Kate Chopin was an early feminist author who was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1850. Today, she’s best known for her novel ‘The Awakening’ and a few incredible short stories.
Kate Chopin began writing as a means of supporting herself and her children after her husband, Oscar, passed away in 1882 from swamp fever. She was largely successful, spending most of her time writing about local people and stories. Some of Chopin’s best-known works are short stories, like her very well-known “The Story of an Hour,” which, as the title suggests, takes place over the course of a single hour.
- Chopin ranked at the top of her class in school.
- Her father died in a bridge collapse when Kate was five years old.
- Chopin’s husband died of swamp fever after they had been married for 12 years.
- Kate Chopin had five children she cared for by herself after her husband’s death.
- She largely withdrew from writing after the negative reaction to The Awakening.
- She is considered to be one of America’s first feminist authors.
- Today, she is best known for The Awakening.
- When The Awakening was published, the public reacted very negatively to it.
- She grew up around independent, widowed women (her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother).
- She died of a cerebral hemorrhage when she was 54 years old.
Famous Books by Kate Chopin
The Awakening is the novel for which Chopin is best known. It was published in 1899 and follows the female protagonist of Edna Pontellier, who struggles to be happy in her marriage and in her everyday life. It resembles the struggles that Chopin faced in many ways, but Edna’s marriage is far less happy than Chopin’s appeared to be.
Bayou Folk is one of two short story collections Chopin published during her career. It was published in 1894 and included stories like “Desiree’s Baby” and “A Lady of Bayou St. John.”
A Night in Acadie is the second short-story collection that Chopin is well-known for. It includes stories like “Mamouche” and “Regret.” It explores many of the themes seen in her other stories, like the role of women in society, motherhood, marriage, and more.
At Fault is her other novel, for which she’s commonly known today. It is another story about a female protagonist who is widowed at thirty and struggles to handle her own life while trying to take care of those around her.
Kate Chopin was educated from a young age. She was sent to a Catholic board school when she was five before returning home after her father’s death (in a tragic bridge collapse).
Lived with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother for the next two years. The latter taught her music, French, and more. Scholars have often cited Japan’s upbringing among independent, widowed women as one of the biggest influences on her ideology and interests.
When she returned, she won medals for her intelligence, consistently ranking at the top of her class.
Chopin was 20 years old when in 1870, she married Oscar Chopin, a 25-year-old son of a farming family in Louisiana. Her marriage appeared to have been a happy one, with Oscar supporting her intellectual pursuits and allowing her a degree of freedom that many other women during her lifetime never had.
Definitely, their happy marriage was complicated by the fact that the Chopins had five children who Oscar struggled to support with his poor business choices. He sadly died in 1882, leaving Kate to run his store and the plantation for the next year. She struggled in this manner for a time before moving back to St. Louis to live with her mother. Her mother died the next year, and Kate spent much of the rest of her life taking care of her children by herself.
It was around this time that Kate Chopin began writing as a means of supporting herself and her children. She was inspired by the people she grew up with, St. Louis and Louisiana culture, and the roles of women in her contemporary society.
Her first novel was published in 1890 and was titled ‘At Fault.’ It was followed by two short story collections— ‘Bayou Folk’ and ‘A Night in Acadia.’ She was highly successful until the publishing of ‘The Awakening’ (what’s considered to be her best-known novel and her literary masterpiece).
Unfortunately, people in Chopin’s contemporary circle did not feel the same way. The continent message of her novel caused something of a literary uproar, and she was ostracized from the literary community in St. Louis.
The novel is a coming-of-age story of a Bildungsroman that follows a woman who struggles in her marriage and with society’s expectations. Her beliefs about marriage and motherhood align in many ways with Chopin’s own independent and feminist beliefs. The extraordinarily negative reaction to her novel was very impactful on Chopin, who wrote very little following the novel’s publication.
Chopin suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on August 20th, 1904, and died two days later, on August 22nd, at the age of 54. She was buried at Calvary Cemetery.
Influence from other Writers
Kate Chopin was notably influenced by writers such as Guy de Maupassant.
Literature by Kate Chopin
Explore literature by Kate Chopin below, created by the team at Book Analysis.