Symbolism, Setting and Sexism in ‘desiree’s Baby’
The miscegenation and racism which Kate Chopin’s short story “Desiree’s Baby” centers upon resulted in a daring piece of work by a female writer in the 19th century. These central themes are also linked to the story’s setting, symbolism, and references of sexism – all interconnected one way or another. In fact, it is Chopin’s manipulation of setting and use of careful, progressively changing descriptions that makes the sociological content of her narrative become especially prominent and potent.
As “Desiree’s Baby” begins with a flashback, readers are given a brief yet detailed introduction of Desiree’s background, which only begins when she is found as a toddler by Monsieur Valmonde “at the gateway” of his estate. This “gateway” with its “big stone pillar” plays a significant role in building up the story. Not only is it where Desiree had been found, but it is also the very spot where Armand Aubigny falls in love with her eighteen years later. This “gateway” therefore symbolizes the beginning of significant changes in Desiree’s life; it can be inferred as an opening to another stage in her life, such as her first entering into the Valmonde family and later entering a married life with Armand Aubigny.
The Aubigny’s mansion, the L’Abri, is also introduced with vivid descriptions which outlines its daunting appearance. Although the word L’Abri is French for “the shelter”, the mansion is described to resemble all images related to death, so it is probable that the mansion is intended to represent “the shelter” of the afterlife. The very sight of it causes Madame Valmonde to “shudder”; and in her defence, the L’Abri is described to be “a sad looking place”, much like the notion of a funeral or graveyard, as they are the common “sad” places that would cause one to tremble. Moreover, the striking comparison of the steep roof to that of a black “cowl” gives the impression of Death’s hood, and the “thick-leaved, far-reaching branches” of nearby “big, solemn oaks” are depicted to “shadow” the house “like a pall”, which is a covering placed on top of coffins. All of these ominous descriptions hint on both the disturbing elements that exist within the mansion as well as the inevitable death which awaits the protagonist.
Through this house that is symbolic of death and desolation, Kate Chopin reveals the owner’s “imperious and exacting nature” – which is one of the aspects that the L’Abri’s disturbing appearance symbolizes – along with the affectionate and sincere Desiree’s passive disposition. “When he [Armand] frowned, she [Desiree] trembled, but loved him. When he smiled, she asked no greater blessing of God”: these sentences establish the relationship between the two, highlighting Desiree’s distinctly inferior manner as she treats Armand like a being worthy of taking as much as he pleases whilst she only gives without asking for anything in return. This shows that Desiree behaves according to the era’s allocated role of a woman who is entirely submissive to her husband, the dominant white man, whom is entitled to behaving as he wishes without concerning with the feelings of his own wife. This sexist insinuation is emphasized when Armand’s demeanour changes from that of a loving husband, to a hostile and antagonistic one. “He absented himself from home… without excuse”, and in spite of this shift in personality that causes Desiree to be “miserable enough to die”; “she dared not ask him to explain”. It portrays the position of the 19th century wife who, regardless of her troubles, had no right to question her husband’s actions or confront him about it.
Furthermore, when Desiree does finally confronts Armand regarding the issue which has stirred the entire L’Abri household as well as their neighbours, Armand does not hesitate to place the blame of their son’s mixed blood on his wife. He uses patriarchy as a weapon to protect his honour and as a means of concluding the problem without placing himself in any light of suspicion. Even as Desiree attempts to argue and defend herself against this baseless accusation, the “courage” she musters in this nerve-wrecking moment is ultimately “unwonted”, as the strength of male-dominance is too great to fend off.
In the end, Desiree leaves with her quadroon child but only after asking Armand if she should go. So, from an overall perspective, it can be inferred that Desiree’s behaviour throughout the story reflects the stereotypical female who does not make her own choices and instead waits for others to decide for her. She begins with waiting to be discovered from the shadows of the “big stone pillar” and taken in by the Valmondes as a toddler, then marries the man who sweeps her off her feet eighteen years later, and finally allows her husband to decide on his own, with no notion of a fair trial or a discussion, on the fate of their marriage.
Until the end of the story, Kate Chopin continues to use descriptions of the setting as a symbolism of death. The day and hour Desiree leaves with her child is an “October afternoon”, whereby October, which is correlated to autumn, represents the end – and in this case, possibly the end of the lives of Desiree and her baby. “The sun” which was “just sinking” depicts a similar image and appeal of death. Moreover, the “deserted field” which Desiree crosses with her child to flee Aubigny’s plantation symbolizes her escape from the racist society and into the desertedness of isolation. Just as how society at the time had been isolating slaves and all those who were deemed inferior to the white dominant race, Desiree now chooses to isolate herself and her baby from this unjust world – perhaps forever.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin: Edna’s Finding Her Identity and Independence
“I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children, but I wouldn’t give myself, ” Edna admits. Unfortunately for Edna, she struggles all throughout her short lived life trying to balance her family and love life. However, in the novel, The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, Edna Pontellier, the protagonist, struggles to conform to social norms and to finding her identity which leads to problems with her family, love life and self-authorization. Edna ultimately pays the price as she is trying to discover her identity leading to complications with her family and marriage.
