Samadrita's Reviews > The Awakening

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
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Often I have witnessed women, who proceed to talk about misogyny, sexism, or state their views on a piece of feminist literature, starting their discourse with something along the lines of 'I'm not much of a feminist...but'. As if it is best to put a considerable distance between themselves and this feared word at the onset and deny any possible links whatsoever. As if calling herself a feminist automatically degrades a woman to the position of a venom-spewing, uncouth, unfeminine, violent creature from hell whose predilections include despising all males on the planet with a passion and shouting from the rooftops about women's rights at the first opportunity.

Attention ladies and gentlemen! Feminism is not so cool anymore, at least not in the way it was in the 80s or 90s.

Don't ask what set off that particular rant but yes I suppose the numerous 1-star reviews of this one could have been a likely trigger.

So Edna's story gets a 1 star because she is a 'selfish bitch' who falls in love with another man who is not her husband, doesn't sacrifice her life for her children and feels the stirrings of sexual attraction for someone she doesn't love in a romantic way. Edna gets a 1 star because she dares to put herself as an individual first before her gender specific roles as wife and mother.

But so many other New Adult and erotica novels (IF one can be generous enough to call them 'novels' for lack of a more suitable alternative term) virtually brimming with sexism, misogyny and chock full of all the obnoxious stereotypes that reinforce society's stunted, retrogressive view of the relationship dynamics between a man and woman, get 5 glorious stars from innumerable reviewers (majority of whom are women) on this site.

This makes me lose my faith in humanity and women in particular.

Edna Pontellier acknowledges her awakening and her urge to break away from compulsions imposed on her by society. She embraces her 'deviance' and tries to come to terms with this new knowledge of her own self. She desires to go through the entire gamut of human actions and emotions, regardless of how 'morally' ambiguous, unjustified or self-centered each one of them maybe.

And isn't THAT the whole point of this feminism business?
"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people." - Rebecca West

A woman needs to be recognized and accepted as a human being first - imperfect, flawed, egocentric, and possibly even as a bad mother and an irresponsible wife, just like the way society accepts a bad husband as a bad husband, a bad father as a bad father and moves on after uttering a few words of negative criticism. Somehow being a bad father is reasonably acceptable, but being a bad mother constitutes a sacrilegious act.

Edna's husband is equally responsible for abandoning their children as she is. He limits his role as a father to performing minor tasks like buying them bonbons, peanuts and gifts and lecturing his wife on how they should be raised without bothering to shoulder some of her burden. As if the task of raising children requires the sole expertise of the mother and the father can nonchalantly evade all responsibility while maintaining a lingering presence in their lives.

I have seen readers being empathetic to unfaithful fictional husbands and their existential dilemmas (case in point being Tomas and Franz in 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' which I am currently reading) and even trying to rationalize their incapability of staying in monogamous relationships. But oh heaven forbid if it's a woman in the place of a man! Women are denied entrance into the world of infidelity or casual sex (and in the rare case that they are allowed, they are given labels like 'slut', 'whore', 'tart' and so on). They need to be absolute models of perfection without fail - angelic, compassionate, thoughtful, always subservient, forever ready to be at your service as a good mother and a good wife and languish in a perpetual state of self-denial with that forced sweet smile stuck on their faces. Double standards much?

Edna is a little flawed and, hence, very humane. Edna is in all of us. And her cold refusal to let societal norms decide the course of her life, reduce her to the state of mere mother and wife only makes her brave in my eyes.

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Quotes Samadrita Liked

Kate Chopin
“The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.”
Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Kate Chopin
“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”
Kate Chopin, The Awakening
tags: self


Reading Progress

January 23, 2013 – Shelved
January 23, 2013 – Shelved as: in-by-about-america
January 23, 2013 – Shelved as: feminism-feminist-undertones
January 23, 2013 – Shelved as: timeless-classics
February 19, 2013 – Shelved as: 1001-and-more
April 20, 2013 – Shelved as: by-women-who-matter
September 8, 2013 – Shelved as: cherished
September 8, 2013 – Shelved as: adoration
September 9, 2013 – Started Reading
September 9, 2013 – Finished Reading
July 31, 2014 – Shelved as: 500gbbw
September 3, 2014 – Shelved as: gender-studies-sexuality

Comments Showing 1-50 of 70 (70 new)


Aubrey Preach it.


Samadrita Aubrey wrote: "Preach it."

Always. :)


message 3: by Alex (new) - added it

Alex You are fucking awesome.


message 4: by ·Karen· (new)

·Karen· Not a rant. Ain't nothin' but the truth (sistah!!!) - no, really: not only that feminism isn't cool, it is positively laughed at quite often, as if people are saying 'But what is there to complain about?'. As if glass ceilings, pay disparity, overzealous motherhood didn't exist. As if gender-based abortions weren't happening. As if FGM wasn't happening.


message 5: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope Well argued, Samadrita...!!


message 6: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope Well argued, Samadrita...!!


message 7: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I love this review. I feel the same way and am so dismayed by the same views. I actually have read articles by women saying feminism didn't work and give something else a chance. Uggggh.
You express yourself eloquently. I will think of you when these attitudes get me down too much.


message 8: by Samir (new) - added it

Samir Rawas Sarayji "This makes me lose my faith in humanity and women in particular." - I do think this is because most of humanity is indoctrinated and/or follows institutions (schools of thought, religion, science etc)... which often translates to one simple fact: hypocrisy. I believe this is because there will always be a dichotomy in such individuals between the determinism bestowed through their ideologies and the free will granted by nature, they will often contradict themselves. So there may be a big group of men out there who support feminism or the likes, yet will never behave or act as necessary due to ego, chauvinism or any other 'expected' (i.e. indoctrinated) behavior. Not to mention those that are genuinely anti-feminist or ego-driven maniacs... yikes!

