes while questioning the fabric of marriage and its constituent elements.
Firstly, the female sexuality is heightened by the sexual desires exhibited by Calixta, which are quite intense providing a revolutionary aspect to the direction of the narration (Chopin 46). The symbolic representation of thunderstorm is descriptive of the real passion ebbing between the two characters. From the novel, it is evident that Calixta is unaware of her sexual desires similarly to her knowledge of the approaching storm. Chopin is deliberate and intentional in using descriptive words like “growing damp with perspiration” to demonstrate her wishes as the storm nears her residence. This juxtaposition of the two intensely emotional events heightens metaphorical connotations as the gathering storm signals towards Calixta’s sensitive sexual tension manifesting itself physically. The palpability of this physical manifestation is depicted early in the story, grounding the author’s unwavering stance on femininity and the freedom of being sexual as briefly presented by her description of the humid heat surrounding the character and the brewing storm.
Candidness expressed by Chopin points to the feministic attitude on sex and women in the setting in which she developed the narrative. It is revolutionary as sexual encounters and related activities were seen as being unimportant to women, requiring neither their concern nor their involvement (Chopin 281). With the use of the storm as a conceit notion, its crescendo signals the sexual climax between Alcee and Calixta as they engage in a lovemaking session. Chopin confers to the societal expectation from women before their explosive engagement where sexual tension is sublimated by their need to restrain themselves from acting on their desires. The overwhelming and intense sexual passion, as depicted by the author, mimics an irresistible and proliferating force, which coerces the characters into a nerve-wracking affair. Chopin further amplifies the scene with the direct juxtaposition of human emotional tumults with the phases of thunderstorms, such as the crashing torrents and its crescendo, each mimicking the pleasure-evoking encounter between the two characters. The parallelism between the affair and the storm furthers the author intentions, which are unhindered by morals, and advocate for female sexuality and freedom to meet their sexual needs.
For the lovemaking scene, it is important to acknowledge its contribution in presenting an honest feminist opinion on a taboo topic. Chopin applies coded descriptions, which are apparent to the reader when describing the affair (283). She also incorporates honest and straightforward language establishing an artful and lyrical touch to the titillating and sensual scene. She is bold in her expression when narrating courageous and feminists perspective on sexual orientations and yearnings of the women folk. Through the euphemistic incorporation of storm and the illegitimate relationship between Calixta and Alcee, Chopin effectively elucidates unbridled sexual desire in the males by vocalizing candidly the sexual connections outside the confines of marriage. This is a validation that female sexuality is permissible and should be accepted within the societal context (Ostman and O’Donoghue 30). Through affirming it, Chopin also alludes to the criticality, for women, of knowing rights and develop a deep-seated appreciation for their bodies to allow themselves the experience of sexual pleasure as highlighted in this honest writing.
The language and elements incorporated in the narrative support the feministic approach applied by Chopin in this writing (Ostman and O’Donoghue 34). With the straightforwardness and boldness in opinion, she sounds unapologetic and unashamed of her work. This is justified by the writings, as she does not rebuke Calixta’s actions; instead, she presents excuses supporting the extramarital affair. According to her understanding, the sexual encounter was warranted as Calixta was unhappily married; therefore, was vulnerable to the charms of another man (Chopin 285). With that in mind, it is evident the author is more inclined to support her female character, therefore, validating her delinquent behavior in a sheer disregard to her husband’s feelings. The second observation supporting the author’s attitude in the book is the lack of sentimentality regarding the affair. She portrays the sexual act as just physical intimacy as opposed to love-struck humans actualizing their intimate feelings for each other. Calixta’s thoughts after the deed also indicate the unapologetic nature of the author opinion about feminism and its sexuality. She does not exhibit any form of remorse nor she presents any excuse for her behavior as might have been expected by the society. With this in mind, the notion being propagated is that women also experience sexual desires, which are driven by selfish intent similar to their male counterparts.
The author presents an empowering outlook of women and their sexual nature in the narration, indicating their ability to indulge themselves without being confined to prescribed gender roles in a society (Chopin 286). Throughout the book, the author presents an inverted version of gender roles regarding sexuality. With the exclusion of dominance-associated language as well as submissive tendencies and body language, the sexual relationship between the two characters is more open. Calixta is demonstrated as a willing party as opposed to a victimized damsel. With this openness coupled with her feminine innocence, she can celebrate her body shamelessly as she experiences pleasure with her lover. Her playful nature obliterates any feeling of sin or shame, which indicates the primary aim of the author that she is neither overpowered nor deceived as she enjoys her intimate moments devoid of any guilty consciences.
