Thérèse Lafirme, a beautiful and resourceful Creole woman, is widowed at age thirty-two and left alone to run her Louisiana plantation. When Thérèse falls in love with David Hosmer, a divorced businessman, her strong moral and religious convictions make it impossible for her to accept his marriage proposal. Her determined rejection sets the two on a tumultuous path that involves Hosmer's former wife, Fanny. At Fault is both romantic and filled with stark realism-a love story that expands to address the complex problem of balancing personal happiness and social duty-set in the post-Reconstruction South against a backdrop of economic devastation and simmering racial tensions. Written at the beginning of her career, At Fault parallels Chopin's own life and introduces characters and themes that appear in her later works, including The Awakening.
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Celebrated for her depictions of life among Louisiana’s Creole and Cajun peoples, Kate Chopin (1850–1904) is today seen as a major figure in southern literature. Her short stories and her last novel, The Awakening (1899), are widely read and studied. Unjustly neglected, however, is her first novel, At Fault, which Chopin published in 1890 at her own expense. This edition of At Fault—the first printing to appear since Chopin’s Complete Works was issued in 1969—now makes the book available to a wide audience.
The novel centers on Therese Lafirme, a widow who owns and runs a plantation in post–Civil War Louisiana. She encounters David Hosmer, who buys timber rights to her property to secure raw materials for his newly constructed sawmill. When David remarries, a love triangle develops between David, Fanny (his alcoholic wife), and Therese, who tries to balance her strong moral sensibility against her growing love for David. In depicting these relationships, Chopin acutely dramatizes the conflict between growing industrialism and the agrarian traditions of the Old South—as well as the changes to the land and the society that inevitably resulted from that conflict.
Editors Suzanne Disheroon Green and David J. Caudle provide meticulous annotations to the text of At Fault, facilitating the reader’s understanding of the complex and exotic culture and language of nineteenth-century Louisiana. Also included is a substantial body of supporting materials thatcontextualize the novel, ranging from a summary of critical responses to materials illuminating the economic, social, historical, and religious influences on Chopin’s texts.
The Editors: Suzanne Disheroon Green is an assistant professor of English at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. She is the co-author, with David J. Caudle, of Kate Chopin: An Annotated Bibliography of Critical Works, and co-editor with Lisa Abney, of the forthcoming Songs of the New South: Writing Contemporary Louisiana
David J. Caudle, who is completing his doctorate at the University of North Texas, has published essays and book chapters dealing with American literature and linguistic approaches to literature.
In her own time, the works of Kate Chopin (1851–1904) shocked readers and critics with their challenge to contemporary mores. Her stories and novels reveal unsparing truths about the interior lives of women, some of whom experienced profound disillusionment with the rigid yoke of marriage, combined with an unfulfilled longing for self-realization. Celebrated today as a precursor of twentieth-century feminism, Chopin's fiction is considered to be among the masterpieces of American literature.
True to the writer's intrepid explorations of taboo subjects and resonating with autobiographical elements, At Fault masterfully portrays a complex love triangle amid the tensions of the rural post-Reconstruction South. Thérèse Lafirme is a young Creole widow in love with a divorced St. Louis businessman, David Hosmer. The moral and religious constraints thrust upon Thérèse prevent her acceptance of Hosmer's wedding proposal, setting the two on a treacherous path that involves Hosmer's former wife, Fanny. Originally published in 1890, the novel is marked by the same fearless examination of society and sexuality that distinguish Chopin's later works.
Dover (2007) unabridged republication of the work originally published by the author in 1890, and printed by Nixon-Jones Printing Co., St. Louis. Introductory Note.
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