During her marriage, she is dissatisfied with her role as a mother and wife. Edna finally comes to the realization that she doesn’t need to be dependent on anyone and she is in control of her own freedom. Edna starts to stray away from her role as a mother and wife and starts focusing more on her painting skills. When visiting Madame Reisz, Edna tells Madame about her new career choice and Madame comments, “The artist must possess the courageous soul. The soul that dares and defies”. By choosing to become an artist, Edna begins the process of finding her identity and independence. She then starts to become more of her own person by choosing what to do with her own time instead of listening to her husband’s commands. Leonce, Edna’s husband, notices her evolving and changing which starts to irritate him. He doesn’t like how she gives up certain practices like receiving visitors since it hurts his business and relationships for work. Leonce also does not understand why Edna is disobeying him because he thinks as his wife, she should take care of the family and tend to his needs. However, she believes she is not fit for the role as a mother-women which leads to her pulling away from her family because she realizes she can’t fulfill the expectations as a mother or wife. Also she sees the mother-women lifestyle through Adele and understands that’s not part of her identity. To Edna, the life Adele lives is unappealing and colorless. As Edna faces complications finding her identity, her family and love life struggle, too. Obeying to the social norms generates a trapped feeling within Edna creating struggles involving her family and love life. Edna eventually grows tired of always complying to her husband and finally snaps saying, “Don’t speak to me like that again; I shall not answer you”.
Edna rejects the role of a mother-women by disobeying the social norms and unlike her husband doesn’t care how society perceives her. She notices this action when she writers a letter to Mr. Pontellier telling him she is moving out and his response is to post an ad in the newspaper saying they’re going on a vacation. This action gives her another reason as to why she should leave her husband and continue talking to Robert and Alcee. Even though society would scold Edna for cheating on her husband, she doesn’t regret her choices and continues to defy social norms. Also as a mother, Edna doesn’t play a perfect one since she doesn’t put her children’s needs first. Eventually, Edna leaves her family because she also feels like she can’t help her children and offer them what they need. While struggling to obey social norms, Edna creates problems within her family and in her marriage.
As Edna searches for her identity, she establishes important relationships that help Edna with her self-authorization. Edna develops a relationship with Mademoiselle Reisz after meeting her and slowly Madame Reisz inspires Edna over time. Often times Edna would visit Madame Reisz who would help her increase her artistic skills and help her push through her problems with Robert. Even though Edna loves Robert, Madame Reisz shows Edna how she doesn’t need to be dependent on a man and can live happily without a husband. Madame Reisz inspires her to keep ignoring society’s expectations and to live by her passions through her actions and advice. Another relationship that influences Edna is Adele who is a foil of Mademoiselle Reisz. Compared to Madame Reisz, Adele is a wife and mother who takes care of her family’s needs and fulfills her husband’s demands. When Edna witnesses these characteristics about Adele, she realizes that this mother-women life was not something she wanted to live in. This type of life to Edna is too perfect and restricts her from being able to do what she wants. When Edna tells Adele that she can’t devote her life to obeying her husband and sacrificing her life to her children, Adele can’t understand why Edna thinks this and has a hard time processing it. Between these two women, Edna is able to be steered towards the right path of who she wants to be in the future and what she wants her life to be like.
Throughout Edna’s journey, “Mrs. Pontellier begins to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her”. Although she lives a short lived life, Mrs. Pontellier is able to pick her own fate and future. For a very short time, Edna escapes the problems she lived with from being a mother and wife and is able to defy society’s norms.
Different Examples of Irony in The Story of an Hour
In the short story, “The Story of an Hour”, by Kate Chopin, the author provides two examples of the literary technique of irony to enrich and support the theme, “nothing is as it seems.” Kate Chopin uses both situational and verbal irony in different instances in the story. She uses situational irony to reveal the implausible happiness that Mrs. Mallard experiences, after seeing her husband alive, after her husband’s supposedly subsequent death. The author uses verbal irony to explicate Mrs. Mallard’s change in her state of being from being depressed and sad to being joyous and ecstatic. The first instance of verbal irony is used to explain the shift of mood of Mrs. Mallard. When she yells, “Free, Free, Free”! Mrs. Mallard, “carrie herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory”.
In the story, a friend informs Mrs. Mallard regarding the death of her husband in a tragic accident. As a result, Mrs. Mallard feels depressed and saddened by the report and heads to her room to isolate herself and to grief. Her family including Josephing are worried for her, especially her health due to her heart troubles. It is presumed by the family, including Josephine that there is an interturomoil in Mrs. Mallard because of the loss of her husband. However, in the room, there is self-reflection by Mrs. Mallard which is done by looking at nature, and trying to look for a message in the blue sky. She realizes that she and her husband had a well marriage, that was supported by love between both couples.
Nevertheless, the widow realizes that her husband was focused on his own lust and ambition and truly had no compassion towards Mrs. Mallard. Also, Mrs. Mallard had no say in the marriage and was constantly enforced by her husband to do what was best for her wife rather than allowing her to figure out things for herself. Suddenly, she experiences jubilation and a monstrous joy subsequently because she now realizes that she has new sense of freedom and can pursue a life of independence. Mrs. Mallard realizes that her husband’s passing allows her to discover a world without the oppressive backlash of her husband, and his passing displays the different attitude and mindset she has toward life, as well as to live a life that is fueled by determination to live a life that she has always wanted. This example exhibits verbal irony because the reader assumes that Mrs. Mallard would experience depression from the tragic news of her husband, but in reality she sees the bigger outcome of her husband’s death and feels rejoiced.The second and final example of dramatic irony in the story displays the shock and the ensuing death of Mrs. Mallard as a result of her presumed death husband, alive. Mrs. Mallard, “did of heart disease-of joy that kills”.
