Chat with us, powered by LiveChat This needs to be a 3-6 page writing about a story. I have attached the prompt and the story you need | Max paper
  

This needs to be a 3-6 page writing about a story. I have attached the prompt and the story you need to use to make this writing. It is going to need a works cited and secondary sources. The secondary source I am going to attach is about the author and you are supposed to answer the questions in the prompt. 

Naiyer/ENG 103

 Alternate Final essay (for online classes): A Biographical Perspective on Chopin

 Respond to the topic below in a well-organized paper (of at least 5 paragraphs) with a clear intro, body, and conclusion:

-Make sure that the specific point that you are making is highlighted in a thesis (the last sentence of the intro).

-Make sure that the point in each body paragraph is clearly stated in a topic sentence.

-Whether paraphrasing, summarizing, or quoting, properly cite the secondary sources within the text by clarifying either via a speech tag or use of a parenthetical reference the author, the source’s title (only mention a given source’s title for the first reference; for each subsequent reference, just cite the author), and the page # (remember to use proper quotation marks for direct quotes). Remember to include a Works Cited page listing the sources used.

-Make sure the trains of thought in each body paragraph emphasize analyzing a point being made about a particular element of the film: a given line of dialogue/scene, symbol, theme, etc.

Biographical Criticism examines how an artist’s life is reflected in his or her work: whether it be a short story, play, novel, poem, TV show, or film. Artists can either use their own experiences or the experiences of anyone in their life as inspiration for the characters, situations, or themes that they are depicting/exploring in their work.

In “The Story of an Hour,” Kate Chopin depicts an hour in the life of Mrs. Mallard, an hour that seemingly ends tragically with Mallard’s heart attack. During the hour, Mallard reflects on her life choices and marriage.

In “Kate Chopin, Unfiltered: Removing the Feminist Lens,” Chelsea Zea explores the life of Kate Chopin and her role as an early feminist as reflected in her works.

Examining “The Story of an Hour” from a Biographical Criticism perspective, argue whether or not Kate Chopin identifies with Mallard. Does she relate to Mallard’s own circumstances and choices? Is she using the fictional character to reflect on her own desires and frustrations?

Brainstorming questions

· How is Chopin’s life similar to Mallard’s?

· How is Chopin’s life different from Mallard’s?

· Which is the stronger argument? Why?


ESSAY TIPS

For the intro, set up both Chopin (perhaps address her uniqueness as a writer) and “the Story of an Hour”’s characters and circumstances.

For the thesis, respond to the essay topic’s central question in a succinct claim:

· Does Chopin identify with Mallard’s own circumstances and choices? Is she using the fictional character to reflect on her own desires and frustrations?

· Remember, an A-level point would acknowledge both similarities and differences but then ultimately emphasize one position over the other. This can be achieved through qualifiers and subordination: Although___________________________________________, ultimately, _______________________________________________.

For the body paragraphs (aim for at least 3), explore individual aspects of the story that can be linked with Chopin’s life, illustrating similarities, differences, or perhaps both.

Make sure to develop through source interaction and citation. Avoid addressing too many different fictional or real world aspects in one paragraph and avoid simply summarizing the story or Chopin’s life. Analyze connections between the 2 components.

For the conclusion, reinforce your position on the differences between the real and fictional worlds and Chopin’s place within them, perhaps addressing what these circumstances reveal about 19th century roles and expectations.


“The Story of An Hour”


Kate Chopin (1894)

Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband’s friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard’s name leading the list of “killed.” He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.

She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.

There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.

She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.

She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will–as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been.

When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under hte breath: “free, free, free!” The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial.

She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

And yet she had loved him–sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

“Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering.

Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhold, imploring for admission. “Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door–you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven’s sake open the door.”

“Go away. I am not making myself ill.” No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.

Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

She arose at length and opened the door to her sister’s importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister’s waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.

Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine’s piercing cry; at Richards’ quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.

But Richards was too late.

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease–of the joy that kills. 

