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Patriarchal Society and the Feminine Self in Kate Chopin’s Story of an Hour

Patriarchal Society and the Erasure of the Feminine Self in The Story of an Hour

Critical readings of Chopin’s works often note the tension between female characters and the society that surrounds them. Margaret Bauer suggests that Chopin is concerned with exploring the “dynamic interrelation between women and men, women and patriarchy, even women and women” (146). Often, critics focus on the importance of conflict in these works and the way in which Chopin uses gender constraints on two levels, to open an avenue for the discussion of feminine identity and, at the same time, to critique the patriarchal society that denies that identity. Kay Butler suggests that “entrapment, not freedom, is the source of Chopin’s inspiration, for she is primarily concerned with exploring the way in which gender roles deny identity”; she continues: “yet without the entrapment, the question of identity, even the inspiration to write about identity, wouldn’t exist” (18).

Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” most poignantly balances the dual focus of her work, describing the incipient awakening of Mrs. Mallard, and thus exploring the possibility of feminine identity, even while, ultimately, denying the fruition of such an experience. Like all of her works, this short story reacts to a specific historical framework, the Cult of True Womanhood, in its indictment of patriarchal culture. As Barbara Welter notes, in the nineteenth century, “a women judged herself and was judged by her husband, her neighbors, and society” by the attributes of a True Woman which included, especially, “purity” and “domesticity” (372). The concept of purity, because it suggested that women must maintain their virtue, also, paradoxically, denied the…

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… Story of an Hour.’” CLA Journal 16 (November 1994): 59-64.

Bauer, Margaret. Chopin in Her Times: Critical Essays on Patriarchy and Feminine Identity. Durham: Duke UP, 1997.

Butler, Kay. “Freedom and Desire: The Theme of Awakening in the Works of Kate Chopin.” Critical Interpretations: Kate Chopin. Ed. Harold Blooming. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. 14-32.

Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter, et al. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Lexington: Heath, 1994. 644-46.

Papke, Mary E. Verging on the Abyss: The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton. New York: Greenwood P, 1990.

Welter, Barbara. “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860.” The American Family in the Social Historical Perspective. Ed. Michael Gordon. New York: St. Martin’s P, 1978. 372-92.

Structure in Sophocles’ Antigone

Structure in Sophocles’ Antigone

Aristotle in his Poetics (chap. 7) says: ?[L]et us now discuss the proper structure of the plot, since this is the first and most important thing in tragedy? (1033). M. H. Abrams says that ?almost all literary theorists since Aristotle have emphasized the importance of structure, conceived in diverse ways, in analyzing a work of literature? (300). The matter of the structure of Sophocles? Antigone is a subject of varying interpretation among literary critics, as this essay will reveal.

Gilbert Murray, professor at Oxford University in England, cites structure as one of the reasons why he chose Sophocles to translate. Then he elaborates on this structure: ?But Sophocles worked by blurring his structural outlines just as he blurs the ends of his verses. In him the traditional divisions are all made less distinct, all worked over the direction of greater naturalness. . . .This was a very great gain. . . .? (107). Murray here refers to Sophocles? modification of the classic structure for tragic drama. This is distinct from what Aristotle above refers to as the ?structure of the plot.? The classic structure for drama includes: Prologue ? everything up to the chorus; Parodos ? the chorus? sings; First Episode ? development of plot by main character(s); First Stasimon ? the chorus again; Repetition of Episodes and Stasimons until the climax is near; Exodos ? the climax, crisis, and catastrophe. As Murray notes, Sophocles does not adhere to the classical structure as rigidly as other dramatists of the period.

Aristotle?s ?structure of the plot? is what most literary critics mean when they refer to the ?structure? of Antigone. In Chapter 18 of the Poetics Aristotle states: ?Ever…

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…s Hurt. NewYork: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1984.

Murray, Gilbert. ?A Great Translator?s Reflections on Oedipus the King.? In Readings on Sophocles, edited by Don Nardo. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1997.

Segal, Charles Paul. ?Sophocles? Praise of Man and the Conflicts of the Antigone.? In Sophocles: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Thomas Woodard. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

Sophocles. Antigone. Translated by R. C. Jebb. The Internet Classic Archive. no pag.

?Sophocles? In Literature of the Western World, edited by Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. NewYork: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1984.

Woodard, Thomas. Introduction. In Sophocles: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Thomas Woodard. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

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