Kate Chopin's Short Stories

Protagonists’ Responses to Social Constructs of Gender 12th Grade

The social constructs of gender are manifested through the forced institution of marriage in Kate Chopin’s “La Belle Zoraïde” and “The Story of an Hour.” The protagonists in each story experience suppressed emotions in response to the social institution of marriage, which limits their female individuality. When either protagonist attempts to challenge these social constructs, they are afflicted with an internal turmoil that manifests itself physically and externally. Male minor characters in each story incite the protagonist to challenge social constructs, whereas female minor characters deter the protagonists’ challenges of these social constructs. Chopin employs symbolism to illustrate the constraints of the protagonist and additionally employs imagery to establish an atmosphere that conveys the influence of social constructs. Kate Chopin develops the internal turmoil of the protagonist as a response to social limitations of gender.

By challenging the social constructs of gender, the protagonists’ attempts to relieve themselves of suppressed emotions are futile. Chopin employs the symbolism of bodily disease to demonstrate the effect of expressing formerly suppressed emotions. To illustrate, Chopin foreshadows physical...

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