As part of my summer reading, I’m preparing for teaching new texts next school year. I realized the much of our IB program is male centered (as in male writers, male protagonists, father-son relationships). So, I made an effort to even the reading field and feature more women in literautre. Enter Kate Chopin.
I read The Awakening earlier this year and loved it. Wrote about it here and here. However, The Awakening is not very long and in order to fulfill IB reading requirements, I must add some of Chopin’s short stories as well. Here are a few I’ve read:
Beyond the Bayou~ a great story of an older Creole woman who was so frightened by an event in early childhood, she never ventures beyond the Bayou, but sticks to her immediate geographical surroundings. She is loving and nurturing and sweet. The children love her, the adults love her and respect her inability to move beyond the Bayou. One day, tragedy strikes one of the beloved boys that she cares for and she is faced with a decision: keep him with her, and perhaps cause his death, or bravely cross the bayou and seek help for him. It is a beautiful story of love, sacrifice and overcoming fears in order to help those you love…kinda like they say a mother can lift a car off her child if the child in endangered? A touching portrait of motherly love.
La Belle Zoraide~ a beautiful young servant falls in love with the wrong man, one whom her mistress would never let her marry. She bears his son and her mistress conspires to keep Zoraide away from her child and her lover. This story chronicles the consequences of these decisions to Zoraide. Tragic and very telling about the effect of childbirth to a woman – it stays with you, once you are a mother nothing or no one can ever erase that.
A Visit to Avoyelles~ a man visits his old sweetheart; she married the man who “stole” her away from him. She is aged, with numerous children and living in lower class, questionable conditions. He wishes to rescue her and her children from her life and from the wretch who “stole” her because he knows he can give her the life she deserves. Does she run back to her saviour? Or, does she remain with the man she chose? A great story about love that endures, about love that makes no sense and the women that hang on to it and the men that can’t let the past go.
A Respectable Woman~ a woman’s husband invites his former college friend for a holiday; she doesn’t like him…until gradually, she finds that she likes him too much. Since she is a respectable woman, she does all in her power to stay away from him until he leaves. Her husband can’t understand why she doesn’t like his friend, who is so amiable. She is challenged by her emotions until she puts it all to rest and feels relief. The following summer, her husband wishes to invite his friend…will she accept or decline the visit? A wonderfully ironic tale that resonates with Chopin’s insight as seen in her famous short story (and probably the one most studied in schools) The Story of an Hour.
Regret~ a woman who has it all: money, land, social status and she is also unmarried by choice, childless by choice. She is fully independent and loves her life. Until her neighbour suddenly drops off her four children because she must see to an errand – for two weeks. The children are a chore, they upset the rhythm of her life…until, they weave themselves into the daily routines of her life. Their mother returns and the children are gone. I love Kate Chopin’s writing because it shows the struggle of women is not only universal, but sadly, timeless. This story focuses on a woman’s desire for independence versus her desire for family and children. It makes Slaughter’s article Why Women Still Can’t Have It All a bit outdated, yet oh so relevant…it appears to be an age-old issue and not a problem modern times.
Chopin’s writing style is direct and simple. She captures the internal life of each protagonist with keen insight and the subtleties of the relationship between men and women beautifully. Great short reads for summer afternoons when time is limited.
Do you have any short stories that you just love?