David Stuart Davies looks at Kate Chopin's influential novel, first published in 1899. ...
"There are some people who leave impressions not so lasting as the imprint of an oar upon the water."
Kate Chopin, born Katherine O'Flaherty on February 8, 1850, was an American author of short stories and novels. She is now considered by some to have been a forerunner of the feminist authors of the 20th century.
In 1870, at the age of 20, she married Oscar Chopin and settled in New Orleans. Chopin had all six of her children by 28. In 1879, Oscar Chopin's cotton brokerage failed, and the family moved to Cloutierville in south Natchitoches Parish to manage several small plantations and a general store. They became active in the community, and Chopin absorbed much material for her future writing, especially regarding the Creole culture of the area.
However, in years to come, Chopin suffered great personal loss after the death of both her mother and husband, which in turn left her in both emotional and financial turmoil. Her obstetrician felt that writing would be a source of therapeutic healing for Kate during her hard times. He understood that writing could be a focus for her extraordinary energy, as well as a source of income. She took his advice which, as expected helped her heal emotionally and eased her financial strains.
From 1892 to 1895, she wrote short stories for both children and adults which were published in such magazines as, Vogue, The Century Magazine, and The Youth's Companion. As well as her collections of short stories, she also wrote two novels: At Fault (1890) and The Awakening (1899), which are set in New Orleans and Grand Isle, respectively. The people in her stories are usually inhabitants of Louisiana and many of her works are set in Natchitoches in north central Louisiana.
Sadly, while visiting the St. Louis World's Fair on August 20, 1904, Chopin suffered a brain haemorrhage and died two days later, at the age of 54. She was interred in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.
However, within a decade of her death, Chopin was widely recognized as one of the leading writers of her time. In 1915, Fred Lewis Pattee wrote, "some of [Chopin's] work is equal to the best that has been produced in France or even in America. [She displayed] what may be described as a native aptitude for narration amounting almost to genius."
TITLES BY KATE CHOPIN