Comparison Kate Chopin Essay, Research Paper
The Comparison of Three Short Stories by Kate Chopin
In the three short works, “Ripe Figs,” “The Story of an Hour,” and “The Storm,” Kate Chopin has woven into each an element of nature over which no one has control. She uses short time spans to heighten impact and bring her stories to quick conclusions. She displays attitudes in her characters in two of her stories which may have been very controversial at the time they were written.
“Ripe Figs” is the shorter of the three, covering a summer in a young girl’s life. The figs need to ripen before she can visit her cousins. At first the leaves of the fig tree were tender and the figs were “little hard, green marbles” (4). Each time she would slowly walk beneath the leaves, she would go away disappointed. Then one day she saw something that made her “sing and dance the whole day long” (4). The figs were ripe. However when she sat some down before her godmother, the godmother said, “Ah, how early the figs have ripened this year!”, but for the girl, they “ripened very late” (4).
Kate Chopin’s second short story, “The Story of an Hour,” takes place in the space of an hour, during which a wife comes to terms with the death of her husband. Upon the news of her husband’s death, she wept with “wild abandonment” (12). After “the storm of grief had spent itself” (12), she went to her room alone. There she sat in a “roomy armchair” (12), facing the window. She could see new life in the leaves on the trees and smell a “breath
of rain in the air” (12). Also she could hear the sounds of life still going on; “a peddler was crying his wares, and the music of someone singing in the distance reached her, along with the sound of countless sparrows twittering in the eaves” (12).
With a “dull stare in her eyes,” she fixed her gaze on some blue patches of sky, and felt something “creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that
filled the air” (12-13). As she began to recognize this thing coming to posses her, she tried to “beat it back with her will” (13). Only she was powerless to do so. Then giving herself over to it, the “vacant stare and look of terror” left her eyes (13). Then she breathed, “Free, free, free!” (13). Her eyes became bright, pulses beat fast, and blood flowed warm causing her body to relax completely. She knew that she would weep again, but she saw beyond the grief toward the years to come, to ” spring days and summer days, and all sorts of days” (13), as she drank in the essence of life through the window opened to blue skies.
The third story, “The Storm,” happens during a storm. Due to the threat of a storm, a young man sought the shelter of a former sweetheart’s gallery. She had not seen him very often since her marriage five years earlier to someone else, and then never alone. The driving force of the rain soon compelled them inside. As “the rain beat upon the low shingle roof,” he was conscious that she had lost none of her vivaciousness, and as the storm increased in intensity, he is aware of that “old-time infatuation and desire for her flesh” (28). Even though there was fear in her eyes, it soon gives way to an unconscious “sensuous desire” (28). Soon this tension of repressed attractions escalates, and her flesh was
“knowing for the first time its birthright” (28), and his sensuous nature had penetrated depths never before reached. Then “the rain beat softly upon the shingles” and the “thunder was distant and passing away” (29). The rain was over. The sun shown upon a glistening green world” (29). When he rode away, he turned a “beaming face” to her, and “she lifted her pretty chin in the air” (29). There was no sign of remorse in either of them for what they had done. They were captivated by a moment in time during which the forces of nature were unleashed both within and without.
In comparison of these three short stories, one can find in each an awakening created by the elements of nature and uncontrollable events. The elements of nature cannot be ignored in Chopin’s stories because they are fundamental to the outcome . The characters lives are altered by events over which they have no control, such as storms and death, and subtle events such as the breaking through of patches of blue sky and the growing season of figs.
Kate Chopin seems to have written each of these stories with a short time frame. The growing season of a fig is the longest time span involved. Events in “The Storm” take place during and shortly after a storm. Her choice of names for “The Story of an Hour” indicates her own sense of time and its importance to the impact of the story.
Another common characteristic is the implied attitude of Chopin’s characters toward marriage. As seen in “The Storm” and “The Story of an Hour,” the attitude of marriage robbing a woman of her freedom is expressed. The grieving woman in “The Storm” is suddenly made aware that she is free due to the death of her husband. The absent wife of the young man caught in a storm with
an old girlfriend, is happy to be free again when he sends her a message not to hurry home. Perhaps this was the unspoken feeling of many women during Chopin’s lifetime.
In summary these three short stories seem to have very much in common. The use of nature, the short time frames, and the perhaps shocking attitudes of some of the characters all combine to create a sense of identity that one might expect to see in works by the same writer. Kate Chopins’ style is never boring. Her stories move quickly and have great impact.
Chopin, Kate. “Ripe Figs.” Literature for Composition. 3rd ed. Ed Sylvan Barnet et al. New York: Harper, 1992. 4.
—. “The Story of an Hour.” Literature for Composition. 3rd ed. Ed Sylvan Barnet et al. New York: Harper, 1992. 12 – 14.
—. “The Storm.” Literature for Composition. 3rd ed. Ed Sylvan Barnet et al. New York: Harper, 1992. 27 – 29.