The Enlightenment by Kate Chopin is on of several novellas I will read for a class of feminine literature. Written in the 1880s, this picture of Edna, a young wife of a wealthy New Orleans businessman, is, in fact, enlightening today for it's picture both of the emotionally innocent -- extremely childlike -- heroine and the world in which she lives. The strict social rules are taken for granted; when she begins to act on her impulses she is seen by husband and friends as simply a wayward child, In fact, to me, she never stops being a wayward child with the emotional maturity of a 12 year old although she has two small children of her own. The children are in the care of a nanny who has no name, she is simply "the quadroon."
Chopin tells the story in the leisurely way stories were written at that time, and her style is graceful. The reading experience is relaxing, the story unfolds without drama. A reader today, probably much more so than when it was written, will pay attention to the details -- for me the descriptions of life with servants who are usually known only for their color -- "the little black girl" "the mulata" -- is almost shocking, nearly disgusting. A scene in which Edna stays with a friend during childbirth never actually says the friend is having a baby; such things apparently couldn't be written about. The book is a time capsule. I was fascinated.
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