The family and the doctor believe that the cause of death for Mrs. Mallard was the overwhelming joy that was associated with seeing her husband again. However, the read can imply, based on the information gathered by the self reciton of the protagonist, that she died of shock that her husband was still alive, and that she would have to live a live with an oppressive husband, and her freedoms and independence would disappear. Mr. Mallard walks through the doors, acting as if nothing had happened, even though Louis believes that he is dead, because her friend receives a second telegram confirming this news. Mrs. Mallard did not expect that the man she loathed would be back, and this reality check really triggered upset and disgust, and her resulting death.
Kate Chopin, in the short story, “The Story of an Hour”, uses irony including dramatic and verbal irony, which is found throughout the story to explain the theme, “nothing is as it seems”, and the changes that are experienced by Mrs. Mallard such as her state of being, attitude, and personality. Mrs. Mallard changing from being depressed to ecstatic in spite of the devastating news of her husband is ironic, as well as her shocked reaction as well as her death by seeing her husband, Mr. Mallard. The author use of irony allows the reader to understand a more broader meaning of the story and the message, including the theme that is present, throughout the story.
Women Liberalisation Achieved by Kate Chopin
Twenty-first century domestic statistics scream with divorce. Although the relationship between husband and wife is far more equal since the days of Kate Chopin’s “The Dream of an Hour,” rampant divorce and single-parent families still make it difficult for today’s children and teenagers to trust they will marry happily. While cases of marital infidelity, alcoholism, and abuse are all leading causes for separation, divorced women everywhere, to some extent, share the cry of Mrs. Mallard: “Free! Body and soul free!” In her novella The Awakening and short story “The Dream of an Hour,” Chopin advocates not only that the oppressed wives’ escape from marriage, but also the further removal from any potentially constraining influence.
While Edna Pontellier’s affections for Robert and Arobin magnify the lack of spousal loyalty today, Chopin’s works condemn marriage more for the sake of preserving individual liberty than for sexual freedom. Mrs. Mallard delights in this newfound understanding; grasping the future, she embraces her own self rather than the prospect of new relationships: “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature”(2). Similarly, Mrs. Pontellier shares this somewhat cynical realization about the triviality of human coexistence: “I’ll not be forced into doing things. I don’t want to go abroad. I want to be left alone” (111).
Kate Chopin’s “The Dream of an Hour” and The Awakening are not only demonstrations of independence from marriage, but declarations of superiority to all human connection. Although Mrs. Pontellier’s passion for Robert speaks warmly of love outside a constraining marriage, the leading women in both works share in perceiving its extreme insignificance. In debating her love for her “deceased” husband, Mrs. Mallard resolves, “What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being” (2). Likewise, Edna Pontellier too easily exempts herself from the power of love and loss: “Today it is Arobin; tomorrow it will be someone else. It makes no difference to me…”(115).
Edna Pontellier and Mrs. Mallard each become the epitome of the transcendentalist philosophy. From the confines of stifling marriages, each woman emerges with an overpowering sense of self-worth. Ironically, however, their transcendence of societal conformity yields as much radical aloofness as introspective thought. While their personal revelations are intense and inspiring, the characters underestimate life’s shared joys, particularly love. By misconceiving emotions as mere “impulses,” they reduce the complexity of life to one level – the soul. The reader must question: Are these women doomed in their cynicism? Their new transcendentalist ideals foster physical isolation as well as emotional freedom. Kate Chopin’s works beautifully illustrate the value of independence; her folly is in trivializing the embrace of a loved one.
Art Of Irony in ‘The Story of An Hour’
In The Story of an Hour, Kate Chopin uses a variety of literary devices ranging from third person narration, juxtaposition and irony to vividly illustrate the dramatic process of grievance, and alternately liberation, that Mrs. Mallard experiences under the impression that her husband has died. In the beginning of the short story, Chopin attempts to extend inklings to the reader of what is later to come in the story through the assertion that “Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble,” and that the other characters, her sister Josephine specifically, would “break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.” It might be perceived that Chopin’s intentions were to foreshadow Mrs. Mallard having a heart failure in response to the traumatic news if it were not delivered delicately. Chopin depicts Mrs. Mallard as a fragile being whom would be shattered both physically and emotionally when given the news of her husband’s death.
Chopin then toys along with this predictable reaction describing Mrs. Mallard as to have “wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment,” similar to how a “child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.” The use of such kinetic word composition and the comparison of Mrs. Mallard to that of a sobbing child portrays her as an emotionally obliterated, feeble woman – entirely devastated, the exact reaction Chopin had foreshadowed early on. Chopin then implements juxtaposition and irony when describing Mrs. Mallard’s feelings subsequent of her devastation.
Up until this point in the story, all of Mrs. Mallard’s actions are seemingly natural. The reader would think it reasonable for a woman to be emotionally rattled at the news of her husband’s death, however Chopin twists this seemingly predictable narrative on its head by now revealing a sense of liberation in Mrs. Mallard. To initiate this shift in mood, Chopin describes Mrs. Mallard gazing at the sky not in “a glance of reflection,” however a glance which “indicated a suspension of intelligent thought,” and this described “suspension of intelligent thought” puts a pause on Mrs. Mallard’s remorseful thoughts and serves as a gateway into her newfound freedom.
