Scandalous, disgraceful, brave, and revolutionary would be the words that most people of her time would have used to describe the works of Kate Chopin. Set in Antebellum New Orleans and its surrounding areas, Chopin's works dealt with uncomfortable topics, like race and gender, often with an ironic twist. Her works are often overlooked but can be engaging learning tools for students.
Here are five kinds of students who should read works by Kate Chopin.
Students interested in gender equality
The author herself was somewhat of a maverick. After her husband died, Kate supported her six children through her writing. A successful working woman wasn't a regular occurrence in the late 1880s. Likewise, her female characters were anything but traditional--often showing a headstrong will for independence.
Students interested in early American History
The antebellum South is a period that every avid lover of American History will eventually spend time on. However, a study of the American South is more than just a look at History--it is a mirror to human nature, social conflict, and the growth of a nation. Kate Chopin's characters place a human face on some of the archetypes of the period.
Students interested in becoming writers or storytellers
Kate Chopin is a fantastic storyteller. Period. Just like a great chef would take the opportunity to taste the cuisine of others with different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, a good storyteller learns from other storytellers. Strong writers are avid readers. Studying any classic literature, including pieces by Chopin, is an opportunity for a future writer or storyteller to learn their chosen craft.
Students who need a challenge
Studying classic literature can be a challenge for anyone--but it is one that students shouldn't be afraid to face. Due to period-specific language, underlying cultural or historical differences, and complex plots, class pieces can take a bit of heavy mental lifting to understand, analyze, and enjoy. However, doing so yield rich rewards in the way of increased academic confidence, a more profound understanding of related historical or social issues, more robust vocabulary and writing skills, and a heightened ability to break down and understand complex ideas. So if a student finds most assigned readings boring, they might find the challenge a good classic piece presents a welcomed change!
Students who are considering higher education
Sitting in a college Humanities class, Chopin's name should bring up more than musical notes in the head of students. "The Awakening" is considered one of the earliest feminist novels and often shows up on college syllabi. However, freshman year doesn't have to be the first time students read a piece by Kate Chopin. Educators and parents can introduce high school students to her through shorter, age-appropriate works like "Desiree's Baby."