Kate Chopin: Her Novels and Stories
American author Kate Chopin (1850–1904) wrote two published novels and about a hundred short stories in the 1890s. Most of her fiction is set in Louisiana and most of her best-known work focuses on the lives of sensitive, intelligent women.
Her short stories were well received in her own time and were published by some of America's most prestigious magazines, including Vogue and the Atlantic Monthly. Her early novel At Fault (1890) was not much noticed by the public, but The Awakening (1899) was widely condemned. Critics called it morbid, vulgar, and disagreeable (continue)
Questions and answers about Kate Chopin
Recent books about Kate Chopin
New: A translation of The Awakening into Galician
Emily Toth's radio interview about The Awakening
A translation of Chopin's poems into French
New: Kate Chopin in Firsts, The Book Collector's Magazine
A graphic version of "The Story of an Hour"
Kate Chopin and Vogue
New: Translations of / books about Chopin published in Spain
Chopin house photos at the Library of Congress
High school lesson plans for The Awakening from NEH
Kate Chopin: Questions and Answers
Question: How do you pronounce "Chopin"?
Answer: In the French way, like that of the composer, Frédéric Chopin—in English, something like SHOW-pan.
Q: When was Kate Chopin born? Some internet sites say 1851 and others 1850.
A: Her tombstone says 1851, but thirty years ago a French scholar revealed that the United States census and her baptismal certificate (no birth certificate exists) show that Chopin was born on February 8, 1850. The Library of Congress in September, 2009, accepted the corrected date, but some printed sources and web sites still give her birth date as 1851.
Q: Was Kate born a Chopin or is that her married name?
A: She was born Catherine O'Flaherty.
Q: Was Kate Chopin's husband related, however distantly, to Frédéric Chopin the composer?
A: Apparently not. Kate Chopin has had three biographers, but none of them has discovered a family connection, and a French scholar in Paris has not found a link.
Q: Was Kate Chopin’s work forgotten until her literary revival in the 1970s?
A: With a few exceptions here and there, The Awakening was. But some of Chopin's short stories were not forgotten. Several of those stories appeared in anthologies from the 1920s on, and several important scholars were writing about her fiction for decades before it caught fire with the appearance of her Complete Works in 1969 (more questions and answers).
An Interview with Emily Toth about The Awakening
The January 30, 2013, edition of Wisconsin Public Radio's "Back-to-School Book Club" show features Kate Chopin biographer Emily Toth being interviewed by WPR's Kathleen Dunn. University of Wisconsin professor Russ Castronovo and Louisiana State University professor Toth talked about why The Awakening helped to awaken the nation to female voices.
"Kate Chopin's The Awakening received harsh reviews from male critics when it was released in 1899," the announcement of the interview says. "Chopin wrote overt descriptions of female sensuality, and the main character, Edna Pontellier, disdains the role of wife and mother that is prescribed for her in turn-of-the-19th-century New Orleans."
A Translation of Kate Chopin's Poems into French
Gérard Gâcon has translated Kate Chopin's poems into French. His volume, Sous le ciel de l'été, was published by l'Université de Saint-Étienne in 2009.
The original English and the French translation of each of the forty-six poems are presented side by side, and the volume contains an introduction that includes a discussion of Chopin's prose works "Athénaïse," "Charlie," "The Story of an Hour," and "The White Eagle." After the poems is a translation of "The White Eagle" into French, an annex with translated passages from Chopin's 1894 diary and her 1897 dedication to Ruth McEnery Stuart in a copy of Bayou Folk, along with excerpts from an interview Chopin's son Felix gave in 1949. The volume concludes with a brief chronology of Chopin's life and a short bibliography.
Gérard Gâcon has translated Shakespeare into French as well as work by Robert Herrick, Andrew Marvell, Lewis Carroll, and others British writers. Some of his translations are published in Paris by Gallimard in the prestigious Pléiade series.
Here is Kate Chopin's last poem, written in 1900:
To the Friend of My Youth: To Kitty
It is not all of life
To cling together while the years glide past.
It is not all of love
To walk with clasped hands from first to last.