Chopin further describes the positive ascension of Mrs. Mallard’s thoughts through the phrases “her bosom rose and fell tumultuously,” while whispering, “free, free, free,” “over and over under her breath.” Through this description, Chopin seems to reinvent Mrs. Mallard in an almost evil way as she is finding peace within her husband’s death. A reader might associate Mrs. Mallard’s “tumultuous” chest movements and repetition of a single word with the clich?, evil, methodical laugh of a villainous character that rises in richness at the expense of another (the laugh then commensurate to Mrs. Mallard’s happiness at the expense of her husband’s life). Chopin has recreated Mrs. Mallard in a way that makes her seemingly selfish in that she has achieved contentment through the death of her husband when the orthodox reaction should be a sense of remorse. Chopin therefore creates irony in two ways: one through the juxtaposition of how Mrs. Mallard should feel and how she actually feels and the other being how Mrs. Mallard achieves emotional uplift through an inherently wrong (according to societal expectation) response to the situation.
Referring back to the potential foreshadowing in the beginning of story, Chopin seems to create a full circle effect at the end of the story. The very last line of Chopin’s short story proclaims that “she (Mrs. Mallard) had died of heart disease – of the joy that kills.” This ending serves as a full circle ending as it ties Chopin’s beginning statement, “Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble,” to the end of the story: Mrs. Mallard’s death via heart failure. The irony then amounts from the cause of Mrs. Mallard’s heart failure. Chopin has illustrated the story so that the reader knows Mrs. Mallard’s heart failure is from the negative shock of knowing her husband is alive while the characters in the story believe Mrs. Mallard’s heart failure is from positive shock, hence “the joy that kills.” This irony and juxtaposition of what actually happened and what is perceived to have happened (by the characters in the story) is made entirely possible through Chopin’s choice of third person narration.
Through third person narration, Chopin exposes both sides of the situation: Mrs. Mallard’s internal thoughts, her feelings of liberation and freedom, and the external thoughts of the other characters, the feelings that Mrs. Mallard is desolate. By divulging the juxtaposing views to the reader, Chopin creates an ironic dichotomy. Through this ironic dichotomy, the reader gleans the unadulterated truth of Mrs. Mallard’s reaction to her husband’s death thus establishing a personal relationship between the reader and the character of Mrs. Mallard, all of which Chopin uses as a strategy to effectively illustrate Mrs. Mallard’s emotional development throughout the story.
Analysis of Kate Chopin’s Irony
In most stories and poems, they tend to include irony. Irony plays a big role in stories, giving readers a gasp or a surprise for not expecting what is to come. Although there are many stories with irony in them, Kate Chopin’s “The storm” and “Desiree’s Baby” include a significant amount of irony. For example in the short story “ The storm” many important facts are hidden from the readers, only to show up at the end of the story, also Chopin uses irony with certain descriptions given throughout the entire story. In “Desiree’s Baby” Chopin talks about death, racism and heritage. Kate Chopin’s use of irony, is what make her beginnings, middle and endings all the more captivating.
Kate Chopin’s short story “Desiree’s Baby” has an inexplicable amount of irony. For example the story centers around race and heritage. In the text it states “The passion that awoke in him that day, when he saw her at the gate, swept along like an avalanche, or like a prairie fire, or like anything that drives headlong over all obstacles.” Armand is very prejudice to black people, he has fallen in love thinking that he would have a child with a white women and the outcome would be a white child. The irony is that after everything, he receives backfire from all of this because his child is not fully white. He later finds out this his ancestors were African and that is the real irony. Armand was in denial throughout the whole story, deep down I believe Armand knew this information, but kept it as a secret. Armand is afraid of what the public eye would perceive him as if they were to find out the truth. Armand holds power and a title, and he would not dare risk being caught red handed. Armand continues to punish Desiree and his child for his own mistakes. Armand later finds a letter written from his parents revealing that he has mixed blood, and then goes on to blame God for being this way. It is also ironic that once he found out his child was mixed, he made sure to tear Desiree down, not knowing he was going down with her. In the text it states “It is a lie; it is not true, I am white! Look at my hair, it is brown; and my eyes are gray, Armand, you know they are gray. And my skin is fair,” seizing his wrist. “Look at my hand; whiter than yours, Armand,” she laughed hysterically. “As white as La Blanche’s,” he returned cruelly; and went away leaving her alone with their child.” The end of the story is the real irony because Armand eventually loses everything, he has lost not only his wife and child but his family’s name.
Although race and heritage was the center of “Desiree’s Baby”, religion also played a part in the story creating even more irony. For example the text states “My mother, they tell me I am not white. Armand has told me I am not white. For God’s sake tell them it is not true. You must know it is not true. I shall die. I must die. I cannot be so unhappy, and live”. Although the story does not state that Desiree and her baby die, death and religion is the irony present. Desiree displays a sense of boldness in her attempts to defy her God, this is also irony because acting this way in the mid-nineteenth-century in Louisiana would have been considered heretical.
Kate Chopin’s “The storm” there are many signs of irony. For example Chopin writes “Calixta put her hands to her eyes, and with a cry, staggered backward. Alcee’s arm encircled her, and for an instant he drew her close and spasmodically to him.” Chopin’s tries to convince readers to feel bad for her, when in reality there is more to her than what meets the eye, as the saying goes. Throughout the whole storm Calixta is displaying her emotions, making readers believe she is worried about her child and husband. While they are dealing with the storm, Calixta’s true identity shows when she commits an act of adultery, even though she claims she is worried about her family during the storm.
