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Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening:Enhancements - Students & Stories

Students & Stories: Students Discuss The Awakening

Kate Chopin Enhancements: Students & Stories

Students Discuss The Awakening


STUDENTS: She knows that she's got the trappings of what she wants, but does not really have what she wants, no. That's why she kills herself. She didn't know how to get through. She sees no way out.

NARRATOR: Students at Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, Louisiana are among tens of thousands of high school and college students throughout the nation who are reading Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening. They're analyzing every page of the story of the young wife and mother who is not fulfilled by those roles in her life. She wants more. Edna Pontellier leaves the marriage�but still struggles with who she is as an individual. Teachers say the novel gives students, especially females a very valuable lesson at the time when they need it most.

SOUNDBITE: Melody Thibodaux/Sacred Heart Teacher
Any time we try to lock people into a certain kind of life choice that may not suit that person, we are almost condemning that person to a really bad outcome.

NARRATOR: Teachers say the novel also shows students the power of good writing.

SOUNDBITE: Melody Thibodaux
There is the musicality, the beautiful language, the imagery, the beautiful discussion of things that are currently occurring in nature, and making the words sound like the spoken music.

NARRATOR: Students say, the writer, Kate Chopin has provided them with a clear lesson on the struggles Edna endured with her husband, Leonce, and the struggles some other women are still going through.

SOUNDBITE: Laura Bassett/Student
She portrays it realistically how Edna has to stay home every Tuesday and receive visitors and if she didn't, he was just appalled. He felt every other woman did it. She was trying to break free.

SOUNDBITE: Gabrielle Lee/Student
I thought Leonce didn't understand Edna, but given what he had to understand her, I think he was probably more compassionate than were other men at that time and that he did make an effort.

NARRATOR: Students say things have changed for young women in today's society. But, in some respects, we still have a long way to go.

SOUNDBITE: Kathryn Hyman/Student
Our society teaches women almost to examine yourself and learn who you are and your ideals, what they are, and your stances on certain issues long before you're involved in marriage. The women then were expected to get married and not to have their own views and opinions.

SOUNDBITE: Gabrielle Lee
What of women who aren't meant to have children and aren't meant to have husbands. We still struggle with that today.

Students & Stories: Were Chopin's Stories True?

Kate Chopin Enhancements: Students & Stories

Were Chopin's Stories True?


NARRATOR: One of the big question students and scholars are left asking after reading many of Chopin's stories is how closely her fiction imitates reality. Researchers say there are striking examples of "very real" occurrences in many of Chopin's works.

SOUNDBITES: Professor Thomas Bonner/Xavier University of La.
What we find is that the stories of the old Louisiana territory come down to Kate from her great grandmother Charleville and through the grandmother. For example, a story like the Maid of St. Phillippe which dealt with characters changing hands. We can actually trace that story in terms of province to her grandmother and into her great grandmother.

Desiree's baby for example reflects racial intermingling which she observed not only in New Orleans but, in the area around the Cane River where she indeed spent a considerable part of her time.

In The Awakening, we have a massive array of images of New Orleans and Grand Isle, one in particular, the walking motif which would reflect the kind of Paris life that Orleanians were attempting to live in terms of walking on the Esplanade.

NARRATOR: Scholars also find amazing similarities between The Awakening and a fable Chopin wrote as a child called "Emancipation: A Life Fable". The fable is about an animal that escapes from a cage. The animal realizes that life was comfortable in the cage, but it also realizes freedom is better, despite the responsibilities involved. The novel, The Awakening is about a woman who escapes for a marriage in which she is not fulfilled. And, scholars see similarities in the death of Chopin's father and the portrayed death of a character in "The Story of an Hour." In real life, Chopin's mother lost her husband in a train wreck. Thereupon, Eliza O'Flaherty reportedly inherited 24-thousand dollars, which was a lot of money in the 1850s. It is thought that she went on to live a happy life, deeply involved in the social life of St. Louis. In "The Story of an Hour", the woman who thought she had been widowed by a train accident spent just a moment grieving, before exalting in the thought of the benefits of freedom.