Kate Chopin threw her most famous character under the bus in this tongue-in-cheek response to critics. ‹ Literary Center


August 23, 2022, 10:57 a.m.

Before there was Twitter, there was the slow combustion of print literary fights. Let’s take a moment now to pay homage to a subtle master of form, the writer Kate Chopin, who died this week in 1904.

As soon as it was published in 1899, his novel awakening, which depicts protagonist Edna Pontellier’s struggle with traditional femininity and family structure, outraged the industry and readers; while the Chicago Herald gently chided that Chopin was too Lady for the novel she had written (“There was no need for a writer of such great refinement and poetic grace to enter the overworked realm of sex fiction”), the Republic of An equally shocked St. Louis called the book “too hard to drink for moral babies.

Chopin herself responded in the same way, feigning an ironic posture of scandalized innocence. She writes in this note to Book News:

Having a bunch of people at my disposal, I thought it might be fun (for me) to get them together and see what happens. I never dreamed that Madame Pontellier would make such a mess and prepare her own damnation as she did. If I had had the slightest intimation of such a thing, I would have excluded her from society. But when I found out what she was doing, the play was half finished and by then it was too late.

Way to sell your main character for now, Kate. Still, this note has it all: it’s classy, ​​it contains (sort of) an accurate description of fiction writing, and, most importantly, it makes its reviews ridiculous. Well done.

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