Another sign of irony is the storm, and how it gave many opportunities. For example, Calixta would not have seen or committed any adultery if it were for the storm “She had not seen him very often since her marriage, and never alone,” so because of the storm, it gave her an opportunity to do “dirty work” and have an affair. Calixta eventually realizes that she is a mother and a wife, yet she continues to have an affair with Alcee. To furthermore, she pretends to show concern for her husband and child y, the text states “Oh, Bobint! You back! My! But I was uneasy. W’ere you been during the rain? An’ Bibi? he ain’t wet? he ain’t hurt? She had clasped Bibi and was kissing him effusively.” Another sign of irony in “The Storm” is Calixta’s four-year-old child (Bibi), he is perceived to be brave and he is not frightened by the storm. For example in the story, ‘Bibi laid his little hand on his father’s knee and was not afraid”, this is a comparison to Calixta, who is a grown woman and the mother of Bibi, ye she all control due to her own fears.
However, the relationship between Calixta and Alcee is much deeper than it appears, their acts of adultery and the passion they shared was because of the storm. The story ends with everyone happy and secrets kept. The storm is not only the setting, it is also the center of the irony. For example Calixta and Alcee find themselves in each other’s arms, then the story proceeds to explain and depict their sexual interaction, ultimately ending the story with a secret affair. From the beginning of the story to the climax then the end, the storm matches the scenery throughout the whole story. The last few stanzas in the story is the ultimate comparison to the storm. The text states “As for Clarisse, she was charmed upon receiving her husband’s letter. She and the babies were doing well. The society was agreeable; many of her old friends and acquaintances were at the bay. And the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days. Devoted as she was to her husband, their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while. So the storm passed and everyone was happy.” Concluding that “The Storm” is the real irony present.
Act of Freedom in the Novel “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin
While there is arguably no justification for suicide, in the novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin, it is Edna’s act of freedom. The time period in which it happens, and the events that lead up to it only give a clear explanation that all she wants is freedom. Edna can be viewed as selfish in this situation but with the circumstances she was under and the thought process she thoroughly dissected, it is very clear Edna’s rebellion toward her life in society was not selfish at all, however done in an act of freedom.
In the society that Edna is living in, she continuously searches for freedom. She feels as if being independent is not an option, especially in a society that does not accept women. Edna searches for freedom anywhere she can grasp it because no one understands her, “He did not know; he did not understand” (116). Robert was the “he” in her pre-suicidal self talk. Robert in a way helps her achieve her independence, but never understands her just like everybody else in her family. As she kills herself she feels that she is escaping the world that does not understand her or accept her and thus gaining freedom.
Edna eventually decides that suicide is the only way out of her horrible life and finds her freedom. She clearly thinks about every possible impact that her death may have on a person and is very careful about her way of killing herself, therefore not acting selfishly because she took time to think of everyone, “She thought of Leonce and the children. They were a part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul” (116). Edna would not have any satisfaction going back to her children and Leonce because she would feel as if she restricts her own freedom by choice. Her whole thought process involves making her suicide looking like an accident so that there is no faulty feeling by anyone in the family. Her suicide allows her freedom in an unselfishly manner because of her thoroughly planned out attack that set her free.
Edna continuously throughout her life tries to stand up for what she believes and be true to herself and everyone in her life but no one understands. She feels that there’s no hope for freedom and she’s so sad that there’s nothing else to do. Her community keeps damaging her right to be herself and to have freedom. Edna finds freedom in the sea, “The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude”.(115), for Edna solitude was her suicide.
Symbolism of Social Gender Constraints
The social constructs of gender are manifested through the forced institution of marriage in Kate Chopin’s “La Belle Zorade” and “The Story of an Hour.” The protagonists in each story experience suppressed emotions in response to the social institution of marriage, which limits their female individuality. When either protagonist attempts to challenge these social constructs, they are afflicted with an internal turmoil that manifests itself physically and externally. Male minor characters in each story incite the protagonist to challenge social constructs, whereas female minor characters deter the protagonists’ challenges of these social constructs. Chopin employs symbolism to illustrate the constraints of the protagonist and additionally employs imagery to establish an atmosphere that conveys the influence of social constructs. Kate Chopin develops the internal turmoil of the protagonist as a response to social limitations of gender.
By challenging the social constructs of gender, the protagonists’ attempts to relieve themselves of suppressed emotions are futile. Chopin employs the symbolism of bodily disease to demonstrate the effect of expressing formerly suppressed emotions. To illustrate, Chopin foreshadows physical exhibition of bodily ailment when, in dialogue with Zorade, Madame Delarivire states, “You deserve to have the lash laid upon you like any other slave” (36). The physical maltreatment of slaves that Madame alludes to progresses to Zora de’s dementia at the story’s conclusion. This is symbolised by the “senseless bundle of rags . . . [over which] she [draws] the mosquito bar. . . and [beside which] she [sits] contentedly” (39). This mental instability results from Zorade’s decision to express her emotions and relieve herself of society’s oppression by pursuing her love for Mzor. Mzor’s physical displacement from Zorade encourages her to challenge the social constructs of gender. Chopin uses symbolism to contrast the rags, which symbolise Zorade’s submission to social conformity, with Zorade’s child, who symbolizes her assertion of her female identity. Zorade’s rejection of the child at the story’s conclusion signifies her dismissal of her female individuality. This is an inconclusiveness of her internal turmoil that is impelled by her attempt to express her formerly suppressed emotions.
