Lecture 10 - De Anza College

Lecture 10.5
Approaches we’ve taken:
Formalist: How does the work negotiate the genre (realism,
sentimentality, poetic forms, etc)? How do the themes and ideas of the
text force the writer to challenge the traditions of form and how does
experimentation in form change the meanings the text can convey?
Historicist: How does it communicate social problems? (ie: political
allegory in Huck)
Psychoanalytic: How does it communicate psychological issues? (ie:
symbolism in White Heron)
Reader Response: How do readers react to its characters and themes
and what does that tell us about the world view and cultural
assumptions of those readers? (today)
Kate Chopin
Her basic bio:
1) Real name: Katherine O’Flaherty. Irish immigrant father died when
she was4, surrounded by strong women. Read classics &
contemporary lit, esp Zola. & Flaubert.
2) Her stories challenge male domination, especially of women’s inner
life (minds).
3) Lived in New Orleans for 12 years; husband died, so she moved back
to St Louis. Had 6 children screaming around her and still wrote
1) How her readers responded then
a) Look at the reviews when it came out (also your text has a few
choice quotes)
i) Negative: Could not conceive of respectable women throwing
caution to the wind like this—impossible for them to even
think such obscene things and wrong to read about it.
ii) Positive: Amazed that we can feel sympathy for such a corrupt
person like her
(a) Like feeling sympathy for a criminal—only good writers
achieve it
2) How we respond now
a) Write: Did you sympathize with her? Did you find her emotions
and choices plausible? Do you think she really finds herself or is
she on the wrong track?
i) What does that say about how we have changed as a culture?
3) Let’s try to discover what she’s really looking for
a) Her first taste is swimming—things change after that.
i) First the music opens her up emotionally (554)
ii) Experiences herself as unbounded possibility (556)
b) After that, she stops letting others define her
i) Argues with Robert when he claims to know how she feels
ii) Refuses to come in the house when her husband asks her to
iii) Begins following every impulse (559)
“anchorage snapped” (561)
Runs off with Robert for an entire day
Sees her infatuation, recognizes it as the same thing as
her early crushes, and doesn’t try to moderate or take a
longer view (569)
4) After her return from the Island, she defies all social expectations
a) Stays away when society women call on Tues as usual
b) Tells M. Ratignolle that motherhood isn’t everything (571)
c) Throws a vase and grinds her foot on her wedding ring (575)
d) Goes out alone with single men (Alicee Arobin)
e) Moves out of her husband’s house
f) Tells Robert “I give myself where I choose” (691)
5) What does she really want?
a) Happy marriage? NO (578)
b) Artistic life? No—just wants to be doing something
c) Robert? For what—marriage? No (624)
d) Just sex?
i) After sex with Arobin she thinks This Is It (600)
e) Simply follow every whim?
6) Perhaps the problem is her definition of freedom and individuality
a) Strictly negation—none shall control me, no role, no person
b) Can’t claim a place in the world and try to make it work for her
7) We can see that the petty bourgeois morality of her husband is fake
8) But we can also see that she has no ethical principles of her own
besides whims
a) She’s frustrating for me, because she can’t exert her will toward a
vision, so she ends up with nothing, as nothing & therefore suicide
is logical for her
i) This frustration is productive, makes me want to change
things, to give women more options and education
Break into groups
What does each character represent in terms of the role he/she plays or
asks of Edna? Give 2 examples to support your ideas
Mr Pontillier
Robert Lebrun
Adele Ratignolle
Mademoiselle Reisz
Alicee Arobin