Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kate Chopin: Inspiration for Lost?

So a funny thing happened as I was responding to a comment this morning. Joshua asked what piece Daniel was playing on the piano. Having played it years ago (yes, I once aspired to be a concert pianist... then gave it all up for this lavish lifestyle I now lead... cough) I immediately knew it was Chopin. As I typed the response, I suddenly stopped mid-sentence and stared at the page. A weird eureka moment happened. I quickly finished (saying incorrectly that it was a nocturne) and then leapt out of my seat to run to a bookshelf.

See, yesterday a friend of mine who is an English prof was quizzing friends of his with some sort of literary background about his upcoming American lit course list. He was asking for suggestions for books he should put on the list. I suggested Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”; even though Chopin has a tendency to overwrite in that way many 19th century authors do, I adored this story, and it was so far ahead of its time, with a woman going mad by the restrictions that society had put on her. At the time I immediately went out and got a book of her short stories and read those, too.

So when I typed “Chopin” for the second time in two days, my mind suddenly conflated the two. Something has been bugging me in the back of my head for months about Daniel’s last name, and his possible parentage (which I assumed in “Jughead” was Ellie and Chuck). And when I typed that word today, it suddenly hit me: Kate Chopin.

For, in one of her short stories, “A Point at Issue!,” she writes the story of a couple in 19th-century U.S. who become engaged. The woman, who is an early feminist, hates the conventions of marriage, the engagement announcements in the paper, the idea that marriage would be “the closing period of a woman’s intellectual existence,” agrees to the engagement on the basis that the marriage not be turned into a prison, but be a relationship of equals. Their relationship up to that point involves heady discussions of science and philosophy (her husband is a professor of mathematics), and as soon as they’re married, he remains in the U.S. while she moves to France to learn the language and become more cultured. While she is overseas, her husband visits often with the Beaton family, and becomes enamoured of their daughter, Kitty. In a letter to his new wife, he talks about her feminine wiles and how attractive he finds her. The wife flies into a rage, sending only one letter back to him, which is very cold. Distraught, he rushes across the ocean to see her. When he arrives, she’s flustered about something, but won’t say what. A note comes from a caller, which she waves off, and later when he is walking through the streets of Paris he sees his wife in a carriage with an attractive man, laughing and enjoying his company. He returns to their house, in a rage about what he will do to both of them, to find his wife and the man standing there and welcoming him in, unveiling a large portrait of her on the wall. She explains that she’d been upset it wasn’t finished for his arrival, and had agreed to a final sitting for the artist, who had been rushing to finish it for him. The husband is immensely relieved, and after they embrace he asks her why she hadn’t written to him. She admits she was jealous of his affections toward Kitty, and he laughs it off, thinking his wife “‘is only a woman, after all.’” The narrator points out in the final line of the story, “With man’s usual inconsistency, he had quite forgotten the episode of the portrait.”

The names of the married couple? Charles and Eleanor “Nellie” Faraday.

It’s a very subtle literary reference, and either a complete coincidence or one the writers have thrown in there, wondering if anyone has ever read this obscure short story. But it’s interesting to me that Dan’s parents’ names are Hawking and Widmore, yet his name is Faraday (maybe she was married to a Faraday but kept her maiden name? Or Faraday is her maiden name and then she married a Hawking?) And if there ever was a relationship between Ellie and Widmore, clearly it was one where, in the end, they lived separate lives. She seems angry when he suggests Daniel is his son, too, and slaps him. Earlier, she seems to find the news that his patron is Widmore.

But maybe there’s a reason Faraday was playing Chopin, and it’s a wink in the direction of this story. I do love, however, that the piece he’s playing is Chopin’s exquisite cantabile section of the “Fantaisie-Impromptu,” and that she stops him from playing it. On the one hand, she believes that allowing Dan to become a pianist is just mere fantasy. And on the other, Eloise believes that nothing in life is impromptu: it’s all been laid out there, and she must follow the path that destiny has laid out for her.

My post on DocArzt (also on Ellie) is now up here.

Also, I just discovered my upcoming season 5 book is now available for pre-order at Amazon! You can order it here.

9 comments:

joshua said...

I love this! Seems to go right along with a lot of that referential sleight of hand I keep running across this year.

JTa said...

Great find! I read The Awakening in high school and absolutely hated it. After reading Madame Bovary and Ibsen's Doll House, I was so tired of disaffected 19th century women.

Anyway, did anyone find it unusual that if Hawking actually believed in Whatever Happened, Happened why would she have to push Daniel to become such a great scientist? Why the need to direct him away from playing the piano? I mean, whatever happened, is going to happen, right? She could have spent that time loving her child instead of being so detached from him

Josh said...

Nikki, WOW!

Elle said...

Love it, Nikki!! Very very good theory!

Teebore said...

Wow, what a catch. Color me more impressed than ever.

My brother and I were just talking about the fact that Dan's parents are Widmore and Hawking, yet he's Faraday. Perhaps it has something to do with his American accent, despite (apparently) being raised by British Hawking and attending Oxford?

Otherwise, we thought maybe Daniel changed his name himself, since that seems like the kind of thing he'd do. :)

Genevieve said...

Damn, you're good....

SonshineMusic said...

In other random literary connections... I was contemplating this ever since you posted it and today, as I was driving home, I started thinking about the many anagrams on the show and Blam's comment last week about Ethan's last name not being Godspeed.
And suddenly I connected The Awakening with Ethan Frome (I read both books in the same English class) and realized that if you take out the F and the E you end up with...
Ethan Rom.
Coincidence? I don't know. I reviewed the plot, but nothing immediate comes to mind, but that could just be because I'm tired. Any thoughts?

Blam said...


That's really something, Nikki. Way to associate!

Maybe Eloise changed her name Faraday to something Widmore style when she was Hawking jewelry?

Anonymous said...

let´s see...

there is also a part of a Chopin (compositor) that sounds exactly equal to some music on lost, it is few seconds of the Chopin song.

so let´s see if you can guess which song is it