Chopin introduces Louise Mallard as being physically afflicted “with a heart trouble” (1). This progresses to death at the story’s conclusion and is induced when her husband physically triumphs over his alleged death to return healthy and wholesome to the story. Mrs. Mallard’s death is impelled by her attempt to express her suppressed emotions by challenging the social institution of marriage. She almost recuperates from this physical affliction when confined in the locked room. The locked room symbolises her assertion of her female individuality as she escapes the social institution of marriage to pursue her female identity. This contrasts with the opened door at the story’s denouement, which symbolises Louise’s return to society. This signifies the irresolute ending to her internal turmoil as Louis encounters the social constructs from which she had attempted to escape during her confinement in the locked room.
The minor characters in each story introduce disturbances that incite the characters’ internal conflicts. The physical displacement of Mzor results in Zorade’s mental harm, whereas Brently’s replacement incites Louise’s death. The similarity in the role of the minor characters to impel the character’s physical ailments is attributed to the protagonists’ internal conflicts with suppressed emotions. Chopin’s objective is to emphasize that the protagonists are limited to their female bodies and cannot satiate their desires; however, she treats the two minor characters in different ways as the protagonists experience different circumstances.
Through visual imagery, Chopin establishes the mood of longing and yearning as the protagonists attempt to resolve their internal turmoil. Chopin establishes this mood through visual imagery that conveys Zorade’s deprivation. To demonstrate, in witnessing Mzor dance the Bamboula in Congo Square, Chopin states, “Poor Zorade’s heart grew sick in her bosom with love for le beau Mzor form the moment she saw the fierce gleam of his eye, lighted by the inspiring strains of the Bamboula . . .” (35). The epithet that Chopin uses to describe Zorade contrasts with the visual imagery of Mzor’s dance and conveys the yearning with which Zorade responds to the dance. Due to social constructs, she is deprived of pursuing her love for him, but attempts to resolve this internal turmoil by watching him dance the Bamboula in Congo Square. This deprivation is further developed through the physical displacement of Mzor, “who was sold away into Georgia, or the Carolinas, . . . where he would no longer hear his Creole tongue spoken, nor dance Calinda, nor hold la belle Zorade in his arms” (37).
The mood of longing and yearning is also established when Zorade is deprived of her baby. This minor character is introduced to temporarily disturb this atmosphere, as following Mzor’s physical displacement, Zorade “took comfort . . . in the thought of her baby” (37). The atmosphere returns to one of longing and yearning when the narrator asserts that “there is no agony that a mother will not forget when she holds her first-born to her heart, and presses her lips upon the baby flesh . . .” (37-38). The fluctuating atmosphere signifies the futility of the protagonist’s attempt to resolve her internal conflict. Zorade’s deprivation is a response to the social constructs of gender.
Zorade experiences mental seclusion from society when she attempts to assert her female individuality by pursuing her love for Mzor. The atmosphere of longing and yearning is incited by Madame Delarivire’s decision to deprive Zorade of her child. Madame Delarivire intends to suppress Zorade’s emotions and discourage her from expressing those emotions. Evidently, the atmosphere of mental instability that pervades the story’s denouement is disturbed by Madame Delarivire when she introduces the child to Zorade and states that, “No one will ever take her from you again” (39). This demonstrates the effect of a minor character, who reconciles with social constructs, on the atmosphere in which the female protagonist is situated.
Chopin establishes the mood of longing and yearning through visual imagery that invigorates Louise. To exemplify, after hearing of her husband’s death, Louise confines herself to a room in order to physically seclude herself from society. Visual imagery is employed to describe the trees outside the window as being “aquiver with the new spring life” (13) and to attribute to the rain in the air “the delicious breath” (14). Both instances of visual imagery metaphorically allude to the invigoration that Louise feels as she attempts to free herself from the institution of marriage. The narrator also asserts that there “were patches of blue sky showing here and there” (17) which signifies the hopefulness that surrounds Louise’s invigoration and foreshadows her assertion of female individuality when she accepts her emotions. This invigoration is physically referred to when Louise’s “pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood [warms] and [relaxes] . . . her body” (34). These assertions of Louise’s physical invigoration result from her submission to her emotions, which she can freely express when in the confines of the room. The atmosphere of longing and yearning relates to the reader the influence of social constructs as they have limited Louise’s physical invigoration by inciting her physical ailment.
The atmosphere of invigoration that Chopin establishes through visual imagery is disturbed by the introduction of Louise’s sister, Josephine, when she interjects, “. . . open the door – you will make yourself ill” (51). The locked room invigorates Louise by isolating her from the social constructs of marriage; however, Chopin introduces a minor character who has emerged from the external world to discourage Louise from asserting her emotions. Josephine’s assertion that Louise “will make [herself] ill” is ironic as the illness with which Louise was afflicted was induced by social restrictions as imposed by the institution of marriage. Josephine’s disturbance of the atmosphere intends to relieve Louise of her internal turmoil by encouraging the suppression of her emotions.
The seclusion of each protagonist from society in an effort to pursue her female individuality is interrupted by a female minor character who convinces the protagonist to suppress those emotions. Chopin accomplishes this by establishing atmosphere in each story, then introducing the female minor character as an atmospheric disturbance. Her objective is to demonstrate how minor characters, who reconcile with social constructs, affect the atmosphere in which the protagonists are situated.