The equalization of gender further accentuates the feministic component incorporated in the narration by the author. Through symbolic language and appropriate diction, Chopin can achieve a balance by expounding circumstances in which control and power had to be equally distributed. The author attributes “the generous abundance of her passion” to a “white flame” that “penetrated… in depths of his sensuous nature” in such a powerful manner that had never “been reached”; an exposition that evidently elucidates the inherent potential of female emotions (Gilbert and Gubar 45). The term penetration associated with male sexuality to describe Calixta’s action is indicative of her being more in control, which is quite remarkable. As discussed, the society at the time was more restrictive on women regarding their sexual relationships and interactions. Therefore, for Calixta to portray such activeness, it points to the feministic sympathies from the author when he describes her as assumptive of the male control and power within the confines of intimacy.
Not exclusively does Chopin address regular sexual orientation parts and test the restraint of female sexuality, she even sets out to undermine the organization of marriage. She composes of Calixta amid her sexual experience with Alcee: “Her versatile firm tissue that knew out of the blue its bequest resembled a velvety lily that the sun welcomes to contribute its breath and sent to the undying existence of the world” (Gilbert and Gubar 47). This announcement proposes that Calixta’s marital existence with her better half is not as much as acceptable; moreover, in being sexually unsatisfied, Calixta is denied of something characteristically essential to her. “Claim” is an intense word showing that women’s bodies are as competent and wanting of real joy, as men’s seem to be. This approach towards gender role goes for beyond the conventional thought that the woman’s body was the storehouse for male sexual want, and that sex had a procreative reason for women. These assumptions regarding sex in marriage are disadvantageous to women, for under these limitations, they cannot realize the delight that is their “inheritance.” If Calixta is consequently unsatisfied in her marriage; she appreciates this energizing and satisfying experience outside of marriage, what is Chopin saying in regards to marriage itself? Maybe it is an unnatural plan, and one, which constrains women’s chances for satisfaction, sexually as well as emotionally in different aspects of life too.
That marriage is depicted as an unnatural and constrained course of action that is evident in the last three segments of “The Storm” in which Alcee and Calixta communicate with their life partners following the issue (Gilbert and Gubar 48). The feministic attitude portrayed by the author further supports the argument that her overall demeanor as per the narration is more inclined on empowering her female counterparts through creating awareness on the importance of their sexuality and satisfaction. Calixta interacts with Bobinot without disgrace and there is no self-evident intrusion in their familial satisfaction. Undoubtedly, Bobinot and Bibi are cheerfully shocked by Calixta’s charming disposition. Maybe, at that point, deep-rooted monogamous sexual connections are not really the formula for joy between accomplices seeing someone (Ostman and O’Donoghue 56). This is moreover clear in the letters amongst Alcee and his better half Clarisse. Alcee urges Clarisse to remain away, and Clarisse is glad to do as such. Chopin composes of Clarisse that “in the first place free breath since her marriage appeared to reestablish the lovely freedom of her femininity” (Gilbert and Gubar 50). Committed as she was to her significant other, their close matrimonial life was something which she was more than willing to forego for some time. Opportunity and bliss signify, for Clarisse, an escape from marriage. The force and desires for a conjugal relationship appear to mistreat her, for she even inhales all the more effortlessly far from her spouse. Positively, she looks after her significant other; however, Chopin is not proposing that emotional connections amongst people be surrendered entirely. Alternatively, maybe, she is calling for the reconsidering or even yield of a foundation that has generally developed man-centric ideas of sex parts, denied women their sexuality, and abused them.
A closer review of this narrative reveals the intricacies inculcated in The Storm’s development, such as the freedom of sexuality, which was looked down upon by the society, were to remain hidden. This notion is supported by Sandra M. Gilbert who reiterates that The Storm is so progressive in its suggestions that its creator never endeavored to distribute it in her lifetime” (Gorsky 17). The thoughts Chopin communicates in this story would surely have appeared to be preposterous to her contemporary society and would have been justification for a relatively widespread judgment of Chopin and her work. She daringly praises female sexuality and utilizes this connotation as a women’s activist who attests women’s equivalent possibilities and rights to convey in what needs be an encounter. The phrase “everybody was glad” when the storm passed proposes that upsetting conventional ideas of sexual orientation and marriage will change everyone’s, mainly women’s, lives to improve things.
In this “Story of an Hour,” the approach utilized by the author focuses on the importance of self-identity and freedom for women within the premise of marriage (Gorsky 89). The character, Louise is demonstrated as an oppressed woman who suffers at the hands of her spouse. Through her lack of interest in her marital affairs. the author depicts this union as a weight that serves as impairment in limiting the success and happiness of women. The requirements imposed within this arrangement further serve as bondage which constrains any opportunities of fulfilling a woman’s desires (Bloom 56). Similarly to The Storm, questions the importance of matrimony as elaborately as a feministic perception asserts that the freedom of women is limited and societal pressure are imposed upon them undeservingly. Chopin utilized this story to depict the rules and norms that the society forces on women and leads them to wind up their physical and emotional needs, only to become visually impaired. Through this story, Chopin could speak to the sexual reservations of this day and age, and she was by all accounts a precise observer who was in direct contact with her sexuality (Ostman and O’Donoghue 77). Notwithstanding making her considerations about sexuality, she puts forth an individual expression about her sentiments on the sexual foundation of the time.
