Both Chopin’s and Freeman’s respective stories expound on the themes of feminism. Chopin’s The Awakening was not well-received at the time of its publication—the reason was that the theme of the story was unpalatable to many. Some critics have called Chopin’s theme trite and sordid. Chopin’s and Freeman’s stories are stories of rebellion, of breaking away from the norms and doing things either not acceptable to or scorned upon by the society. In both the stories, females have been given the main role and it is they around whom the stories revolve. This paper makes use of five articles to explore the scintillating themes of both Freeman’s and Chopin’s tales.
Keywords: Feminism, society, norms
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The protagonist of “The Revolt of Mother” Sarah has to grapple with her powerless status in a patriarchal, frontier society more caring towards animals than people, especially women. The society which she exists in, through its focus on conquest and colonization, often ignores feminine values (Cutter, 1991). As such, Sarah decides to put up a strong front against all odds, and from here on begins the process of her breaking away from the position assigned to her by the society.
The Revolt of Mother is one of Freeman’s best written tales. (McElrath,1980). This tale goes beyond the many, many similar tales that Freeman wrote for the American magazine and book reading public. It must be highlighted that “The Revolt of the Mother” is magazine fiction and as such must be looked as an individual tale. Because as this story was designed to be read in this manner, it appears at its best when considered thus. Magazine fiction of the past and the present creates certain effects upon its reader, which are not strictly present in book publications.
In, at least, one analysis, the book is read as a strongly feminist novel (Ringe, 1972). There is no doubt that the theme of female self-assertion is quite dominant in The Awakening. But it is not advisable to place too much emphasis on this theme as it can distort both Chopin’s meaning and her accomplishment. Because it must be remembered that Chopin’s neither has neither the authority nor the experience to vouch for only and only women.
The Awakening disregards contemporary moral delicacies (Eble, 1956). The literary critics did not see the book as having done any favor to either literature or the criticism of life. They saw it as nothing but a story of a woman exercising an unrealistic level of freedom.
Chopin, however, has been appreciated for her simple and sincere character development. (Corse & Westerville, 2002)—the character hereby referred to is Edna’s. Opinions about The Awakening were largely negative. One critic opined that The Awakening leaves one sick of human nature. The book has been called morbid, covering the theme of unholy love. Some critics were generous enough to give Chopin the credit of being clever but were of the opinion that she put her cleverness to bad use. The book has also been called an essentially vulgar story. Assessments of the book mainly stated that while Chopin’s writing style was praiseworthy, her choice of topic, unfortunately, wasn’t. Some critics went on to say that the story demanded more romance from life than it could afford to give. The praises for Chopin’s work stated that she penetrated far into to the secret motives behind a person’s actions and therein resides the books haunting beauty and appeal. The story sends a very clear message to its readers that the discovery of the truth comes at a heavy price—it always has and always will. Some literary critics stressed that the book is an all consummate art.
Chopin’s and Freeman’s stories were too progressive for their times and thus were not easily digested by their readers. These stories broke out of the molds in which women had been cast. They were aberrations, but nevertheless important ones as they showed those aspects of being a woman which are either stifled or shunned by the society. One story (Chopin’s) is exceedingly immoral and another (Freeman’s) exceedingly rebellious, but together they serve the purpose of bringing forth those realities of our lives which are either too controversial to accept or difficult to achieve. The question, to date, remains—what is it that stands for a woman?
Cutter, M. J. (1991). Frontiers of Language: Engendering Discourse in” The Revolt of ‘Mother’”. American literature, 63(2), 279-291.
McElrath, J. R. (1980). The Artistry of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s” The Revolt”. Studies in Short Fiction, 17(3), 255.
Ringe, D. A. (1972). Romantic Imagery in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. American Literature, 43(4), 580-588.
Eble, K. (1956). A Forgotten Novel: Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Western Humanities Review, 10, 261-269.
Corse, S. M., & Westervelt, S. D. (2002). Gender and literary valorization: The awakening of a canonical novel. Sociological Perspectives, 45(2), 139-161.