In each story, the protagonist is afflicted with an internal turmoil that is incited when the protagonist attempts to challenge the social restrictions of gender. Zorade and Louise both exhibit the physical detriment of challenging these social constructs as is evinced through Chopin’s use of symbolism. Furthermore, Chopin situates each protagonist in an atmosphere which conveys the influence of the social construct of gender on each protagonist. Minor characters also play an important role. Evidently, in both short stories, Chopin develops the internal turmoil of the female protagonist due to the constraints of gender that society imposes upon her.
Comparison Of Realism In The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn By Mark Twain And The Awakening By Kate Chopin
The jaw dropping book “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, has been described as racist, yet at the same time is believed to be one of the greatest works of American fiction. Throughout the book, readers begin uncovering how a man’s ethics and activities conflict with those of the general public around him.
Twain indicates authenticity in relatively every part of his composition; the depiction of the setting, that of the characters, and even the manner in which characters speak. Through his story, Twain mocks a considerable amount of establishments drawn in society. Demonstrating the pietism of individuals engaged with instruction, religion, and sentimentalism through silly, yet genuine models. In particular, Twain demonstrates the manner in which Huckleberry’s ethical convictions frame in the midst of a period of vulnerability in his life. In addition to the previously stated, allow this to further expand on Twain’s unique writing style; “Well, I RECKON! There’s two-hundred dollars reward on him. It’s like picking up money out’n the road”. This portrays individuals such as Huck and his activities, feelings, surroundings as being the grim truth that all he sees Jim at first as a paycheck and not a human being. Twain produces characters that are not impeccably great or totally shrewd; they display qualities and shortcomings, similarly as genuine individuals. Twain accurately captures characters by dressing them in garments that fit their region and talk with local tongues. In particular, characters are not so much politically correct, but more so exaggerated to fit that of the geographical location that this story was written.
In exposing the personalities of characters, Twain mocks the falseness and deception of specific teachers, religious pioneers, and sentimental people. Twain demonstrates how the characters demonstration before others, and after that uncovers their actual feelings and quirks. The Dauphin and the Duke, for instance, are two characters that Huck meets while exploring with Jim. Upon first glance, the men seem proper, yet they are practically hoodlums. Twain shows us that his characters develop an opinion of their own; “It didn’t take me long to decide that these liars warn’t no lords nor dukes by any stretch of the imagination, yet simply down and out fakes and frauds. Later in the story, Huck comes to the conclusion that the conmen just carry on false plays and make it apparent that they know practically nothing i. e. blending random scenes and lines from totally unique plays.
In comparison, Chopin’s works are similar to Twain’s in that she uses lots of realist elements throughout her stories. She writes in such a way that what matters to her characters seems to raise her reader’s eyebrows and make it matter to them. Allow this realist element given in her works; “there was no despondency when she fell asleep that night;nor was there hope when she awoke in the morning”. Just as Twain engrains realist elements in his works, Chopin gives it to us raw and paints a picture of the uncut and the sometimes grim thing we call reality. This realist element is called reality and it is what most people experience in their lifetime; being depressed or losing hope, just as her character seemed to slowly slip away.
Mark Twain’s works in terms of content are similar to Chopin’s in that both use unusual content for their times. For example, Chopin states “Courageous, ma foi! The brave soul. The soul that dares and defies”. At this time in history, it was common to see a woman suppressed by her husband but uncommon to read about a woman ending up having an affair with another man. She puts a twist on her story that reels her readers in for more just as Twain did by incorporating events that would be seen as outrageous to the social norms of their time. This is similar to the book Huck Finn in that Jim, the slave of the book is tired of being bought and sold and wants a way out, but he sees the river as that way, just as the wife in Chopin’s book saw the affair as the gateway to freedom. At the time of these novels, it was unusual for writers to have such radical content, especially about a woman cheating her husband or possibly a slave being treated as an equal and not just a piece of property. People can say what they want, but so-called controversial stories that are not sugar-coated and are based on actual places and things that do happen, contrary to what politically correct people believe, sell and continue to sell for years. Furthermore, in regards to the attitude of both novels, each yearns to stand out from the norms of writing for their time. Each author wanted to produce a bold statement in regards to social justice for all, especially the ones who are thought to not be equals, such as women and slaves.
The two writers’ works are different in attitude in that Twain seems to question the institution of slavery and develops his characters to question the ethics of if slavery is really morally good. Chopin’s novel “The Awakening” has a differing attitude from Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” in that her story was focused on oppressed women and what steps they had to take to remove themselves, whereas Twain develops multiple characters to challenge multiple controversial issues in their society. When it comes to writing style, the similarities both authors share is the connection of wanting to question societal issues through the literature they produce and the development of the characters within. The writing styles differ between the two in that Twain has a more uncut, uncensored and politically incorrect approach in his style of writing, whether that be using racial slurs to get his readers attention or letting his characters fit the stereotype of simple southern sounding folk. Chopin’s style differed from Twain’s in that she did not attempt near the complexity of which Twain took it to. Chopin played it somewhat safe in that she only wrote about a woman who has an affair with another man, and did not really have main characters or so many other decisions her characters had to face, which for the time was still shocking.