That mystic garland which the spring did twine
Of scented lilac and the new-blown rose,
Faster than chains will hold my soul to thine
Thro' joy, and grief, thro' life--unto its close.
And here is Gâcon's translation of the poem:
Kate Chopin in Firsts: The Book Collector's Magazine
An article about Kate Chopin by Thomas Bonner Jr. and Robert E. Skinner appears in the February, 2013, issue of Firsts: The Book Collector's Magazine.
The eight-page article, titled "Rebel in Life and Fiction: Kate Chopin and Her Writings," describes Chopin's life, offers a detailed explanation of her best-known works, documents the ups and downs of her popular and critical reception over the past hundred years, and closes with the information that collectors interested in her available books need in order to find copies for purchase.
The article estimates that a first edition of Bayou Folk, Chopin's first collection of short stories, would now sell for between $1,000 and $2,000; a first edition of A Night in Acadie, her second volume of stories, would sell for $2,000 to $3,000; and a first edition of The Awakening, her 1899 novel, would sell for between $6,000 and $8,000.
Recent Books about Kate Chopin
Beauty in Love and Death—An Aesthetic Reading of Kate Chopin’s Works [in Chinese] by Xuemei Wan. 268 pages. China Social Sciences Press, 2012, 39.2 yuan.
Awakenings: The Story of the Kate Chopin Revival, edited by Bernard Koloski. Recollections and critical insights by Robert D. Arner, Thomas Bonner, Jr., Lynda S. Boren, Anna Shannon Elfenbein, Barbara C. Ewell, Bernard Koloski, Susan Lohafer, Mary E. Papke, Barbara H. Solomon, Marlene Springer, Helen Taylor, and Emily Toth. 232 pages. Louisiana State University Press paperback, 2012, $18.95 (hardcover edition, 2009). You can hear a podcast about Kate Chopin and this book. (The podcast has a second part.)
Characters and Plots in the Fiction of Kate Chopin, by Robert L. Gale. 191 pages. McFarland, 2009. $75.
Kate Chopin in the Twenty-first Century: New Critical Essays, edited by Heather Ostman. Essays by Donna Kornhaber and David Kornhaber, Jane F. Thraikill, Heidi Johnsen, Garnet Ayers Batinovich, Lisa A. Kirby, Meredith Frederich, Rebecca Nisetich, and Li-Wen Chang. 162 pages. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. $44.99.
A reader of Real Simple writes that Chopin's short story "The Storm" is "exquisite and passionate."
Her comment appears on p. 22 of the January 2013 issue of the magazine.
The Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin, edited by Janet Beer. Essays by Emily Toth, Donna Campbell, Pamela Knights, Susan Castillo, Katherine Joslin, Ann Heilmann, Michael Worton, Elizabeth Nolan, Avril Horner, Helen Taylor, and Bernard Koloski. 184 pages. Cambridge University Press, 2008. $29.99.
Kate Chopin's The Awakening, edited by Harold Bloom. Essays by Dorothy Dix, Percival Pollard, Cyrille Arnavon, Kenneth Eble, Stanley Kauffmann, Cynthia Griffin Wolff, Lawrence Thornton, Sandra M. Gilbert, Rosemary F. Franklin, Barbara H. Solomon, Elizabeth Ammons, Margo Culley, Kathryn Lee Seidel, Margit Stange, and Emily Toth. 96 pages. Chelsea House, 2008. $30.
At Fault is on line
Kate Chopin's early novel At Fault is available on line at the Project Gutenberg site. You can download it or you can read it on line. It's searchable by word or phrase or chapter number, and it's an accurate, trustworthy text.
A Graphic Short Story Based on "The Story of an Hour"
Cartoonist Gabrielle Bell's newest book is called Cecil and Jordan in New York (Drawn and Quarterly, 2009). It's a collection of short works.
Here is the first page of a story called "One Afternoon":
The New York Times says Cecil and Jordan in New York "is narrated by a young woman who's just moved to the city with her filmmaker boyfriend; it's a clear-cut tale of impecunious 20-something artists until halfway through, when the narrator abruptly transforms herself into a chair, gets taken home by someone who finds her on the sidewalk and decides that her old life won’t miss her. The engine of these mercilessly observed stories is squirminess: emotional awkwardness so intense that it can erupt into magic or just knot itself into scars."
