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English Literature Guide to Désirée’s Baby

Shirley Bierman | Thursday May 16, 2013

Categories: AQA A Level English Literature B, LITB4, WJEC A Level English Literature, LT2, KS5 Archive, AQA A Level, WJEC A Level

Kate Chopin

Background

Kate Chopin, Katherine O’Flaherty (February 8, 1850 — August 22, 1904) was an American writer of short stories and novels. Most of her stories are set in Louisiana with prominent female characters in her writing.

She wrote for some very well-known magazines such as Vogue, Atlantic Monthly and The Century Magazine and the public enjoyed her short stories. Her two novels: At Fault (1890) and The Awakening (1899) were given different reactions by her audience; people barely commented on At Fault but The Awakening was received badly by critics and the public who condemned the writing as vulgar, morbid and corrupt.

Willa Cather, who would become a well-known twentieth-century American author, labelled it ‘trite and sordid.’

Kate was fluent in both English and French and was born in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.  Her father was of Irish descent and her mother was of French descent. Her mother made sure that she not only spoke French but also experienced a sense of her French culture as she was growing up. This French influence is notable in her work. She was surrounded by strong women, her mother, her grandmother, her great grandmother and by the nuns in the school she went to: St. Louis Academy of the Sacred Heart. This maternal upbringing made her very close to the women in her life and would have an impact on her written work.

Unfortunately, her father was killed in 1855 in a railway accident whilst she was still a young girl. In 1863, her well-loved French speaking great grandmother also died. Her childhood had quite a few tragic events in them plus she was growing up in a time full of civil unrests in America as the American Civil War was happening during 1861-1865. This civil war between North and Southern States of America would lead to the abolishment of slavery but it would lead to 600,000 soldiers being killed before the outcome would be resolved. Kate spent the Civil War in St. Louis where people...


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