A story is much more than letters written down onto pages, or words inscribed onto paper. The context behind the story can deepen the meanings of the words written down. Many authors develop their writing through their own personal experiences and their own beliefs. This gives the stories more depth and meaning behind the initial plot line. This is an important aspect of an author’s writing because it open’s the door to learning more about the author as a whole.
Katherine O’Flaherty Chopin was a profound author that has been acknowledged for her writings representing the Deep South during the late 1800’s. Chopin has many writings that have caused an upheaval in criticism such as The Awakening and “The Storm”. Although these stories have been criticized, the way in which each story is written has caused readers to become entranced with her writing. As Katherine Chopin’s went through different experiences in her lifetime, the writings mirrored those experiences. Chopin’s personal life and beliefs have affected her writing in multiple aspects.
Kate Chopin’s personal life began to influence her writing at a very young age, as documented by sources. According to Christopher Baker in “Chopin’s The Storm”, Chopin was a biology major in college before she began to seriously consider the thought of becoming a writer (Baker.np). This aspect of Kate Chopin’s life has leaked into her writing in many stories, especially in “The Storm”. According to Baker, Chopin has incorporated multiple images relating to flowers, and the different parts that make up a flower. The first sign of floral imagery comes in the form of Calixta’s name. Baker states that the term “Calyx” refers to the part of a flower that protects the delicate inner parts of the flower while it is developing (Baker.np). Calixta’s character fits this definition perfectly, because on the outside, Calixta seems like a very strong character with strong values, but when Alcee comes into the picture, this perception fades, and a more vulnerable side shines through. Baker also emphasizes how Chopin incorporates floral imagery into other parts of “The Storm” such as, “lips moist as a pomegranate seed” (The Storm. II) and, “her firm, elastic flesh…like a creamy lily that the sun invites”(The Storm. II) (Baker.np). Baker reveals that these floral images have been inspired by her past in biology research, showing the relation between Chopin’s personal life and her work.
Kate Chopin’s writing, influenced by her family life, was well documented. In 1870, when Chopin was 20 years old, she married Oscar Chopin, a creole from Louisiana. After their wedding, Chopin moved to Louisiana where she would reside until her husband’s sudden death. In “Kate Chopin” an article in Feminist Writers, Pamela Kester-Shelton states that the incorporation of Louisiana and creoles is very prominent in works such as The Awakening, and the majority of her works are set in Louisiana towns as well (Kester-Shelton.1). Kester-Shelton also writes that during her marriage to Oscar Chopin, the couple had six children. In stories such as “The Storm”, Chopin makes an effort to incorporate children into the story, to fulfill her maternal instinct (Kester-Shelton.1). This can be observed with the relation between Calixta and Bibi in the storm. The story points out Calixta’s maternal instinct when stating, “She had clasped Bibi and was kissing him effusively” (The Storm. III). This intense love for Bibi portrays the love Chopin had for her six children and the strong maternal instinct she felt.
The independence that was thrown upon Chopin through her personal life was also documented by multiple sources. In 1882, Oscar Chopin died of a fever, causing Chopin to be left alone with six children and Oscar’s business he ran. In “Chopin, Kate (Katherine O’Flaherty)(1851-1904)” written in the Encyclopedia of American Literature, they state that after Oscar’s death, Kate took on the responsibility of running his business for one year while taking care of the six children (Encyclopedia.). Kate was forced to become an independent woman, raising six children on her own. According to Kester-Shelton in “Kate Chopin”, the perseverance Chopin portrayed during this difficult and trying time in her life reflects that of her female characters throughout her stories (Kester-Shelton.1). The way in which the women hold themselves in difficult times is only a mirror image of Chopin during some of her darkest moments. Chopin’s writing can be seen as a window into not only her personal life, but her beliefs as well.
Despite much criticism in the late 1800’s, Chopin was not afraid to let her personal beliefs reflect in her works, as many sources have pointed out. Kate always seemed to go against the societal norm of the Deep South. According to William E. Grant in his article “Katherine Chopin”, Chopin did not dress like other women of her time, and smoked cigarettes frequently, which was also frowned upon (Grant.2). With the death of her husband, Chopin learned to become a very independent woman, which can also been seen in many of the female characters throughout her writing (Grant.2). Allen Stein in “The Kaleidoscope of Truth: A new Look at Chopin’s ‘The Storm’” writes that Kate Chopin was also not afraid to discuss the theme of a natural birthright. Chopin fully believed in the idea that it is natural to fulfill your sexual needs (Stein.23). Stein states that although Chopin discusses this issue in many works including “The Storm”, she practiced this idea in real life as well. Stein reveals Chopin’s affair with a married man after the death of her husband, Oscar. (Stein.23). Revealing no guilt in either her personal life or in “The Storm”, Chopin’s idea of one’s natural birthright was clearly explained. Stein also reveals that although some critics did not believe Chopin took into consideration the values and morals of women, others believed she was simply portraying what it meant to be human (Stein.24).
Many sources came to the conclusion that Chopin’s life influenced the way in which female characters were constructed. In “The Southern Woman in The Fiction of Kate Chopin” by Marie Fletcher, Fletcher states that all of the women in Chopin’s works were beautiful and had children (Fletcher.236). This gave them the maternal instinct that Chopin always felt, while making them seem as the perfect southern women as well. Martha Cutter from “Losing the Battle but Winning the War” states that, in the beginning of Chopin’s writing, women were quiet and passive, revealing the truths to Chopin’s marriage with Oscar (Cutter.61). The female characters then shifted from the passive female to a traditional woman with some flaws. Fletcher from “The Southern Woman in The Fiction of Kate Chopin” reveals that these flaws portrayed an independence that not only the female characters obtained, but Kate as well (Fletcher.236). This coincides to the way in which Kate’s attitude changed after the death of Oscar. The independence was forced upon her, and she realized that it was a beneficial characteristic for women to have. The minor flaws that Chopin incorporated into her writing included a new sexual female character, such as Calixta in “The Storm”. Richard Adams from “Southern Literature in the 1890’s” also adds input on this topic stating that female sensuality was not a favorable concept in Louisiana during the late 1800’s, causing much criticism. But with Chopin’s strong beliefs on the natural birthright of a woman, the characters participated in heated love affairs like that of Alcee and Calixta (Adams.75). Chopin’s writing gave women a new reputation. One that was strong-willed, independent, and sexual. Everything that Chopin had morphed into after the death of her husband.
Different articles and writings have given “The Storm” as well as other writings by Chopin a different meaning. A writer is nothing without their own personal experiences to incorporate into their own writing, as seen in the multiple sources. The strong beliefs of Kate Chopin along with the influence of her personal experiences have created such masterpieces. Although there is much literary criticism, that is what has made Kate Chopin such an inspirational author.