 

Historical Perspectives: Santa Clara University Undergraduate
Journal of History, Series II

Volume 10 Article 6

2005

Kate Chopin, Unfiltered: Removing the Feminist
Lens
Chelsea Zea

Follow this and additional works at: http://scholarcommons.scu.edu/historical-perspectives

Part of the History Commons

This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Journals at Scholar Commons. It has been accepted for inclusion in Historical
Perspectives: Santa Clara University Undergraduate Journal of History, Series II by an authorized editor of Scholar Commons. For more information,
please contact [email protected]

Recommended Citation
Zea, Chelsea (2005) “Kate Chopin, Unfiltered: Removing the Feminist Lens,” Historical Perspectives: Santa Clara University
Undergraduate Journal of History, Series II: Vol. 10 , Article 6.
Available at: http://scholarcommons.scu.edu/historical-perspectives/vol10/iss1/6

Kate Chopin, Unfiltered 1

Kate Chopin, Unfiltered:
Removing the Feminist Lens

Chelsea Zea
“The little glimpse of domestic harmony which
had been offered her, gave her no regret, no
longing. It was not a condition of life which
fitted her, and she could see in it but an appall-
ing and hopeless ennui.”

(The Awakening, Chapter XVIII)

In this brutally straightforward manner, Catherine
O’Flaherty Chopin introduced her middle-class protag-
onist of The Awakening, Edna Pontellier, to her aston-
ished readers in the 1890s. Several of Chopin’s female
characters wonder if life beyond marriage and children
offers greater satisfactions. Contemporary readers
naturally wonder how Chopin could have known then
about the social ills commonly recognized today in
troubled families and especially about their emotional
effects on women.

Many feminist readers and scholars claim Chopin
as an early version of themselves. This essay will
argue, instead, that Chopin’s outlook had little in
common with feminism as it is understood today. Not
believing in political, social, and economic equality of
the sexes, none of the issues for which contemporary
feminists fight were of concern to her. Those aspects of
her life used to label her in this way, rather than
feminist in inspiration, are better suited to under-
standing her as a writer. Chopin used writing as both
a liberating and healing experience, a venue for self-
expression and exploration. The very act of writing
gave her a sense of personal identity. Viewing Chopin

2 Historical Perspectives March 2005

1Lynda S. Boren and Sara deSaussure Davis, eds., Kate
Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayous (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1992), 15.
2 Bonnie Steppenoff, “Freedom and Regret: The Dilemma of
Kate Chopin,” Missouri Historical Review 81 (4 1987): 449.
3Barbara C. Ewell, Kate Chopin (New York: Ungar Publishing
Group, 1986), 2.

simply as an author puts an entirely new perspective
on her life and reveals a fuller, more authentic
person—one that burst the limits of any label for her
outlook or her work.

Though Chopin died in 1904, it was not until 1932
that Daniel Rankin wrote her first biography. More
than thirty years would pass before the next one, by
Per Seyersted, appeared.1 Both of these biographers
felt that Chopin only had value as a regional author.
Chopin’s first woman biographer saw her differently. In
her 1972 dissertation, Peggy Dechert Skaggs was the
first to interpret The Awakening as “a feminist plea for
sexual freedom.”2 This description helped to revive
interest in Chopin’s work and that same year the novel
was reprinted in its entirety in Redbook magazine.3

But it is not surprising that The Awakening caught
readers’ attention at the time it did. Members of the
budding women’s liberation movement were fascinated
with a woman writing in 1899 who could sound so
current. Interest in Chopin spread through word of
mouth, and in the 1980s and 90s The Awakening was
assigned as required reading in many college and high
school classrooms. Today The Awakening is considered
one of the great American novels, and the interpreta-
tion of Chopin’s life through feminist criticism contin-
ues. The most recent biography, Unveiling Kate Chopin
(1999) by Emily Toth still ponders this seeming anom-

1

Zea: Kate Chopin, Unfiltered

Published by Scholar Commons, 2005

Kate Chopin, Unfiltered 1

Kate Chopin, Unfiltered:
Removing the Feminist Lens

Chelsea Zea
“The little glimpse of domestic harmony which
had been offered her, gave her no regret, no
longing. It was not a condition of life which
fitted her, and she could see in it but an appall-
ing and hopeless ennui.”

