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Kate Chopin was a prolific writer in the late nineteenth century, popular for her copious number of short stories focusing on the circumstances and lives of married women, that is, the relationship between women and the institution of marriage itself. She published these short stories primarily in magazines such as Vogue, Atlantic Monthly, and Century (Clark), and they were well received by the public, especially women, during that time. Her most popular stories were compiled into two collections: Bayou Folk, published in 1894, and A Night in Acadie, published in 1897. Both collections were highly praised by critics and served to further improve Chopin’s reputation as an author, with Bayou Folk receiving positive reviews for its “crispness of dialogue” as well as its “charm and tenderness” (Hale and Godey 432). However, while her short stories undoubtedly prove her popularity in the late nineteenth century, her lengthier works mark her fall from public graces. With the publishing of The Awakening came an uproar of public ridicule, with critics labeling it “morbid, vulgar, and disagreeable” (Clark). The novella was so hated that it was banned from public libraries and was read by virtually no one until the 1950s, when scholars finally began to recognize its merits. It took twenty more years after this for the book to resurface for the public. Chopin was not writing anything new or more vulgar than some of her most popular short stories, so why was The Awakening criticized so harshly by critics and audiences when all it really did was elaborate on the preexisting themes of her previous stories?


This paper was presented as part of ENGL 3113: American Literature II course, taught by Professor Jennifer Pittman.