What themes does Chopin address that relate to societal changes in the late 19th century?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In addition to the ideas raised earlier, Chopin examined the changing perceptions of women towards their social roles in her short story, "The Story of an Hour."  Chopin takes the notion of a wife's devotion to her husband and examines its modern implications.  Part of what makes her such a powerful writer is her ability to deconstruct what lies beneath the veneer of what is supposed to be.  In traditionalist settings, the death of a husband will evoke nothing but grief from the wife.  This might be due to complete devotion, but it might also exist because this is the role that the wife is expected to play.  If one were able to throw off these constraints of expectation and examine the true essence of it, there is an array of possibilities and the exploration of this is something akin to the 19th century, where intellectual foray into previously assumed domains of politics, love, and emotional attachments were examined.  Chopin argues that when the husband dies, Louise, the main character, endures a mourning period, but also understands that her freedom is now unlimited and is able to create a new existence where her will is no longer bent to that of her husband.  This newly discovered aspect of freedom is liberating and powerful, and one that causes her own death when she realizes her husband is still alive.  The notion of freedom being an illusion that can drive people, but also a reality towards which one should strive is another element of the 19th century that Chopin examines in her short story.

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kimfuji | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Chopin was a realist, part of a literary movement in the 19th century that was dedicated to reporting the lives of common people.The attributes of realism as a literary style are debated; however all critics agree that it is the author's dedication to verisimilitude as the basic precept. Regionalist writing focuses on segment of society, copying their manner and speech patterns, their class system, and other social rules particular to the region.

The themes she addresses are industrialism and child labor and the women's changing roles in society.

In The Awakening, Chopin focused on the Creole culture of Louisiana. Their common heritage came from the French and Spanish ancestry, a complex cast system, and the setting of urban New Orleans.

For example when she portrayed Edna, as a protestant from Kentucky, rather than like the local, French-speaking Catholic Creoles. Edna married a local Creole man, so she was an outsider marrying into the local culture. Chopin highlighted the cultural differences by comparing an outsider entering the local culture. Especially she chose to highlight their social relationships as wives and capitalists.

 

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