(The Awakening, Chapter XVIII)

In this brutally straightforward manner, Catherine
O’Flaherty Chopin introduced her middle-class protag-
onist of The Awakening, Edna Pontellier, to her aston-
ished readers in the 1890s. Several of Chopin’s female
characters wonder if life beyond marriage and children
offers greater satisfactions. Contemporary readers
naturally wonder how Chopin could have known then
about the social ills commonly recognized today in
troubled families and especially about their emotional
effects on women.

Many feminist readers and scholars claim Chopin
as an early version of themselves. This essay will
argue, instead, that Chopin’s outlook had little in
common with feminism as it is understood today. Not
believing in political, social, and economic equality of
the sexes, none of the issues for which contemporary
feminists fight were of concern to her. Those aspects of
her life used to label her in this way, rather than
feminist in inspiration, are better suited to under-
standing her as a writer. Chopin used writing as both
a liberating and healing experience, a venue for self-
expression and exploration. The very act of writing
gave her a sense of personal identity. Viewing Chopin

2 Historical Perspectives March 2005

1Lynda S. Boren and Sara deSaussure Davis, eds., Kate
Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayous (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1992), 15.
2 Bonnie Steppenoff, “Freedom and Regret: The Dilemma of
Kate Chopin,” Missouri Historical Review 81 (4 1987): 449.
3Barbara C. Ewell, Kate Chopin (New York: Ungar Publishing
Group, 1986), 2.

simply as an author puts an entirely new perspective
on her life and reveals a fuller, more authentic
person—one that burst the limits of any label for her
outlook or her work.

Though Chopin died in 1904, it was not until 1932
that Daniel Rankin wrote her first biography. More
than thirty years would pass before the next one, by
Per Seyersted, appeared.1 Both of these biographers
felt that Chopin only had value as a regional author.
Chopin’s first woman biographer saw her differently. In
her 1972 dissertation, Peggy Dechert Skaggs was the
first to interpret The Awakening as “a feminist plea for
sexual freedom.”2 This description helped to revive
interest in Chopin’s work and that same year the novel
was reprinted in its entirety in Redbook magazine.3

But it is not surprising that The Awakening caught
readers’ attention at the time it did. Members of the
budding women’s liberation movement were fascinated
with a woman writing in 1899 who could sound so
current. Interest in Chopin spread through word of
mouth, and in the 1980s and 90s The Awakening was
assigned as required reading in many college and high
school classrooms. Today The Awakening is considered
one of the great American novels, and the interpreta-
tion of Chopin’s life through feminist criticism contin-
ues. The most recent biography, Unveiling Kate Chopin
(1999) by Emily Toth still ponders this seeming anom-

2

Historical Perspectives: Santa Clara University Undergraduate Journal of History, Series II, Vol. 10 [2005], Art. 6

http://scholarcommons.scu.edu/historical-perspectives/vol10/iss1/6

Kate Chopin, Unfiltered 3

4Emily Toth, Unveiling Kate Chopin (Jackson, MI: U. Press of
Mississippi, 1999), 8.
5 Boren and Davis, Kate Chopin Reconsidered, 22.

aly of a woman in terms of the feminist tones of her
writing. This paper differs from these authors because
it takes Chopin out of both the “local colorist” and
“feminist” contexts in which she has been placed and
identifies her in the way she identified herself: as a
writer. Connecting events from Chopin’s entire life to
her writing, as earlier biographers failed to do, and
removing her from a feminist context that Skaggs and
Toth put her in, serves to flesh out a very private
person.

