Friday, April 22, 2011

A Morning Walk

Kate Chopin (1850–1904)
From Kate Chopin: Complete Novels & Stories

Previous Story of the Week selections by Kate Chopin include “Désireé’s Baby,” with its daring treatment of race and its unexpected ending, and “A Respectable Woman,” about a woman who is unsettled by her attraction to her husband’s friend. Chopin gained fame (and notoriety) during the 1890s startling readers with her handling of topics considered bold for the era, but she also continued to publish light or pleasant fiction for local magazines. Among these latter stories are several holiday tales—a genre whose prevalence, along with its promise of good pay, proved attractive to writers during the nineteenth century on both sides of the Atlantic, from Charles Dickens and Washington Irving to Robert Louis Stevenson and Willa Cather (who published hers under a pseudonym).

One of Chopin’s holiday stories, which she titled “A Morning Walk,” appeared in 1897 as “An Easter Day Conversion” in the Criterion, a local magazine that had recently changed its name from St. Louis Life and that published society news and some fiction. She had hoped to include the selection in her next story collection, but her fortunes changed drastically after the publication of her scandalous novel The Awakening. When Penguin issued the collection twenty years ago, Chopin scholar and biographer Emily Toth summarized what happened next:
[I]n February 1900, Hebert S. Stone & Company cancelled Kate Chopin’s contract; they would not publish her third story collection, A Vocation and a Voice. Herbert Stone did not actually say that The Awakening’s notoriety caused him to cancel A Vocation and a Voice; apparently he gave Kate Chopin no reason at all and let her assume the worst. (In fact, Stone was cutting back on the firm’s list and not necessarily making a judgment on Chopin’s work).
Whatever the real reason for this setback, the previously prolific Chopin wrote and published very little afterward. In 1904 she suffered from a brain hemorrhage at the St. Louis World's Fair and died two days later, at the age of fifty-three.

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Archibald had been up many hours. He had breakfasted, and now he was taking a morning stroll along the village street, which was little other than a high ledge cut into the mountain-side. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!

This selection may be photocopied and distributed for classroom or educational use.