In “Desiree’s child”, Desiree is the girl of the wealthy couple Monsieur and Madame Valmonde. Desiree meets Armand, the child of another affluent, well-known, and esteemed Creole family (Gorsky 91). They are hitched and have all the earmarks of being exceptionally faithful to each other,. Once the tyke is conceived, everybody appears to detect something is not right about the youngster. They observe that the infant’s skin is the same as a biracial slave; henceforth the child is not completely white. Since Desiree’s history is obscure, Armand consequently trusts she is completely dark. He starts to hate her for this and is never again infatuated with Desiree, so Madame Val monde proposes that she and the infant return home and Armand concurs. After Desiree had vanished off into the narrows, never to return, Armand continues to consume every last bit of her effects and concurs through a letter that his mom had kept in touch with his dad, uncovering that it is him who is in actuality mostly dark (Gorsky 97). In “Desiree’s Baby,” the hero, Desiree is enormously influenced by the partialities against race and class. In this story, Chopin indicates how Desiree has no yearnings to have her character.
Contrary to Louis in “The Story of an Hour,” the heart of the female protagonists is completely in her better half, and she makes the most of her life as being an odd spouse and hireling to her significant other is all she wants. Desiree depends entirely on her better half for every last bit of her musings, and emotions are nearly in relationship with him. Chopin portrays her carrying on with an existence “relatively sufficiently hopeless to bite the dust”. This story is set in a network where individuals are looked down on for dating outside of their races (Gorsky 67). Subsequent to bringing forth a blended infant, her significant other Armad is amazingly irate and disregards her and his kid just on the grounds that the infant is not completely white. Desiree is blamed for being of a blended race, and since her family found her as a youngster, she has no chance to get the assurance that she was not in reality blended, as she herself could not come up to the conclusion and suffices by acknowledging that she might be (Ostman and O’Donoghue 82). She is greatly upset when Armad discloses to her that she and their kid must leave the home.
Anyway, Desiree leaves as charged and never turns back. However, she does not recognize what she will do now that she does not have her significant other as her spine. At first, Desiree appears to be somewhat frail and weak; however, throughout the course of her tale, she exerts sufficient control on her character. She tested the ideas of class, as well as race, and sex; all while flourishing in a public setting where every one of the three had entirely been partially represented. Chopin appears vocal through this story to reveal how subordinate women can be on their spouses, and how at times they have a tendency to lose their self and flexibility (Ostman and O’Donoghue 95). Living in a day and time when women are believed to be just little girls, moms, or spouses, with no power and, eventually, it is their husbands who settle on choices for them, Chopin deplores the prejudiced social perspectives. Armand beats Desiree, which embodies exactly how men were predominant over women (Bloom 24). Insisting that she is essentially his slave who is responsible to attend to his each need, he does not see how consistent she genuinely is and the amount of emotion and intellect she cherishes of him.
Scholarship abounds on Chopin’s selection of subjects and themes, most of which acknowledges the wide range of topical adoptions that she made to elucidate her views about critical issues (Ostman and O’Donoghue 100). A significant number of Chopin’s works center around the subjects of women’s search for self-disclosure and personality. Scholars regard women’s rebellion against consistency of social standards towards gender and sex that once restricted women’s conceivable outcomes, while other critics expound on understanding the female sexuality and women’s encounters amid the whole procedure of parenthood (Ostman and O’Donoghue 110). In the stories specified above, Chopin spoke to women in various viewpoints as she unfurled their smothered needs and wants. Through her diverse compositions, she does not just constrain herself to the circumstances women needed to persevere; rather she was fit for communicating her musings on life and marriage as well.
Bloom, Harold. The Awakening – Kate Chopin. Infobase Pub, 2011.
Boren, Lynda S, and Sara S. Davis. Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou. Louisiana State UP, 1999.
Chopin, Kate. “The Storm: A Sequel to ‘The ‘Cadian Ball’.” The Awakening, Penguin, 1984, pp. 281-86.
Gilbert, Sandra M, and Susan Gubar. The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English. W.W. Norton, 1985.
Gorsky, Susan R. Femininity to Feminism: Women and Literature in the Nineteenth Century. Twayne, 1992.
Ostman, Heather, and Kate O’Donoghue. Kate Chopin in Context: New Approaches. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
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