Kate Chopin and Vogue
Kate Chopin's famous short story "Désirée's Baby" appeared in Vogue in January 1893. It was the earliest of nineteen Kate Chopin stories that the magazine published.
Vogue's first issue had come out just a few weeks before, in December 1892. It cost ten cents (about $2.30 in 2011 American dollars). The cover:
Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," "A Respectable Woman," and "A Pair of Silk Stockings" also appeared in Vogue.
Kate Chopin's picture appeared in the December, 1894, issue. Emily Toth explains in Unveiling Kate Chopin that Chopin is presented "in an etherial contemplative pose, wearing a small black headdress. Vogue's caption praised both her brains and beauty:
'MRS. KATE CHOPIN—A beautiful woman, whose portrait fails to convey a tithe of the charm of her expressively lovely face, has been an honored contributor to Vogue almost from its first number. . . . Mrs. Chopin is daring in her choice of themes, but exquisitely refined in the treatment of them, and her literary style is a model of terse and finished diction.'"
In December, 2011, Vogue announced that all of its issues (from 1892 on) are available online.
High School Lesson Plans for The Awakening from the National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities has posted a three-lesson curriculum unit for teaching Kate Chopin's The Awakening to high school students in grades 9 through 12.
The unit includes an overview, guiding questions, learning objectives, and preparation instructions.
The first lesson is called "Kate Chopin's The Awakening: No Choice but Under?" Lesson two focuses on "Realism and Local Color in Late 19th Century America." And lesson three concludes the unit with "Searching for Women & Identity in Chopin's The Awakening."
The unit also contains extensive lesson activities, assessment suggestions, resources, and ideas for extending the lessons.
A Translation of The Awakening into Galician
Antía Veres Gesto, a student of translation at the University of Vigo in Spain, tells us that Kate Chopin's The Awakening has been translated into Galician.
The translation was done by Ana Maria Valladares Fernández. It was published by Toxosoutos, Editorial, in 2003 and is available in both print and digital form. It seems that Chopin is not well-known in Galicia, but, according to reviews, the reception of The Awakening has been positive. The novel is thought of as one of the icons of the feminist movements of the 1960s.
Antía Veres Gesto notes that "it is important for a minority language like ours to become more visible all over the world."
The Awakening has also been translated into French, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, Czech, Korean, Serbian, Polish, German, Spanish, and Japanese. If you know of a translation into another language, would you write to us?
Kate Chopin House Photos and Drawings at the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress holds a collection of photographs and drawings of the house that Kate Chopin and her husband Oscar moved to in 1879 after Oscar closed his New Orleans business because of hard financial times. The house is in Cloutierville, a small French village in Natchitoches Parish, in northwestern Louisiana.
Oscar died of malaria in 1882, so Kate became a widow at age thirty-two, with the responsibility of raising six children. In 1884 she moved with her family back to St. Louis, where she had been born and had spent her childhood years. The Cloutierville house burned in 2008.
The photographs at the top of pages throughout this site: Kate O'Flaherty (later Kate Chopin) in 1869, at age nineteen (courtesy of the Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, USA); Oakland House, the mansion in St. Louis where Kate O'Flaherty met Oscar Chopin, the man who would become her husband; and pinks—the flowers mentioned in the closing sentence of The Awakening.
If you're citing photographs or other images on the site, list the person credited beneath the image. Most images on the site that do not have a credit beneath them are in the public domain, so they do not need an attribution. But please note several exceptions: For book covers, check with the publisher. For the photograph of Kate Chopin at the top of the home page and other pages, list the Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. The constructed designs on the top of many pages--like on the top of this page and on pages devoted to Biography, The Awakening, At Fault, "Ripe Figs," and the "Many Kates" design, used at the top of some pages devoted to Chopin's short stories--© 2005, 2012 by Jenny Oyallon-Koloski.
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