Kate Chopin and the Cult of True Womanhood. Brief essay in response to "What does Kate Chopin's 'The Storm' tell us about gender roles in the late 19th century?

Essay by jezsabellUniversity, Bachelor's March 2004

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While Kate Chopin's The Storm serves to juxtapose commonly herald viewpoints of 19th century gender roles, the story's themes and characters offer supposition regarding the true nature of sexual repression. During the time of this story's conception, the campaign of female inferiority held its greatest audience in what was commonly referred to as the Cult of True Womanhood. In The Storm, as well as in many other short stories, Chopin used the literary medium to counter, if not attack, the principle ideas behind the Cult of True Womanhood, often by twisting the syntax and semantics of etiquette with the nature of human emotion.

During the late 1800's, as a popularly accepted political agenda, the Cult of True Womanhood sought to define the gender roles throughout the paradigm shift of the (pre) Industrial Revolution. As the workload became more demanding, husbands began to spend more time away from the home. This, combined with the decreasing need for the individual family to supply its own raw materials, transferred the believed savage nature of physical labor to the cutthroat business world.

Thus, women were meant for the home, as it was too brutal in the general world. This viewpoint differs from previously accepted gender role campaigns in that beforehand, women were thought to embody uncontrollable lustful impulses, which needed superior rational male guidance and authoritarianism to manage. The Cult of True Womanhood changed this perspective by initiating the belief that woman were the highest form of purity, void of impetuous sexual desires. In contrast, men actually possessed the uncontrollable lustful impulses. Therefore, woman, too gentle by nature, needed sanctuary (the home) to guard their susceptibility to the lust of men.

Four ideals cornered this new approach: Purity, Piety, Submissiveness, and Domesticity (Lavender, 2). According to the doctrine of the Cult of True Womanhood,