Catherine O’Flaherty was born on 8 February 1850
in St. Louis, Missouri. She spent her very early years
with her family at home, but at the age of five her
parents sent her to board at St. Louis Academy of the
Sacred Heart. It was rare for a wealthy family to send
such young children to a boarding school, and the
reason the O’Flahertys did so is uncertain. Toth
suggests that Chopin’s mother, Eliza Faris O’Flaherty,
suspected her husband, Thomas, of having affairs with
slaves, and did not wish to answer the questions of an
inquisitive and precocious five-year-old.4

Shortly after Chopin moved to the academy, she
suffered the first great tragedy of her life. As a St.
Louis dignitary, her father was eligible to participate in
the inaugural train ride over the Gasconade Bridge on
1 November 1855. When the bridge collapsed and ten
cars plunged into the ravine, Thomas O’Flaherty was
one of the thirty men killed.5 Because he left no will or
other instructions, Eliza immediately brought Chopin
back home. Eliza realized the increased control over

4 Historical Perspectives March 2005

6Toth, Unveiling, 9.
7Steppenoff, “Freedom and Regret,” 451.
8Toth, Unveiling, 13.
9Ibid.

her life she would have as a widow. “Widows controlled
their property, as wives did not; widows also had legal
control of their own children, as wives did not.”6

Thomas’ death meant that Chopin would have no
patriarchal influence until she was past adolescence.
Chopin would never witness marital violence or
fighting, money disputes, or any other negative aspects
of marital relations. Suddenly finding herself a
wealthy woman and in charge of her own and her
family’s affairs, Eliza invited her grandmother, Ma-
dame Victoire Verdon Charleville, to live with the
O’Flaherty family and serve as Chopin’s teacher.

Chopin’s great-grandmother would prove to be her
earliest source for “spicy” storytelling and French
culture.7 One of the greatest gifts Madame Charleville
passed on to her eager great-granddaughter was a love
for gossip and storytelling, especially about women.
Through her, Chopin discovered “a subject for intense,
lifelong fascination, contemplation and delight: the
lives of women.”8

Madame Charleville taught Chopin piano, French,
reading, and writing. These four interests would
remain with Chopin throughout her life and work their
way into her stories. Chopin loved music and was
known for her ability to play any piece by ear.9 It was
a way to express her emotions, and several of her
characters share this trait—including Edna Pontellier
in The Awakening. Because she was “fervently commit-

3

Zea: Kate Chopin, Unfiltered

Published by Scholar Commons, 2005

Kate Chopin, Unfiltered 3

4Emily Toth, Unveiling Kate Chopin (Jackson, MI: U. Press of
Mississippi, 1999), 8.
5 Boren and Davis, Kate Chopin Reconsidered, 22.

aly of a woman in terms of the feminist tones of her
writing. This paper differs from these authors because
it takes Chopin out of both the “local colorist” and
“feminist” contexts in which she has been placed and
identifies her in the way she identified herself: as a
writer. Connecting events from Chopin’s entire life to
her writing, as earlier biographers failed to do, and
removing her from a feminist context that Skaggs and
Toth put her in, serves to flesh out a very private
person.

Catherine O’Flaherty was born on 8 February 1850
in St. Louis, Missouri. She spent her very early years
with her family at home, but at the age of five her
parents sent her to board at St. Louis Academy of the
Sacred Heart. It was rare for a wealthy family to send
such young children to a boarding school, and the
reason the O’Flahertys did so is uncertain. Toth
suggests that Chopin’s mother, Eliza Faris O’Flaherty,
suspected her husband, Thomas, of having affairs with
slaves, and did not wish to answer the questions of an
inquisitive and precocious five-year-old.4

Shortly after Chopin moved to the academy, she
suffered the first great tragedy of her life. As a St.
Louis dignitary, her father was eligible to participate in
the inaugural train ride over the Gasconade Bridge on
1 November 1855. When the bridge collapsed and ten
cars plunged into the ravine, Thomas O’Flaherty was
one of the thirty men killed.5 Because he left no will or
other instructions, Eliza immediately brought Chopin
back home. Eliza realized the increased control over

4 Historical Perspectives March 2005

6Toth, Unveiling, 9.
7Steppenoff, “Freedom and Regret,” 451.
8Toth, Unveiling, 13.
9Ibid.

her life she would have as a widow. “Widows controlled
their property, as wives did not; widows also had legal
control of their own children, as wives did not.”6

Thomas’ death meant that Chopin would have no
patriarchal influence until she was past adolescence.
Chopin would never witness marital violence or
fighting, money disputes, or any other negative aspects
of marital relations. Suddenly finding herself a
wealthy woman and in charge of her own and her
family’s affairs, Eliza invited her grandmother, Ma-
dame Victoire Verdon Charleville, to live with the
O’Flaherty family and serve as Chopin’s teacher.

