Role of Rebels in American Literature

The archetype of a rebel inextricably linked with freedom may be regarded as traditional for American individuals, and it defines their behavior to a great extent. In general, American literature implies the unique combination of romanticism and pragmatism, traditionalism and experimentation. Similar to revolutionaries who fought for the country’s independence and equal civil rights for all citizens, rebels in literature are the authors who stepped out of line to express their ideas and share them with readers. The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of the American rebel in literature through the works of Kate Chopin and Emily Dickinson.

As a prominent American writer in the feminist literature of the end of the 19th century, in her works, Kate Chopin addressed the disturbing social issue of gender inequality (Roberts & Zweig, 2013). Being a rebel, she depicted the American women’s struggle against the oppression of the patriarchal society and its fundamental rules. In her outstanding work, “The story of an hour,” Chopin unveiled the substantial issues of women’s freedom, their identity, and attitude to marriage. Despite the public expression of grief in response to her husband’s death, the heroine, Louise Mallard feels extreme relief, happiness, and freedom. She starts to plan her future being certain that from this moment her life belongs exclusively to her. However, when she discovers that her husband is alive, she is unable to cope with disillusionment and despair and dies from heart failure. In this story, Chopin described the inner feelings of women in the patriarchal society when their freedom was considerably limited by husbands and commonly-accepted norms. She revealed the conflict of traditional values with women’s desires and personal development directly connected with the interaction with the world outside their families. From a personal perspective, similar to other feminist writers, Kate Chopin wrote about the highly controversial problem of women’s sufferings in the traditional society to attract the particular attention of the public and initiate positive changes in their favor in the future.

Emily Dickinson is another outstanding American author who may be regarded as a rebel against convention in the content and style of her poetry. Being almost unpublished and unknown, she meanwhile challenged the traditional perceptions and definitions of the poetry of the 19th century (Roberts & Zweig, 2013). The poetry of Emily Dickinson is characterized by the combination of abstract ideas and concrete things in compressed, imagistic, almost proverbial, and terse style and experiments with expressions aimed to limit conventional restraints. Her unique style implied frequently used unconventional capitalization and punctuation, slant rhyme, short lines, and a typical lack of titles (Roberts & Zweig, 2013). In addition, unlike other female authors of her time, Dickinson aimed to explore the hidden and dark parts of the human mind and frequently addressed death in her poems. For instance, in “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –,” she described the scene of her death and her emotions and feelings with the use of multiple literary devices, including personification, simile, and imagery (Roberts & Zweig, 2013). Although the peculiarities of Dickenson’s style were determined by her personality, she considerably contributed to the development of American literature.

In general, authors that were regarded as rebels of American literature write about highly disturbing social issues or violate the norms of writing by their unique styles. Both types of non-standard writers and their works are valuable for literature and culture in general. They frequently demonstrate the hidden reality to readers to initiate positive changes in their perceptions. At the same time, rebels use their talent to explore previously unused techniques to enrich literature.


Roberts, E. V., & Zweig, R. (2013). Literature: An introduction to reading and writing. Pearson.

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