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Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening:Enhancements - Catholic & Family Influences

Catholic & Family Influences: Catholic Influence on Chopin

Kate Chopin Enhancements: Catholic & Family Influences

Catholic Influence on Chopin

NARRATOR: Within some of Chopin's work you see a struggle between religion and human desires. It may have been a struggle that Chopin was all too familiar with. She had gone to a Catholic school. At which�girls were awakened at six in the morning for prayers and mass before they had breakfast. However, there is no indication that she continued to practice her faith throughout her life. Yet�religion is very important in stories such as At Fault and Lilacs.
Lilacs the story of a young woman who lives a questionable lifestyle. She goes to a convent each year to find peace...and perhaps some degree of forgiveness.

SOUNDBITE: Barbara Ewell/Loyola University (New Orleans) In a sense it is Chopin's exploration of the tension between the ways of the church. On the one hand it offers an opportunity for recapture of that innocence and at the same time shuts down when one comes to it with a kind of mature sexuality.

SOUNDBITES: E.F. Genovese /Emory University
I think Chopin got a lot of things from Catholicism. One, a sense of original sin that we're all flawed in some way and that she was no Utopian so that for her, goodness is a flash of transcendence or a gift. Sin is a normal condition of human beings which means in fact that you don't have to be too judgmental.

NARRATOR: Strangely, in death, Chopin was buried in a Catholic cemetery, despite indications she hadn't practiced the Catholic faith for years.

Somebody remembered that they saw her coming down the steps of St. Francis Xavier church, which is in mid-town St. Louis, and figured that maybe the reason she was in church was to go to confession and get back into the bosom of the church again. So it's my understanding that it was on the basis of that little incident that they opened up the gates and allowed her to be buried where she is today in a Calvary Cemetery.

NARRATOR: While Kate didn't embrace the church as an adult, she stayed busy anyway.

Catholic & Family Influences: Family Influence on Chopin

Kate Chopin Enhancements: Catholic & Family Influences

Family Influence on Chopin


NARRATOR Kate Chopin was influenced by women in her life as well as by the church's teaching. She may have written about strong-willed women because all of the women in her family demonstrated great strength. She was surrounded by these women from the time she was five, when her father died, until she got married�her mother, her grandmother and her great grandmother. The women were all widowed or divorced at a young age...and they never remarried.

SOUNDBITE Emily Toth/Louisiana State University
The household was run by women, by widows, her mother, her grandmother, her great grandmother. So the only adults she lived with for a large portion of time were women, women doing things that women didn't traditionally do, such as running the money, and taking care of their own needs of their households.

NARRATOR Chopin's great-great grandmother was one of the first women in St. Louis to get a legal separation because of a troubled marriage. Victoria Vernon went on to operate an entire line of very profitable trading vessels between new Orleans and St. Louis. And, Chopin's great grandmother, Madame Victoria Charleville was the founder of the first school for girls in St. Louis. Chopin's own mother protected her when soldiers invaded the family home during the Civil War, and went on to become a very active member of St. Louis' social circle. But, Eliza O'Flaherty also found time for her daughter whenever she was needed.

SOUNDBITE Emily Toth/Louisiana State University
They had spent months together during Kate's marriage, in fact, after Kate gave birth to her first child, Oscar made sure Kate and the child were okay and then he went off to France, leaving mom with Kate and the newborn baby.

NARRATOR Chopin was no doubt influenced by the women in her family while writing. But, she may have also been inspired by her children.

SOUNDBITE Barbara Ewell/Loyola University (New Orleans)
She seemed to enjoy the chaos that they created in her life, that kind of wonderful, creative chaos. She appears to have enjoyed being a mother. She shows children in a marvelous way they had not been presented in other times.

NARRATOR Historians say the nuns at the sacred heart school in St. Louis also proved to be very powerful and positive role models to her. That was until Kate became an adult.