Chopin’s great-grandmother would prove to be her
earliest source for “spicy” storytelling and French
culture.7 One of the greatest gifts Madame Charleville
passed on to her eager great-granddaughter was a love
for gossip and storytelling, especially about women.
Through her, Chopin discovered “a subject for intense,
lifelong fascination, contemplation and delight: the
lives of women.”8

Madame Charleville taught Chopin piano, French,
reading, and writing. These four interests would
remain with Chopin throughout her life and work their
way into her stories. Chopin loved music and was
known for her ability to play any piece by ear.9 It was
a way to express her emotions, and several of her
characters share this trait—including Edna Pontellier
in The Awakening. Because she was “fervently commit-

4

Historical Perspectives: Santa Clara University Undergraduate Journal of History, Series II, Vol. 10 [2005], Art. 6

http://scholarcommons.scu.edu/historical-perspectives/vol10/iss1/6

Kate Chopin, Unfiltered 5

10Emily Toth and Per Seyersted, eds., Kate Chopin’s Private
Papers (Indianapolis: Indiana State University Press, 1998), ix.
11Toth, Unveiling, 13.
12Ewell, Chopin, 7.
13Toth and Seyersted, Private Papers, 2.
14Emily Toth, ed., A Vocation and a Voice: Stories by Kate
Chopin (New York: Penguin Books, 1991), x.

ted to the life of the mind,”10 Madame Charleville
imbued in her great-granddaughter a love of reading
and writing and the belief that history was the stories
of women “torn between duty and desire,”11 a classic
French literary theme. This premise permeates much
of Chopin’s writing. She was influenced not only by her
great-grandmother but her mother’s example as
well—Eliza had married her philandering husband out
of necessity, with unfortunate consequences. Other
beliefs Madame Charleville passed on to Chopin
included the idea that marriage was meant to be a
practical arrangement, with romantic love to follow
later; that God alone may judge the actions of others;12

and perhaps most importantly, that life must be faced
“clearly and fearlessly.”13 This last injunction would get
Chopin through the difficult periods of her life, includ-
ing the death of her beloved great-grandmother.

After Madame Charleville passed away in 1863,
Chopin returned to the Sacred Heart Academy, a
school staffed by French nuns, who espoused teach-
ings similar to those that she had learned from her
great-grandmother. It was there that Chopin first
found encouragement to write for her own pleasure.
She excelled in her studies and was “acclaimed for her
essays and story telling.”14

The school raised well-rounded students “in the
tradition of French intellectual women,” with a curric-

6 Historical Perspectives March 2005

15Toth, Unveiling, 15, 36.

ulum for the older girls dedicated to creating “intelli-
gent, active, unselfish women, with minds and hands
trained for the sphere in which God has placed them,
whether it be home-life or some wider social field,” as
expressed in the school’s prospectus.15 The last phrase
is extraordinary in that the Sacred Heart nuns gave
their students options beyond matrimony and chil-
dren.

At Sacred Heart, Chopin met her lifelong friend
Kitty Garesché. Kitty would become a subject for
Chopin’s future writing. The two were best friends and
spent all of their time together, talking, reading, and
climbing trees. They resembled each other in many
ways, including their aristocratic French ancestry.
With her unconventional family life, it is no surprise
that Chopin liked to spend time with the Garesché
family, which followed traditional patriarchal mores.
Kitty’s father ran the household, and in spending time
with them, Chopin discovered the family life of most
American girls her age. Chopin would use contrasting
versions of the family unit in many of her stories.
Chopin also developed her love of gossip through her
friendship with Kitty.

