The Flapper In Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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Joshua Zeitz’s history of the flapper reminds us that “The New Woman of the
1920s boldly asserted her right to dance, drink, smoke, and date—to work her own property, to live free of the strictures that governed her mother’s generation.
[…] She flouted Victorian-era conventions and scandalized her parents. In many ways, she controlled her own destiny” (8). Although some twenty years too soon, the image evoked here equally describes Edna Pontellier in Kate Chopin’s The
Awakening. Just as the flappers of the 1920s famously defied traditional restrictions on women’s consumption of alcohol and smoking cigarettes, Edna, too, eschews such conventions. In this manner, Chopin’s novel anticipates the rebelliousness and social and sexual flamboyance
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Chopin herself experienced a substantial history of alcohol use and abuse in her family, and she often wrote about this subject in her fiction. Her son was a heavy alcohol abuser whose “marriage ended in divorce because of his drinking”
(Toth, Unveiling, 240). Family alcohol abuse also notably inspired Chopin’s other novel, At Fault (self-published in 1890), in which a heroine, Fanny, is described by Lewis Leary as being “hopelessly in the power of drink” (71).
Emily Toth has written of the public’s and of critics’ marked failure to understand
At Fault’s primary theme. Toth argues that Chopin’s first novel shows a woman drinking as a means of dealing with male oppression in a rigidly patriarchal society (“Kate Chopin on Divine Love” 118-20). But many Americans were not yet ready to accept this then-revolutionary image of the fallen Victorian angel.
Likewise, “In Sabine,” one of Chopin’s Bayou Folk (1894) short stories, depicts a woman who is driven to leave her husband because of his excessive drinking.
About the time of “In Sabine’s” publication, Chopin had an affair with a man named Albert who is said to have abused his wife due to his excessive
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