Art Imitates Life Research Paper

Pages: 4 (1887 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper

Art has often been recognized as an expression of either personal or collective experiences. Whether we are talking about music, painting, literature, these have always represented means for artists to deal with certain challenges in their life. It is within human nature to express externally that which is inside. Thoughts that lurk within the human mind, feelings which reveal themselves out of the blue, perhaps at times merely representations of personal perception, these have always been the focus in art and the object of critique attention. Of all the forms of expression out there, perhaps few inoculate a more beautiful feeling of "universal longing," such as F. Scott Fitzgerald pinned the expression, as literature does. More than anything, it is through literature that we become vigilant observers of how artists are influenced in their art by the experiences they come across. In the following, we will be addressing one specific writer to generally observe how certain personal experiences have reflected in the author's work as a solution to internal struggle. We have chosen Kate Chopin and, in this respect, we will attempt to correlate specific events in her life to illustrations in her stories, analyzing the contrasts between Chopin herself and one or more of her characters.

Slowly, but definitely, women started to gain more and more awareness in regards to their intellectual position in society. However, it was not until the twentieth century that feminist struggle created its own identity and sought to for ever disperse the perception that women had no business seeking a writing career and were merely designated for marriage, motherhood, and the likes. But some women did not wait for the turn of another century to make a stand and thus sought to prove themselves intellectually worthy decades before the twentieth century. One such woman was Kate Chopin, born at the half of the nineteenth century, but a modern woman nonetheless, self asserted and strongly resembling future feminists. Chopin was raised in a household maintained solely by widowed women and thus, it can be expected that her background had a powerful influence on how she came to see the role of women in society. Nevertheless, in the nineteenth century men and women belonged to two different camps. There was nothing a woman was expected to do less but get involved in public political affairs, businesses or arts. It is within these premises that some women thrived to conquer and overcome such perceptions and started to engage in writing activities that would solve the conflict of their role in society.

In Chopin's writings, there are often representations of feminist themes, but no where is women's struggle for independence and identity depicted more clearly than in the Awakening, Chopin's 1899 novel. Moreover, this was a struggle Chopin herself had to deal with, living in an era when women writers were not accepted and "forced" to stick with marriage and "tea" activities. The Awakening presents us Edna Pontellier, a woman at the end of the nineteenth century, seeking refuge from societal expectations and freedom to explore her identity as a woman, not just as a wife and mother. Her image seems to reflect that of Kate Chopin's, the real woman at the end of a century living within a community that was reluctant to accept a flirtatious woman who smoke cigarettes and was so unconventional. When Edna commits suicide at the end of the novel, we may be motivated to believe that she has failed to free her feminity from the clutches of society. Indeed, why Chopin chose such an ambiguous ending leave us wondering whether or not the writer felt as though society was too secluded within its own understandings that Edna's death sought to imply a sort of intellectual dying for Chopin herself. We may only ponder and speculate on such issues. However, what Green and Caudle were sure of is that Chopin herself, "seen as an outsider," may have been influenced by her own experience "to create the outsider character Edna Pontellier." (6) the two definitely had in common an urge for freedom and unconventional thinking.

So far, we've been focusing on two women both living at the turn of the nineteenth century, one real and one imaginary, that is, Kate Chopin and Edna Pontellier who both struggle for their identity. In the following, we will draw on some of the author's life facts and try to analyze them according to some of her stories. As such, we know Chopin is suspected to have had an affair with a married man after the death of her husband in 1882 from malaria. The man was Albert Sampite who generously offered to help the widow with her financial debts that she was left with upon her late husband's death. In fact, Sampite was known as one to often "console" widows and his wife even accused Chopin numerous times of having broken her marriage. This affair is mirrored in the writer's story "The Storm" which tells of the romantic relationship between two married people, Calixta and Alcee. What's more, Chopin drew from Sampite's personality to create the character of Alcee. The latter is the focus of Chopin's attention more so than Calixta is, because it is she who first becomes the object of the man's sexual desire and it is he who acts towards physically manifesting his longings. We believe Chopin's representation of Alcee as a "possessive" man may be the illustration of Sampite's violent behaviour towards women, specifically towards his wife whom he often beat. This is allegedly the reason why Chopin would have decided to relocate to St. Louis to live with her mother. Emily Toth believes that "Chopin's Alcees are always earthy and sensual, and their name a clue to their origins: "Al. S -- e," an abbreviated form of Albert Sampite's name, is pronounced "al-say," the same as "Alcee." (126) the "Alcees" Toth refers to are the one in "The Storm" and Alcee Arobin from the Awakening who determines Edna to explore her sexual desires. As we can observe, both men in Chopin's writings are representations of women's sexual explorations, a link towards the author's personal romantic affair with Albert Sampite.

Eliza O'Flaherty was an important figure in Kate Chopin's life, not just because the former was her mother, but because she was a loving one. As such, we are looking to draw a link here between "The Story of an Hour" and Kate's personal implication within it. Eliza was to Chopin the mother -- woman figure the latter looked up to. The mother had mentored Chopin since childhood, much like her grandmother did. "The Story of an Hour" strongly resembles the life of Eliza. The protagonist's character is named Louise which is partially similar with "Eleeza," what's more, both Chopin's mother and Louise Mallard have a sister named Josephine. The protagonist's husband dies in the story, in fact, we never get to meet him except after his death, as the story begins with the author's recollection that "great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death." (Chopin 1894) Mr. Mallard and Eliza's husband faced the same death, a tragic consequence of a railroad accident. When Kate Chopin's father died in 1855, her mother was as young as Louise was when she heard the news of her husband's accident.. The "same fair, calm face, whose lines bestoke repression and even a certain strength," evoked both women's subordination to their husbands. In the story, Louise gives into crying in her sister's arms, however she is eventually taken over by "this thing that was approaching to possess her," (Chopin, 1894) the freedom of body and soul. We know that Eliza's marriage had been arranged which might had left her having the same feelings as Louise Mallard upon the passing of her husband. It is possible that Oscar Chopin's death might have also freed his daughter in more than one way. First of all, he had sent his daughter to a boarding school and she was now able to return home upon his death. Moreover, with Eliza moving into a house for widows, Kate Chopin was able to benefit from an environment where women were independent and self-sufficient, strong character features that she would use in many of her stories to construct female identities. .

Self sufficiency of women is also illustrated by Chopin in "The maid of St. Phillippe," one of the writer's many short stories. In the story, Marrianne who "looked like a handsome boy rather than like the French girl of seventeen that she was," (Chopin, Great Literature Online) and who "carried a gun across her shoulder as easily as a soldier might," is enforced by Chopin to rely on her freedom, otherwise, "let it be death rather than bondage." (Chopin, Great Literature Online) This is a more straightforward approach that addresses the girl's independency and the simplicity of the story is surpassed by the girl's will not to become the "mother of slave." Marianne's… [END OF PREVIEW]

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