I read this on 8 February…it was a rough day. The picture is the edition which I own.
I first encountered this book in high school: I hated it, but I could not pinpoint the reasons for which I did. I, as an adult, remember:
1) it is of its time, and as such, tells, and does not show. This gives the impression of helplessness.
2)it is of its time, and as such, has layers which went over my head.
I love this novel, now though. Kate Chopin will always be one of the reasons for which I am a feminist.
Mrs. Pontellier is a sad soul: she awoke too late to prevent mistakes, and too early to fix them. She awoke in the midst of disaster. If only Robert had been right, and she had slept 100 years, she could have at 29 fixed her life. I reread this to connect to women in the past, and I did.
Most of the women are happy, or at least content. There is one who is not. She is the one whom we follow. She goes around — saying offensive things by our standards now, but I am not familiar with historical culture enough to know if it was in bad taste then — trying to be an individual in an age where she must depend on others.
This book will fill one with sorrowful pride.
Mr. Pontellier is a man of his time, describing his wife:
‘That is, he could not see that she [Mrs. Pontellier] was becoming herself and daily casting aside that dictions self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.’
Kate Chopin has spoken to the ignorance of man of a woman’s worth, to the false roles in which women were forced, and to the universal fact that we, as humans, are raised to lie to others about who we are. In extension to the metaphor, there will always be garments (selves) which are fashionable than others no matter the time. How do we as a society accept that, and not force people to walk out into the ocean?
Mrs. Pontellier recognises this eventually, lamenting:
‘One of these days,…I’m going to pull myself together for a while and think — try to determine what character of a woman I am; for, candidly, I don’t know. By all the codes which I am acquainted with, I am a devilishly wicked specimen of the sex. But some way I can’t convince myself that I am. I must think about it.’
She realises that though her self is not in fashion (á la mode, si l’on préfère), and that makes her want to think about how she is a bad woman because of it. She has to think about it until she concurs with the larger consensus. We, as humans, are forced to reconsider ourselves until we agree with society.
There is a hint of salvation wrapped in a cynical party. Mme. Reisz has the shadiest line too: ‘Bonne nuit, ma reine. Soyez sage.’
‘Goodnight, my Queen. Be wise.’
Right after this, a depiction of a Paganistic Romantic of one of the men being robbed as if he were a ‘vision of Oriental beauty’.
We, as societal members, know that there exists other beauty, other fashion, and other way of being; however, we are typically too weak to chase it. Only ‘an artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies!’
In Kate Chopin’s honour, and in Mrs. Pontellier’s memory, I, therefore, wish everyone to be an artist.
Click to follow for the rest of the letters. I, also, want to shout out to J. Lenni Dorner’s A-Z Challenge.
Be an artist. Be safe. Be loved.