Sunday, April 19, 2020


This isn't a yarn post, but it is a yarn.

I got a degree in English Writing, and most of the time, I'm a technical writer.  Over the years, I found that my creative muscles were atrophying, and in an attempt to counteract that, I start writing flash-fiction every weekend with my daughter who is herself a writer.

This week's prompt was to write a 200-word story, starting with the word "shorebird", ending with "song" and including two of the following four words: beseech, desultory, evanescent, and insouciant.

Anyway, last summer, I re-read The Awakening by Kate Chopin for the first time since college.  This oh-so-cheerful novel was first published in 1899, and is about a woman who starts to buck the conventions surrounding mothers, wives, and women's sexuality (sex itself is only barely hinted at, but it was pretty scandalous at the time). It's considered by many an early feminist novel that deals with women's issues without a hint of condescension.

Now, if you haven't read it, and you wish to, and you don't like spoilers, you should stop reading now.


The book's imagery and evocative mood-setting language is masterful and powerful. But it's also very depressing - the main character spends the entire book learning to be her own person (instead of accepting the persona forced on her), and then in the end, because the man she loves (and who loves her) wasn't strong enough to buck convention, she kills herself.

I have mixed feelings about the book.  Edna spends all that time going against the tides, and then finally, is unable to take that final step - and that's a powerful message - bucking convention is very, very hard, and often very lonely.

On the other hand - so is succeeding. Of being able to thumb one's metaphorical nose at society and do your own thing. So, I wrote the ending I wanted to see - the end where she succeeds.

For those that want to compare, here's the final chapter of the novel on Project Gutenberg. Search for the words, "Despondency had come upon her" and start reading from there. It's roughly the last 600 or so words of the novel.  My ending would replace everything starting with "Edna had found her old bathing suit still hanging, faded, upon its accustomed peg."

Note: italicized sections are direct quotes. I also rearranged/re-crafted a few other of Chopin's phrases from the book to make them fit here.

Shorebirds floated above the surf, wings outstretched, sounding their harsh, beseeching cries as Edna removed her old faded swimsuit, and stood naked in the open air for the first time in her life. She walked toward the waterline, feeling the wind and salt spray wash away the woman that was. 
How strange and awful it seemed to stand naked under the sky! how delicious! She felt like some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known. 
She looked down at her bare toes, and watched the foamy surf drag grains of sand around her feet, and up the beach, tumbled about by the tides and the waves.   
Edna walked further into the water, wincing at the chill, but welcoming the clarity that came with it, and began swimming, gliding through the water, glorying in the flotation of her body.  She took long strokes, and when she grew tired, flipped to her back to rest.  “Goodbye, Robert. I wish you were stronger.” 
Mademoiselle Reisz had said, the artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies.  Edna knew, finally, that she was that artist. She swam back to shore, accompanied by insouciant gull song.