For Wednesday, October 21, 2015:
“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self that we assume
like a garment with which to appear before the world.”
Kate Chopin, THE AWAKENING
The Awakening is a fascinating little novel. Written in the late 19th century, it is at once an example of early — some sources call it the earliest — American feminist literature and the ‘coming of age’ of an adult woman who discovers within herself the best of who she is, the fullness of who she is. If I remember correctly, the novel was banned at times, and went out of print, because it dealt with subjects — a woman’s sexuality, for instance — that were still taboo. Thankfully, though, its literary importance was re-discovered and the book has been in print ever since.
This novel gave me the courage to start calling myself a writer in public. I’d always thought of myself as a writer, but I was long reluctant to identify myself that way when talking with others. Until then, it was always ‘ … and I also do some writing.’ Thanks to Kate Chopin, I came to see that my then-fictitious self needed to come out into the open, that I couldn’t be ‘real’ or true to myself, my identity, otherwise.
At the same time, we who write short stories and/or novels need to ensure our fictitious characters are just as real in their own contexts. That can be just as hard.
It’s a process of exploration and discovery in both cases. Where and when do our characters show courage? How do they identify themselves? What are their struggles, what are their joys? When and how do they become themselves, not ‘our characters’? If you’re like me, when ‘my’ characters reach the point where they direct their own stories — where they ‘cast aside’ their fictitious selves — it’s as if that moment of self-identity happens to me all over again, and I am thrilled.