All in all, Twain impacted social issues such as the morality of slavery through his writing by getting his readers aware about it and get a chance to comprehend it through literary devices. Furthermore, Twain was impacted by other writers and social issues and even trends during and before his lifetime because he actually grew up in a small town in Missouri. Even before his lifetime, these issues still burdened society and shaped it before he even picked up his first pencil to write about it. This greatly impacted his writing of Huckleberry Finn because he was familiar with the society around him and perhaps that is why Huckleberry Finn is such a great novel because it accurately depicts the people there and in every aspect of their lives and decision making seems to fit the issues that faced them. During Twain’s lifetime growing up, slavery was much a part of his society and was still seen by many as okay and others not so much okay.
Chopin’s Take on True Love and Marriage
Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour is a feminist parable criticizing the romantic ideal of “true love” and the benefits of marriage. Chopin presents her critique of marriage by using the final hour in the life of Louise Mallard, whose joyful response to her husband’s supposed death conveys the idea that freedom is more important than love. Chopin expresses this theme in the narrative when Louise realizes that she will be freed in the absence of her husband: “what could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being” (175). Chopin uses her story’s setting to reinforce the direct characterization of Louise as a woman who desperately wants to be free, suggesting that marriage is a kind of prison, and that a married person is not unlike a prisoner. The story’s symbolic setting conveys the absence of freedom in Louise’s marriage, her intense feelings of emotional rebirth, and her sudden shock at her husband’s return.
The story’s extremely confined setting helps to convey Louise’s restricted life in her marriage with her husband, Brently. The entire story takes place within Louise’s home, suggesting the traditional belief that the home is the “proper” place for a woman. Furthermore, most of the story takes place in Louise’s bedroom, suggesting her entrapment. During the last hour of her life, her only major physical movements are to enter her room after the story begins, and to leave her room just before the story ends. In neither case does Louise move very far, and her final movement before death takes her just a few feet from her room, to the staircase. These limited movements reflect her equally limited life as a married woman.
Louise’s husband had “never looked save with love upon her” (174-175), but like many spouses, he believed that he had “a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature” (175). Louise does not care about Brently’s motivation; what concerns her is that he denied her the freedom to make her own choices: “A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act [of imposing his will on her] seem no less a crime in that belief moment of illumination” (175). The limited life that Louise has led under her husband’s control has turned her into his prisoner rather than his equal partner, and, like most prisoners, she is closely watched. Although her room seems to be the only place where she can be alone, her sister Josephine does not allow Louise even this small space for herself. Instead, Josephine kneels before Louise’s “closed door with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission” (175). Josephine’s actions suggest how closely Louise’s family has always watched her, with “the blind persistence” (175) of people who believe that they have a right to control others.
Other details of the setting help to convey Louise’s joyful feeling of freedom after learning of her husband’s death. The “comfortable, roomy armchair” (174) suggests that her room is her own, private place where she can relax and be “herself”. This chair faces an “open window” (174), symbolizing the new possibilities that Louise believes are awaiting her, and the scene outside this open window reinforces this symbolism while further suggesting that Louise is experiencing an emotional rebirth. Outside her window, she can see “in the open square before her house the tops of trees that [are] all aquiver with the new spring life” (174). Spring, of course, is the season when all nature is “reborn”. Moreover, the quivering trees with fresh sap running through their branches are likened to Louise herself: “Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body” (174). Similarly, the “delicious breath of rain” (174) in the air recalls the joyful feeling of freedom within Louise as she looks towards her future.
However, two details in the scene outside Louise’s open window foreshadow the death that awaits her. In a separate paragraph that sets these details apart from the rest of the description, the narrator states, “There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled above the other in the west facing her window” (174). Like the open window and the open square, the “patches of blue sky” suggest freedom. However, the clouds are a negative image, and foreshadow the “cloud” of depression that overwhelms Louise when she realizes that her husband is still alive and that she is still his prisoner. Furthermore, although Louise’s window is “open”, it faces the west – the direction of the sunset, not the sunrise. A sunset is a conventional symbol of death and dying, so this detail hints that Louise’s belief in her new freedom and in “all sorts of days that [will] be her own” (175) is only an illusion.
The ending of the story confirms this hint when Brently unexpectedly returns home. Once again, the details of the setting are important in characterizing Louise and suggesting the story’s theme. After Louise leaves her room and begins to descend the stairs – like a prisoner, she is escorted by a “guard”, Josephine – her front door opens and Brently appears in the doorway “at the bottom” (175) of the stairs. Within a fraction of a second, Louise sinks from the height of joy (symbolized by her husband’s position at the bottom of the staircase). Thus, her physical descent down the stairs symbolizes her emotional descent from her joyful fantasy of freedom into her depressing awareness of entrapment. Her doctors, who are most likely male, assume that she is a happily married woman who dies “of the joy that kills” (175), but the reader knows the truth: Louise dies of the shock and despair that overwhelm her when she realizes she will never experience her dream of freedom. As long as her husband is alive, she will have no “open window” or “blue sky” in her life, experiencing only obedience to his will and the “repression” (Chopin 174) of her true feelings.
Chopin uses the setting in The Story of an Hour to characterize Louise as a woman who feels trapped by her marriage and who, like a condemned prisoner, longs for her freedom. The setting’s limited nature reflects Louise’s limited life as a married woman, while the beautiful spring day outside her open window symbolizes her desire for rebirth. The fact that her open window faces west, however, foreshadows the illusory nature of her joy, and her sudden death dramatically reinforces this suggestion by emphasizing the story’s theme: for women, marriage without freedom is an inescapable prison.