Notes

What is a literary classic and why are these classic works important to the world?

A literary classic is a work of the highest excellence that has something important to say about life and/or the human condition and says it with great artistry. A classic, through its enduring presence, has withstood the test of time and is not bound by time, place, or customs. It speaks to us today as forcefully as it spoke to people one hundred or more years ago, and as forcefully as it will speak to people of future generations. For this reason, a classic is said to have universality.

Katherine O'Flaherty Chopin was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on February 8, 1850. Her father, an Irish immigrant, was a successful businessman, while her mother, of French-Creole descent, was a well-known socialite. Chopin was thirty-five years old when both her mother and husband died, leaving her to raise her family of six children alone. Her experience as a widowed mother is said to have inspired her writing, as she embraced the themes of the Creole population of New Orleans, the idea of a strong-willed woman, and the traditions of French writers such as Guy de Maupassant. Among her work are stories of rural Louisianan life, Bayou Folk (1894) and A Night in Acadie (1897). When originally published in 1899, The Awakening was poorly received by critics and the public because of Edna Pontillier's sexual and social freedom. Readers and audiences today, however, consider The Awakening to be Chopin's most significant contribution to American literature.