Alison's Reviews > The Awakening

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
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really liked it
Recommended for: feminists
Read 2 times. Last read December 28, 2009.

"But they need not thought that they could possess her, body and soul."

If there ever was a Feminist Manifesto, it truly is Kate Chopin's "The Awakening."

Edna Pontellier is a 28-year-old wife and mother in New Orleans, 1900. Her husband is well-off, and Edna's days consist of watching the nanny take care of her two young boys, scolding the cook over bad soup, giving and attending champagne-filled dinner parties, and receiving formal calls from high society New Orleans ladies on Tuesdays. Also, the Pontelliers spend every summer on the coast of Louisianna, in a beach house. (The nanny goes with, while Edna is free to spend her days as she likes--which happens to be boating and swimming with the unmarried son of the beach home's proprietor--Robert).

But there's an anguish growing within Mrs. P. Her inability to connect with her husband and her children leaves her feeling oppressed. Gradually, and with the aid of young Robert, however, a spark is lit. "In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her." In other words, after seven years of marriage, Edna's finally getting "schooled" on what it really means to be a wife and mom. And she's not feeling super cut-out for the job.

Mrs. Pontellier is at a crossroads. Reminded of walking aimlessly through a meadow as a child, Edna yearns for the time (pre-loveless marriage, pre-kids) when she didn't have to calculate every step. She longs to be lifted from the weight of her "blindly assumed" responsibilities and to be allowed to wander purposelessly. Edna aches for solitude, but fears she doesn't possess the courage to defy social constraint and become a free entity--free to leave behind her husband, home, and children and follow her heart.

Edna's duality and transformation reminded me of several in fiction--from Frankenstein's monster to Kafka's cockroach. The new, sexy Edna recognizes herself as different from her former self--a new creation. Like the monster, she is a "newly awakened being." The old world is now "alien" and "antagonistic." She has cast aside the mask that she has been wearing for the world. New Edna is bold and frisky, like "an animal waking in the sun."

Big sigh, because here's where I try to fit myself into Edna's way of thinking. I guess somewhere on the feminist spectrum, like all theoretical spectrums, I fall somewhere in the middle. Yes, I can see how Edna might feel trapped and oppressed. Domestic life can surely be repetitious, mundane, and exasperating. I can imagine yearning for something to happen to break the monotony. I can imagine how it would feel to a woman to be regarded as a piece of property--hand picked to run a household and bear children, with no hope of variation, peering out on the rest of her life and seeing very few choices ahead--outside of what will be next for dinner.

But toward the other end, I can see things that Edna failed to see--the gratification that comes from growing a family...what you get when you give...the inner peace that comes from never doubting your purpose and the course of your life. Edna felt her children were robbing her of her soul, I give mine away freely, every day.

Although I don't 100% identify with Edna, I can still appreciate works like this. Because women like Chopin were bold enough to write characters like Edna, the way women were perceived was drastically changed. Books like The Awakening paved the way for modern women to choose where we fall on the spectrum (the CHOICE is the key), to chart our own course, to soar and not sink.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
June 17, 2007 – Shelved
December 27, 2009 –
page 89
45.64% "I'm actually reading something!"
Started Reading
December 28, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Vic (new) - rated it 4 stars

Vic i loved this book. is that wrong again because I'm am male?

Alison No. You're just in touch with your feminine side. Either that, or you are actually a female (Vickie?)


message 3: by Vic (new) - rated it 4 stars

Vic u never even said happy Christmas! think i will re-read the invisible man

message 4: by Dini (new)

Dini What an awesome review!

Sera I agree that choice is the operative word here, Alison. Choice is what really gives people their freedom.

Alison Yes, yes--agreed! So thankful for it!

message 7: by Jenny (new) - added it

Jenny Except for all the blatantly racist shit - literally this woman is served by small black girls and is like, "Oh shit, my life sucks!" or leaves her children with the nanny a "quadroon" and is like, "OMG, I really miss this other dude not my husband."

I'm here like, are you kidding me? Feminist manifesto? NOPE. White middle class feminist manifesto maybe.

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