Kate Chopin and the Dilemma of Individualism

  • Rafael Walker
Part of the American Literature Readings in the Twenty-First Century book series (ALTC)


In an exquisitely compact piece titled “Emancipation: A Life Fable,” Kate Chopin narrates the journey of a beast that has spent his entire life hitherto locked in a cage. Thanks to the “care and protection of an invisible protecting hand,” this creature has never wanted for anything: “When he thirsted, water was brought, and when he felt the need of rest, there was provided a bed of straw upon which to lie.”1 This snug existence has satisfied the creature so much that he had come to believe that there couldn’t possibly be more to the world than what experience has already shown him—that the narrow ray of sun that penetrates his dwelling “existed but to lighten his home.” But everything changes when, one day, the door accidentally swings open (presumably as a result of the owner’s carelessness). According to the narrator, the creature is initially quite put out to find the door ajar and would have closed it if not for the fact that “for such a task his limbs were purposeless.” Unable to shut himself off from the world outside, he finally pokes his head through the door. However, the immensity of the open sky and wide world prove overwhelming for this being that had never before seen beyond the four walls of his cage.


House Publisher Short Story American Literature Impulse Buyer Narrator Care 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Works Cited

  1. Barry, Norman. On Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism. New York: St. Martin’s, 1987. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bentley, Nancy. Frantic Panoramas: American Literature and Mass Culture, 1870–1920. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biggs, Mary. “‘Si tu Savais’: The Gay/Transgendered Sensibility of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening?Women’s Studies 33 (2004): 145–81. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Birnbaum, Michele A. “‘Alien Hands’: Kate Chopin and the Colonization of Race.” American Literature 66.2 (1994): 301–23. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chopin, Kate. Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories. Ed. Sandra M. Gilbert. New York: Library of America, 2002. Print.Google Scholar
  6. Delbanco, Andrew. “The Half-Life of Edna Pontellier.” Ed. Wendy Martin. New Essays on The Awakening. New York: Cambridge, 1988. 89–107. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dimock, Wai Chee. Residues of Justice: Literature, Law, Philosophy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Print.Google Scholar
  8. Eble, Kenneth. “A Forgotten Novel.” Kate Chopin. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987: 7–16. Print.Google Scholar
  9. Gilbert, Sandra M. “The Second Coming of Aphrodite.” Kate Chopin. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987: 89–113. Print.Google Scholar
  10. Giorcelli, Cristina. “Edna’s Wisdom: A Transitional and Numinous Merging.” New Essays on The Awakening. Ed. Wendy Martin. New York: Cambridge UP, 1988: 109–48. Print.Google Scholar
  11. Lant, Kathleen Margaret. “The Siren of Grand Isle: Adèle’s Role in The Awakening?Kate Chopin. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987: 115–24. Print.Google Scholar
  12. Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government. Ed. Peter Laslett. New York: Cambridge UP, 2005. Print.Google Scholar
  13. Lukes, Steven. Individualism. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1973. Print.Google Scholar
  14. Parvalescu, Anca. “To Die Laughing and to Laugh at Dying: Revisiting The Awakening?New Literary History 36.3 (2005): 477–95. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Rev. of The Custom of the Country, by Edith Wharton. The Nation 15 May 1913: 494. Print.Google Scholar
  16. Rosowski, Susan J. “The Novel of Awakening.” The Voyage in: Fictions of Female Development. Ed. Elizabeth Abel, Marianne Hirsch, and Elizabeth Langland. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1983: 49–68. Print.Google Scholar
  17. Showalter, Elaine. “Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book.” New Essays on The Awakening. Ed. Wendy Martin. New York: Cambridge UP, 1988: 33–57. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Yaeger, Patricia S. “A Language Which Nobody Understood’: Emancipatory Strategies in The Awakening.NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 20.3 (1987): 197–219. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ziff, Larzer. “An Abyss of Inequality.” Kate Chopin. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987: 17–24. Print.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Heather Ostman and Kate O’Donoghue 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafael Walker

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations