illustrated portrait of American author Kate Chopin

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What are the themes in "Athenaise" by Kate Chopin?

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The key theme in this short story is a theme that is explored in many of Chopin's works, which is the theme of marriage and woman's role within it. What leads Athenaise to reject her husband and her identity as a married woman has nothing to do with Cazeau, as she makes clear as she explains her reasoning for returning to her family:

It's jus' being married that I detes' an' despise. I hate being Mrs. Cazeau, an' would want to be Athenaise Miche again. I can't stan' to live with a man: to have him always there...

Athenaise therefore has nothing personally against her husband, and she is clear that he does not mistreat her in any way or abuse her. What she finds so difficult to accept is the way that marriage represents a kind of repressive ownership that strips her of her freedom. The only thing that changes the perspective of Athenaise is when she has something else to live for. When she realises that she is pregnant, her perspective suddenly changes, and this ignites her passion for her husband. Chopin suggests something quite radical in this short story, which is that a husband alone is perhaps not enough for a wife, and that women perhaps need other things to live for rather than just solely their husband.

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