Were Chopin's Stories True?
NARRATOR: One of the big question students and scholars are left asking after reading many of Chopin's stories is how closely her fiction imitates reality. Researchers say there are striking examples of "very real" occurrences in many of Chopin's works.
SOUNDBITES: Professor Thomas Bonner/Xavier University of La.
What we find is that the stories of the old Louisiana territory come down to Kate from her great grandmother Charleville and through the grandmother. For example, a story like the Maid of St. Phillippe which dealt with characters changing hands. We can actually trace that story in terms of province to her grandmother and into her great grandmother.
Desiree's baby for example reflects racial intermingling which she observed not only in New Orleans but, in the area around the Cane River where she indeed spent a considerable part of her time.
In The Awakening, we have a massive array of images of New Orleans and Grand Isle, one in particular, the walking motif which would reflect the kind of Paris life that Orleanians were attempting to live in terms of walking on the Esplanade.
NARRATOR: Scholars also find amazing similarities between The Awakening and a fable Chopin wrote as a child called "Emancipation: A Life Fable". The fable is about an animal that escapes from a cage. The animal realizes that life was comfortable in the cage, but it also realizes freedom is better, despite the responsibilities involved. The novel, The Awakening is about a woman who escapes for a marriage in which she is not fulfilled. And, scholars see similarities in the death of Chopin's father and the portrayed death of a character in "The Story of an Hour." In real life, Chopin's mother lost her husband in a train wreck. Thereupon, Eliza O'Flaherty reportedly inherited 24-thousand dollars, which was a lot of money in the 1850s. It is thought that she went on to live a happy life, deeply involved in the social life of St. Louis. In "The Story of an Hour", the woman who thought she had been widowed by a train accident spent just a moment grieving, before exalting in the thought of the benefits of freedom.