Review of Three Short Stories by Kate Chopin
The first thing that strikes me after reading Kate Chopins three stories is that she is a realist. Her stories are fictional works but they represent the stark realities of life. She does not dramatize or make her characters look heroic but just portrays them as everyday, common characters. Marriage and motherhood seem to be the important theme in these stories. After reading through Kate Chopins introduction and these stories, I can feel that Kate Chopin was trying to find her identity with her stories. I also agree that her writing is very unconventional and deals with the issues that women were suffering through in her time. During Kate Chopins era, women were expected to do everything, like taking care of household work and the family while they did not get many chances to follow their own dreams or passions. Through the characters in these stories, I think that she wants to defy the conventional role of women in society during that period. All her women characters are shown to be strong willed and deep inside wanting to be independent and free.
All the three stories are about regret in one way or another. In The story of an Hour, the regret is on part of Mrs. Mallard that while Mr. Mallard was alive, she did not have her own free will. In Regret, Mamzelle Aurelie has the regret of not having children and in A Pair of Silk Stockings, Mrs. Sommers, deep in her heart and for some time, regrets the fact that she cannot live her life freely and with gaiety and without any worries or responsibilities like before she was married.
Kate Chopins The Story of an Hour revolves around Mrs. Mallards character. Mrs. Mallard is a young, married woman who suffers from heart trouble and thats why her sister and her husbands friend feel that they have to break the news of her husbands death to her as gently as possible. The story details what is going on in her head after she receives the news. The setting of the story is Mrs. Mallards room where most of her thoughts come to her. After finding out that her husband has been killed in railroad disaster, she first starts crying but then goes into her room and sits calmly: There stood, facing an open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. The word comfortable and then her observance of beautiful things around her seemed strange to me but then I realized where the author was going. She was building drama for the controversial thoughts that were coming in Mrs. Mallards head. On one hand, she was sad on hearing about her husbands death, while on the other, she felt that finally she could live her life as she pleased. Kate has developed the character of Mrs. Mallard by giving some physical description of the character and by revealing the characters thoughts. Mrs. Mallard has a round character, while, Josephine and Richard have flat characters. The climax of the story is ironic in that Mrs. Mallards heart cannot bear the thought of her not being free after seeing her husband alive and she is the one who dies.
In Regret, Kate Chopin has portrayed Mamzelle Aurelie to be an extremely independent woman, who has never been in love, who is very determined, has her own farm and runs it as well as any man. Kate Chopin contrasts Mamzelle Aurelies solitary and independent life to the more ordinary situation of Oldie, her neighbor, who has four children and has to tailor her life to adjust to her husband and her children. Mamzelle Aurelie has to care for the four children for a few days. Initially I find her behavior towards the children as if they are things rather than being small kids. She has never been with children and finds it a struggle to cope with their various habits. But the presence of children finally has an impact on Mamzelle Aurelie. She is compelled to unearth white aprons that she had not worn for years and to take down the sewing basket which she seldom used. She also starts getting accustomed and attached to the habits of the children like Ti Nommes moist kisses. The going away of the children is symbolized as twilight in contrast to fine summer morning when they arrived. It symbolizes her emptiness when the children leave. Kate Chopin in this story has painted all the characters very vividly and I could feel the children doing what she has written.
A Pair of Silk Stockings is based in an average town. Mrs. Sommers is a middle aged mother of a handful of children and it is obvious that she is not doing too well financially after her husbands death. Kate gives hints that Mrs. Sommers has seen better times before throughout the story. She however manages her situation very well and lives very economically, always thinking about her children first. She happens to get fifteen dollars and that being a big sum she starts planning meticulously on how she is going to utilize that money for useful and important things. All her planning goes out the window however when she tries the pair of silk stockings. She goes on a spree of indulging herself with shoes and gloves to go with her stockings. Deep in her mind, I think that she comes to terms with her situation and thinks that she deserves some pampering. She also goes out to a fancy place to eat and to watch a play with rich women. At the end, I got a hint that she is regretting that this day is ending and her drab routine would resume.
I found all the three stories very interesting and Kate Chopin has a wonderful way of narrating her stories along with a penchant for unexpected and thought provoking endings.
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