At Fault is Kate Chopin’s first novel which was written between July 1889 and April 1890. Upon completion, she submitted it to Bedford’s Monthly; a literary journal that made room for one novel in each issue. Upon rejection, Chopin decided to publish the novel herself, recognizing it as a breakthrough work in which she had discovered her voice as a regional writer.
Chopin was found to be at fault on several literary levels by critics who received one of the 250 copies she distributed to editors and libraries. While modern day critics can see how much Chopin improved in terms of plotting and dialogue, the primary criticism of the day was toward the subject matter of failing marriages and alcoholism and—oddly—Chopin’s insistence upon dealing with this subject matter in a realistic way rather than romanticizing it. Then, as now, however, At Fault was widely praised for the authentic portrayal of the New Orleans/St. Louis regional dialect and the characters living realistically within.
Of course, the whole point of Chopin impulsively deciding to publish the book herself rather than wade through a potential series of rejections following that from Bedford’s Monthly was exposure. She was approaching middle age and knew immediate exposure was worth far more than any money that might have potentially come from an advance. In this gamble, she was absolutely right. Chopin’s decision to take a chance on herself paid off and quite probably the fact that the novel was published by the author lessened the damage of negative reviews that might have come had a major publishing house been behind her.