Kathleen's Reviews > The Awakening

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
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Jul 16, 08

Read in May, 2008

7/16: This is my second time reading this book. It definitely went a lot smoother the second time and I was able to pay more attention to the characters, particularly Edna. I was able to see and understand how certain words were able to convey feelings of a person "waking up their senses" and being aware of their own feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Although the ending was not what I expected (from the first reading), I was able to understand why Edna did what she did, not that it makes it okay, definitely a selfish act.

Just thinking out loud here but there needs to be a middleground in life when it comes to doing things for one's self (aka selfishness) and doing things out of obligation (aka serving others). Edna spent a life doing things for others and never herself and when she finally, and slowly, starts taking pleasure and joy into her own hands, she discovers emotions, feelings, thoughts that are her own and not what society and what others tell her. I think this book illustrates what happens when a person swings to one side of the pendulum and then to the other. The time era this book was written demonstrates that society was not ready to deal with or acknowledge a women's right to their own thoughts, feelings and emotions. This is demonstrated by a couple of characters in the book. The first one obviously being is Edna's husband. He gets very upset with Edna when she stops following social protocals (i.e.taking callers on Tuesday). Madame Ratignolle "Think of the children", tortured Edna too.

Edna's determination for independence and the attitude of "doing whatever I please" is frowned upon in her society and yet her friends, her husband, and doctor are patient with her. They say this phase she is going through will pass. But Edna does not want it to. She gets to a point where there is no turning back but life keeps trying to force her to do so. She becomes so headstrong that instead of facing and dealing with choices of others she has no control of, she takes life into her own hands and does what only she can do, and no one else.

The sad thing is that Edna never truly found joy or pure happiness in her life. Even though she was married to a decent man, had two children, a beautiful home, money, wonderful meals, good company of friends, music, and vacationing - all these material things did not bring her pure happiness. I bring this up because she probably thought in her mind she was happy with life but then life dealt her a blow she could not turn away from but get sucked into. Her relationship with Robert, although innocent at first, awoke her senses and she got glimpses of true joy and pure happiness. These feelings would grow stronger and more important the more time she spent with Robert and then he went away. The taste was so sweet that when it disappeared, she did everything in hew power to bring back those feelings, those sensations of joy and happiness. She dove into art, she kept company with Mademoiselle Reisz, would walk instead of taking a cabbie, and would day dream of Robert. She found company with another man, Alcee Arobin, who replaced the void of Robert, physically but not emotionally. When Robert returns, she is willing to do whatever she wants to do but Robert, who understands propriety (if I may use this word, I know this is not a Jane Austen novel, but it still fits), walks away in the end.

I think what I am trying to get at is don't settle in life. Try to find true joy and pure happiness before it's too late. I don't know why but it makes me sad when I think how Edna did not find pure happiness with her children. Was it because she was not truly raising them (she had a nannie do all the work) so she did not have a strong bond with them? I think of my nieces and nephews and how much joy and happiness they bring into my life, I can't imagine what it would be like without them. Maybe Edna's problem was that she never found true joy or pure happiness in any of her relationships until Robert and that is what arounsed her senses within.

You know, it's like they say. Once you've found/tasted the good stuff, it's hard going back to mediocre. (If you need help at getting what I'm saying, think about hair products you use today verses what you used 10 years ago, face products, nail polish, food, chocolate, frostings, jewelry, shoes, pants, etc.) We all do it. We are all looking for the sweet taste in life - in whatever form we can get it in.
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