The Female Oppression and Self-Discovery in Kate Chopin's Work
Women have been on a tough road for self- discovery, as it has only been recent that women’s rights have dramatically improved. In the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s, women were seen as fragile, where their opinion were not valued and they were seen as dependents on their male counterpart to survive. Kate Chopin used these idealisms to awaken people of the issues that were experienced by women during these times, she then revolted against the social norm and explored in the matters of human identity. She emphasized a women’s need to walk through a road of self discovery as most women seemed to be trapped between their confining gender roles, leading to their growing detest of the life they were forced to live.
Self discovery is a road filled with many obstacles, female oppression being a wall that for years women have tried to climb out of. Women reserve the right and need to express their own identity, explore their own experiences without being held back by societies backwards view on their abilities to be distinct from their husband. Kate Chopin addresses her concern toward this topic with the text, “ The Story of an Hour”, with her depiction of Mrs. Mallard and her excitement of learning the death of her husband and hinting of a possibility, to be able to live a life for herself instead of only being associated with her husband. Although, there were no hints of her husband being abusive towards Mrs.Mallard, it is clear that she felt oppressed in her marriage, but as of now, with her husband being dead, she was soon to be able to construct her own unique identity with her future now in her hands.
Most of the women in Kate Chopin’s text share something in common, their entrapment in confining gender roles, as so their ability to be able to go against the social norms and challenge these idealisms. Throughout history, women were known to settle down with a male counterpart, conceive 6 to 8 children to ensure survival of their family name, to stay faithful to their husband and to not have their opinions or voices heard against these customs. Kate Chopin’s text, “The Storm”, depicts these thoughts with, Calixta, who was not satisfied in her marriage, causing her to seek out to other remedies that included an affair with another man, thus giving an opportunity to show her ability to go against her female role and even going as far as showing no remorse towards her actions. With a quote from the text, “The rain was over; and the sun was turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems.’ (93), it can be inferred that Calixta saw herself in a grey world, but with the affair, she was welcoming life with open arms, as her affair showed her power of challenging the ideal view of a married woman.
Women were taught to always put the needs of their husband and childrens first instead of acting selfless, and to not let one’s subconscious to be carried away and place desire over duty. This is shown through all of history, and is still present in the modern era. Throughout the text, “A Pair of Silk Stockings”, Mrs. Sommers is depicted fighting against these ideals, as first planning to spend her money towards her children, however, despite her best intentions she loses her fight against desire causing her to succumb to her selfish desire of becoming her own identity and to not be associated to her motherly role. At the end, it is shown, that Mrs. Sommers had a poignant wish of the cable car not stopping causing her to go back to her role of a mother, however, it is never clarified if she did go back to her family or if she went to explore her own desire of following the road of self discovery and identity.
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