Friday, November 17, 2006

Kate Chopin

I've come down hard on naturalism around here, so I thought that now might be a good time to offer a wider perspective. If you happened to read my last post, perhaps you noticed that I spoke rather kindly about some of the better (early) naturalists like Tolstoy and Lewis.

It's true. Some of them were absolutely brilliant in terms of style. Here's one of my favorite passages. It was written by Kate Chopin, a naturalist who happens to be one of the most evocative stylists in all of literature:
"The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation.

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace."
From The Awakening, chapter VI.

Her prose would be purple if she wrote this way often — she doesn't — but this single, isolated passage appears at just the right moment in the story and for all the right reasons. One can almost feel the solitude and hear the waves coming in...then going out...coming in again and breaking...going out. Brilliant!