Compare and Contrast Essay: Similarities and Differences of John Updike and Kate Chopin

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer


In the literary world, various authors have used the written word has played a vital role in describing key issues, informing, ridiculing society and educating. For the paper, the focus of the comparison is on the authors John Updike and Kate Chopin. As a key area, theme analysis highly focuses on identifying key themes and patterns found in works and interpreting meaning (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Although both Updike’s and Chopin’s stories got published during different century timelines, focus on different characters and societal issues, there exists key differences and similarities in themes that serve a vital role in educating the reader.

Thematic Similarities

The two stories, written in different years depict the theme of personal freedom in life and also in individual choices. In Chopin’s story, freedom gets portrayed through the character Louis Mallard after the death of husband Brently in a railroad accident. She passes through the grieving and emerges filled with joy, becomes assertive and aware of her surroundings as seen in her whispering “Free! Body and soul free” (Chopin, 1894). These rank as a critical theme especially with the persistent differences between men and women in the 18th and 19 century (Jockers & Mimno, 2013), especially in voting rights and free will.

In John Updike’s, freedom gets depicted through the Sammy, the narrator of the story. As an employee, there is the showing that as people, one has the right to make choices that can affect their lives. Notably, as a cashier, Sammy notes the great embarrassment and rudeness caused to clients and decided to quit the job. Although the quitting has implications in his life, Sammy shows the importance of willpower and maintaining one’s principles at work and in life.

The other key theme I Chopin’s and Updike story involves the personal impact of actions and the ability to affect the following lives of people. In Louis Mallard case, although the railroad accident was beyond her control, it negatively makes her a widow depriving her of her loving husband. Chopin notes that Mallard would weep knowing that the care and love shown by her husband are no more and “face that never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead” (Chopin, 1894). In Updike’s, although Sammy quits, he has to make it through life with no job. Even if freedom is a choice, are consequences are coming with the choice. In the story, Mr. Lengel says ‘Sammy; you don’t have to do this to your Mom and Dad” (Updike, 1961)

Thematic Differences

In Chopin story, there is the great exemplification of the importance of freedom for women and independence through the character Louis Mallard. Although Mr. Brently dies, Mallard remarks that she will have “procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely” (Chopin, 1894). In contrast, Updike emphasizes the need for union, togetherness and strengthening the family. After Sammy quits, the boss underscores the need for holding the job for the sake of mother and father (Updike, 1961). Updike shows the essentiality of unity in life. The other difference is that Chopin uses death as a key theme and necessary key to gaining personal independence. Louis Mallard gets the desired independence only after her husband’s death. Conversely, in Updike, Sammy gets independence and power in choice making by minding others. It gets seen after the harassment of a customer due to the dressing style.


It is evident that Chopin’s and Updike’s stories written in different centuries show critical society issues ranging from death, personal fulfillment, the role of work and love. And although the themes emerge in both writers, the lessons learned have a crucial role in modern life.


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