Kate Chopin's The Awakening: A Sourcebook

By Janet Beer; Elizabeth Nolan | Go to book overview

Contemporary Documents

Albert Rhodes, 'The Louisiana Creoles', The Galaxy, Vol. 16, August 1873, pp. 252-60

During the 1870s, Albert Rhodes wrote for a variety of periodicals, including The Galaxy, Scribner's Monthly and Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Subjects he addressed included social and political issues and commentary on foreign cultures, particularly those of Europe. In this article he provides a comprehensive contemporary interpretation of nineteenth-century Louisiana Creole culture, the world which Chopin chooses as the setting for The Awakening. His article paints a picture of the particular characteristics of the 'artistic', 'exotic' Creole and a life of social gatherings, musical soirées, and convivial dining which has many resonances with the lifestyles depicted in Chopin's novel. One Creole proverb cited here finds a direct echo in the text, when, in Chapter Twenty-Two, Léonce Pontellier tells Doctor Mandelet that he is 'of that old Creole race of Pontelliers that dry up and finally blow away'. What Rhodes also does here is to juxtapose, often favourably, the values and customs of the Creole against those of their American neighbour, for example, the Creole's warmth and vivacity against the American's hard, sombre, utilitarian nature. Rhodes comments that the two cultures, placed in such close proximity in the city of New Orleans, with its French and American quarters, 'do not understand each other'. One of the central tensions of Chopin's novel is, of course, dependent upon just such a lack of understanding-the series of events and consequences which result from the 'American' Edna, from a Kentuckian Presbyterian background being introduced into the languid, flirtatious, and very different world of the Louisiana Creole.

The Paris of Louisiana Creoles is New Orleans […]

Canal Street is the dividing line between France and America. That portion of the city on the upper side is the domain of Columbia's sons; that below, of the

-16-

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Kate Chopin's The Awakening: A Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page vii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xiii
  • Annotation and Footnotes xv
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Contexts 3
  • Contextual Overview 5
  • Further Reading 12
  • Chronology 13
  • Contemporary Documents 16
  • 2 - Interpretations 51
  • Critical History 53
  • Nineteenth-Century Responses 56
  • Modern Criticism 61
  • 3 - Key Passages 99
  • Introduction 101
  • Key Passages 103
  • 4 - Further Reading 155
  • Further Reading 157
  • Index 160
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