During her early years at Sacred Heart, Chopin
kept a small autograph book entitled “Leaves of Affec-
tion,” in which her friends copied down favorite poems
and quotes. Most of these had to do with romance.
However, Chopin added at a later date (distinguished
by different types of handwriting) certain phrases that
indicated her growth as both an interpreter of poetry
and as a writer. Next to several of the poems are notes
such as “very pretty but where’s the point?” and

5

Zea: Kate Chopin, Unfiltered

Published by Scholar Commons, 2005

Kate Chopin, Unfiltered 5

10Emily Toth and Per Seyersted, eds., Kate Chopin’s Private
Papers (Indianapolis: Indiana State University Press, 1998), ix.
11Toth, Unveiling, 13.
12Ewell, Chopin, 7.
13Toth and Seyersted, Private Papers, 2.
14Emily Toth, ed., A Vocation and a Voice: Stories by Kate
Chopin (New York: Penguin Books, 1991), x.

ted to the life of the mind,”10 Madame Charleville
imbued in her great-granddaughter a love of reading
and writing and the belief that history was the stories
of women “torn between duty and desire,”11 a classic
French literary theme. This premise permeates much
of Chopin’s writing. She was influenced not only by her
great-grandmother but her mother’s example as
well—Eliza had married her philandering husband out
of necessity, with unfortunate consequences. Other
beliefs Madame Charleville passed on to Chopin
included the idea that marriage was meant to be a
practical arrangement, with romantic love to follow
later; that God alone may judge the actions of others;12

and perhaps most importantly, that life must be faced
“clearly and fearlessly.”13 This last injunction would get
Chopin through the difficult periods of her life, includ-
ing the death of her beloved great-grandmother.

After Madame Charleville passed away in 1863,
Chopin returned to the Sacred Heart Academy, a
school staffed by French nuns, who espoused teach-
ings similar to those that she had learned from her
great-grandmother. It was there that Chopin first
found encouragement to write for her own pleasure.
She excelled in her studies and was “acclaimed for her
essays and story telling.”14

The school raised well-rounded students “in the
tradition of French intellectual women,” with a curric-

6 Historical Perspectives March 2005

15Toth, Unveiling, 15, 36.

ulum for the older girls dedicated to creating “intelli-
gent, active, unselfish women, with minds and hands
trained for the sphere in which God has placed them,
whether it be home-life or some wider social field,” as
expressed in the school’s prospectus.15 The last phrase
is extraordinary in that the Sacred Heart nuns gave
their students options beyond matrimony and chil-
dren.

At Sacred Heart, Chopin met her lifelong friend
Kitty Garesché. Kitty would become a subject for
Chopin’s future writing. The two were best friends and
spent all of their time together, talking, reading, and
climbing trees. They resembled each other in many
ways, including their aristocratic French ancestry.
With her unconventional family life, it is no surprise
that Chopin liked to spend time with the Garesché
family, which followed traditional patriarchal mores.
Kitty’s father ran the household, and in spending time
with them, Chopin discovered the family life of most
American girls her age. Chopin would use contrasting
versions of the family unit in many of her stories.
Chopin also developed her love of gossip through her
friendship with Kitty.

During her early years at Sacred Heart, Chopin
kept a small autograph book entitled “Leaves of Affec-
tion,” in which her friends copied down favorite poems
and quotes. Most of these had to do with romance.
However, Chopin added at a later date (distinguished
by different types of handwriting) certain phrases that
indicated her growth as both an interpreter of poetry
and as a writer. Next to several of the poems are notes
such as “very pretty but where’s the point?” and

6

Historical Perspectives: Santa Clara University Undergraduate Journal of History, Series II, Vol. 10 [2005], Art. 6

http://scholarcommons.scu.edu/historical-perspectives/vol10/iss1/6

Kate Chopin, Unfiltered 7

16Toth and Seyersted, Private Papers, 5.
17Toth and Seyersted, Private Papers, 9.

“foolishness.” 16 The important aspect of “Leaves of
Affection” is that it represented Chopin’s first attempts
at self-expression in writing and that it showed how
important she deemed feminine friendship to be. That
she saved this little book of misquoted, “foolish” poetry
for her whole life illustrates its value to her.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Chopin was
removed from school. As a result of a traumatic
experience with Union soldiers, Chopin experienced
what psychologists now refer to as a “loss of voice,” a
common occurrence among adolescent females. A “loss
of voice” is not only a refusal to talk but also a sign of
trauma that may include depression, insecurity, and
a desire for solitude. To make matters worse the
Garesché family had left St. Louis because Kitty’s
father refused to take the Union oath of allegiance.
Chopin might never have recovered—certainly not as
quickly—had a teacher at Sacred Heart not intervened.

