Kate Chopin, an American author, is known for her feminist theme of writing in her novels and short stories. Chopin wrote her many of her stories around a time when society was very obstructive about the view of women and their place in society, a time when women who did not have their own voices were merely servants to their husbands. In the stories “The Story of an Hour,” “The Storm,” and “Desiree’s Baby,” Chopin portrays oppression of women and shows the affect the condition of the society had on women and how they saw life and marriage. “Story of an Hour” is a short story about a young woman, Louise Mallard, whose husband had just died.
Because of her heart trouble she has to be told of his death extremely carefully. Her sister is the one who breaks the news to her. At this point Louise begins to repeat the word “free” over and over again. After a while her sister comes to her door begging her to come out and to cheer up. Louise immediately tells her to go about and continues to fantasize about her free days ahead. When she finally opens the door to go downstairs and join her sister and her friend the door suddenly opens and Louies’ husband Brently walks in. Doctors arrive later and pronounce Louise had died of a heart attack that must have been brought on by happiness.
In the “Story of an Hour” Chopin writes about a women’s desire for freedom and self-identity from the imprisonment she is undergoing in her married life. Louise suffers from a heart problem and in a way this exemplifies how she is an oppressed women in her marriage. Unlike most women Louises’ heart is not in her marriage. Her view of marriage is simply a weight that has been holding her down. She is not at all satisfied with the requirements and bondage that comes along with being a wife. She feels if she was not married she would be able to live out every one of her hearts desires.
Therefore when she learns of her husband’s death she believes all chains have been broken and she is now free of her vows of marriage and can finally live her life however she feels. Chopin go on to mention things and small details like “the patches of blue sky through the clouds,” and the beginning of spring to show just how aware Louise was about the true nature of her newfound freedom. She will now be able to go out live out her dreams and establish herself, and will no longer be bound to a man or a household. In this story Chopin showed how marriage acts merely as a border between women and their wants and desires.
The expectations society has for women and their duties and roles they should play as wives tend to cause to oppression and suppression for their desire of self-identity. “The Storm” is about a woman named Calixta who is left at home while her son Bibi and his father Bobinot went out to the local store. With a big storm approaching Bibi and Bobinot decide it would be better to wait out the storm at the store but are extremely worried about Calixta who will have to endure the storm alone. While at home Calixta learns of the approaching storm.
Alcee, Calixta’s ex boyfriends just happens to be passing by her home and gets stuck in her home with him until the storm eases. At first Calixta becomes more and more worried about her family stuck at the store, however after a while she and Alcee begin to reminisce about pass encounters and before she knows they are passionately kissing. Neither of them is aware of the growing storm as they are entangled in their own sexual relations. Once the storm is over Alcee leave and Calixta’s family returns and never find about his being there. In “The Storm” Kate focuses on the issue of a woman’s love and desires.
The storm (or cyclone) in this story, is most likely figuratively referring to Calixta’s inhibited sexual and passionate desires being confined by her marriage. Robert Wilson of The University of British Columbia, suggests that “Chopin’s title refers to nature, which is symbolically feminine; the storm can therefore be seen as symbolic of feminine sexuality and passion, and the image of the storm will be returned to again and again throughout the story. ” Chopin portrays Calixta as a young but very zealous woman, who is always engulfed in her motherly and wife duties of housework.
For this she is rather ignorant of the stormy passion she occupies. As the story unfolds Calixta’s family is held at the general story until the storm passes which allows her to be caught up in a very spontaneous but rich affair with Alcee, and old friend. Chopin uses descriptions of the storm to highlight the obvious sexual tension between Alcee and Calixta. Her mixed and confused emotions about the situation are shown through Chopin’s description of the unsettling storm. Her body is rather excited whereas she has some fears about her social limitations that do not allow her to feel as she would normally had she not been married.
The storm is used in such and ironic way in this story. After the sexual encounter of the two the storm slowly disappears. Now they must face the aftermath of the affair, however instead of regretting the encounter they are rather happy. In the final line of the story Chopin writes, “So the storm passed and everyone was happy” The encounter they had acts as a storm that comes in and diminishes all the obstructions they had been experiencing in their different marriages and restores their individual lives with happiness and joy.
Chopin used this story to portray the guidelines society imposes on women that leads them to become blind of their own nature. Through this story Chopin was able to represent the sexual reservations of this time period, and she seemed to be extremely in touch with her sexuality. In addition to making her own thoughts about sexuality she makes a personal statement about her feelings on the sexual background of the time. In “Desiree’s baby” Desieree, is the adopted daughter of the wealthy couple Monsieur and Madame Valmonde.
Desieree meets Armand, the son of another wealthy, well known and well respected Creole family. They are married and appear to be very loyal to each other and eventually conceive a child. Once the child is born everyone seems to sense something is not right about the child. They realize the baby’s skin is the same as a biracial slave; hence the baby is not fully white. Since Desiree’s history is unknown Armand automatically believes she is partially black. He begins to scorn her for this and is no longer in love with Desiree so Madame Valmonde suggests that she and the baby return home and Armand agrees.
After Desiree had disappeared off into the bayou never to return again Armand proceeds to burn all of her belongings and happens over a letter that his mother had wrote to his father revealing that it is him who is in fact partially black. In “Desiree’s Baby,” the protagonist, Desiree is greatly affected by the prejudices against race and class. In this story Chopin shows how Desiree has no aspirations to have her own identity. Unlike Louis in “The Story of an Hour” her heart is fully in her husband and she enjoys her life, being a ood wife and servant to her husband is all she desires. Desiree depends solely on her husband all of her thoughts, and feelings are closely in association with his. Chopin describes her living a life “almost miserable enough to die” This story is set in a community where people are looked down on for dating outside of their races. After giving birth to a mixed baby, her husband Armad is extremely angry and shuns her and his child simply because the baby is not fully white.
Desiree is accused of being of a mixed race, and since she was found as a child by her family she has no way of assuring that she was not indeed mixed and no choice but to accept that she may be. She is extremely distraught when Armad tells her that she and their child must leave the home. However she leaves as commanded and never turns back though she does not know what she will do now that she does not have her husband as her backbone. At first Desiree comes off as rather weak and powerless , however after a close examination of the story we learn she truly does have power.
She not only challenged the notions of class, but race and gender as well all while thriving in a society where all three had strictly governed. Chopin shows through this story the how dependent women can be on their husbands, and how sometimes they tend to lose their self and freedom. Living in a day and time when women are seen to be only daughters, mothers, or wives, with no power ultimately it’s their husbands who make decisions for them. Armand prevails over Desiree, which exemplifies just how men were dominant over women.
Being that she is practically his slave, there to provide his every need he does not notice how compliant she truly is and how much she loves him. Scholars and critics have written so much about Chopin’s subjects and themes and take so many different approaches. Many of them focus on the themes of women’s search for self discovery and identity, some on women’s revolt against compliance against gender and social norms that once limited women’s possibilities in life and others write about understanding the feminine sexuality and women’s experiences during the entire process of motherhood (Koloski).
In the stories mentioned above Chopin represented women in different aspects as she unfolded their suppressed wants and desires. Through her different writings she does not only limit herself to the situations women had to endure but also she was capable of expressing her individual thoughts on life and marriage.