To encourage her talent in writing, Mother Mary
O’Meara assigned Chopin to keep a “Commonplace
Book,” where Chopin would copy down passages from
books she read or whatever else caught her attention.17

The very first passage in Chopin’s “Commonplace
Book” is an excerpt from Bulwer’s “My Novel.” Chopin
copied the author’s opinions on writing:

When we look back upon human records, how
the eye settles upon Writers as the main land
marks of the past! …And yet, strange to say,
when these authors are living amongst us, they

8 Historical Perspectives March 2005

18Ibid., 13-4.
19Ewell, Chopin, 6.

occupy a very small portion of our thoughts….18

Chopin, at the age of seventeen, may already have
been thinking of what it meant to be an author.
Subsequent copied passages include excerpts from
Macaulay, Longfellow, Goethe, Hugo, and various
definitions and paragraphs describing contemporary
world leaders. Each of the authors she so copied was
a romantic, revealing Chopin’s specific interests at the
time. The Commonplace Book also contains her first
recorded original poem, called “The Congé,” which
highlighted her originality and ability for introspection.
Some of the choices Chopin made in her recordings
also reveal an attraction to realism and a disdain for
bombastic writing styles—foreshadowing her later love
of French author Guy de Maupassant. She also
exhibited her interest in the French language. Several
of the passages she chose to copy were in the original
French. Significantly, there is scarcely anything in the
book that directly correlates to women’s rights. After
her graduation from Sacred Heart, Chopin would use
this book as her diary and travel journal for her
honeymoon. Because Kitty, her personal confidante,
was absent during this time, Chopin filled her Com-
monplace Book with pieces that reflected feelings she
could not otherwise confide. But it was also during
this time that she began growing closer to her mother.

A descendant of two of St. Louis’ oldest and most
respected Creole families,19 her mother presented a
unique picture of marriage to Chopin. Eliza’s father
had died when she was sixteen, leaving a large family

7

Zea: Kate Chopin, Unfiltered

Published by Scholar Commons, 2005

Kate Chopin, Unfiltered 7

16Toth and Seyersted, Private Papers, 5.
17Toth and Seyersted, Private Papers, 9.

“foolishness.” 16 The important aspect of “Leaves of
Affection” is that it represented Chopin’s first attempts
at self-expression in writing and that it showed how
important she deemed feminine friendship to be. That
she saved this little book of misquoted, “foolish” poetry
for her whole life illustrates its value to her.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Chopin was
removed from school. As a result of a traumatic
experience with Union soldiers, Chopin experienced
what psychologists now refer to as a “loss of voice,” a
common occurrence among adolescent females. A “loss
of voice” is not only a refusal to talk but also a sign of
trauma that may include depression, insecurity, and
a desire for solitude. To make matters worse the
Garesché family had left St. Louis because Kitty’s
father refused to take the Union oath of allegiance.
Chopin might never have recovered—certainly not as
quickly—had a teacher at Sacred Heart not intervened.

To encourage her talent in writing, Mother Mary
O’Meara assigned Chopin to keep a “Commonplace
Book,” where Chopin would copy down passages from
books she read or whatever else caught her attention.17

The very first passage in Chopin’s “Commonplace
Book” is an excerpt from Bulwer’s “My Novel.” Chopin
copied the author’s opinions on writing:

When we look back upon human records, how
the eye settles upon Writers as the main land
marks of the past! …And yet, strange to say,
when these authors are living amongst us, they

8 Historical Perspectives March 2005

18Ibid., 13-4.
19Ewell, Chopin, 6.

occupy a very small portion of our thoughts….18

Chopin, at the age of seventeen, may already have
been thinking of what it meant to be an author.
Subsequent copied passages include excerpts from
Macaulay, Longfellow, Goethe, Hugo, and various
definitions and paragraphs describing contemporary
world leaders. Each of the authors she so copied was
a romantic, revealing Chopin’s specific interests at the
time. The Commonplace Book also …

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