NOTE: this is a personal opinion not backed by research or hard evidence, just personal experience.

Great review, Samadrita. I actually had this book in my hand a couple of days ago in the library then put it back to read another time. I'll try to get to it soon, I'm totally curious now :)


message 9: by Garima (new)

Garima You say it, Girl! But I'm curious about this book now especially how I'll react to it. It has got so many mixed responses among friends though the reasons given for not liking it by those one star reviews baffled me.


Samadrita @Alex:-Ha thank you!. But so is Clara. ;)

@Karen:-I know right? It's weird how women themselves sometimes see feminism as an evil concept. I also have a problem with 'feminism' being associated with misandry or the tendency to be radically anti-male. That is so not true.

@Kall:-Glad you feel that way. Thank you!


Samadrita @Mariel:- Thanks Mariel! It's people like yourself who re-establish my faltering faith in humanity. I am happy to know I am not alone.

Samir wrote: ""This makes me lose my faith in humanity and women in particular." - I do think this is because most of humanity is indoctrinated and/or follows institutions (schools of thought, religion, science ..."

I understand what you are saying. It's hard to escape the social conditioning we have been subjected to since the dawn of civilization. You totally should read this, Samir. I think I'll be curious to know what you make of it. And thank you!

@Garima:-Yes I'll be impatiently waiting for your own reaction to this. Needless to mention, this book needs more 3/4/5 star reviews. And those reviews infuriated me too. Talk about giving a book 1 star because the main character annoyed them.


message 12: by Ian (last edited Sep 09, 2013 04:35AM) (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye "You are a bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice, but you must have strong wings."

I can't imagine any tale greater than yours.


message 13: by Gary (new)

Gary  the Bookworm There are many great things on my GR feed this morning. In my opinion, this is the greatest. (And I have to stop reading now, and get on with my day...)


rahul This is such an honest, heartfelt and hence wonderful review Samadrita.
When I first read the book upon recommendation from a friend of mine, I was just awed. Though the story is simple, yet the fact that it was the cause for Chopin's literary career to come to halt because this work was considered controversial then, just shocked me. I rate this book highly also because if this is what was needed for people to think differently of woman protagonists in literature, then this was not merely a work of fiction, but a work of necessity.
And after finishing the book, to come on goodreads to read some reviews that were so lame in their reason for disliking this book, that just pissed me off.
Thank you for writing this review. It is so important for ideas like these to be expressed , shared, understood .


Delphine This is fantastic! Thank you! I think the idea that women are simply flawed people, like men, is an idea we really need to come back to. Now we can do everything, but we can't fail at anything. Even if unfaithfulness or being childless is more acceptable, we are still not allowed to trip up, get lazy, let go, so The Awakening seems like a book worth re-reading.


message 16: by Jill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jill I wish I had a thousand likes allotted to me for a single review. I'd use them all on this one to send it to The Awakening's front review page. Because my reaction to each of your arguments=YES TIMES ONE THOUSAND.

My experience with The Awakening is similar to yours, except when I read it I was nowhere near as eloquent in my rebuttal to others' idiotic criticisms. I read it in high school for an American Lit class and my own teacher (a woman, for shame) focused our discussion not on the sociohistorical constructs that precipitated Edna's behavior but on what an awful/horrible/disgusting/insert unfairly negative adjective here mother Edna was. It was a preposterous use of class time, but it shows, just as you described in your review, how indoctrinated certain "feminine" ideals are. This book was probably the first feminist book I read (I believe it's a proto-feminist work in American Lit, hence why it was on the curriculum despite my teacher's hatred of it) and it is forever a 5 star favorite.

Anyway, perfect review. Long distance high five for its awesomeness.


message 17: by Diane (new) - added it

Diane Samadrita, I love your reviews! This is another excellent one.


Samadrita @Ian:-This lovely comment just made my day. So thoughtful of you. I hope I can!

@Gary:- Thank you so much for this wonderful comment, Gary.

@Rahul:- So glad to hear a man's views on this polarizing piece of work. I can very well imagine why this book was banned or why Chopin's literary career came to a halt after its publication. She was writing about such controversial subjects right at the dawn of the 20th century while misogyny remains such a relevant issue even today. She was way ahead of her time and was perhaps born in the wrong century. Good to know I'm not alone in being surprised by those 1-star reviews. You put it so succinctly by saying this was a work of necessity rather than a work of fiction.


Dolors This kind of review is what makes me reaffirm about your gift to transmit, Samadrita. What a hell of a review, I feel invigorated.
I do have to confess though (I'll be now throwing stones to my own roof), that when I read this novel I couldn't empathise with Edna like the way I did, for example, with Mme. Bovary.
It's now reading your thoughts that I get it. You have managed to effectively depict how Edna's subversion of the traditional roles of the American Victorian society is a cry to defend women as individuals, women who tried to discern how much freedom they could carve out for themselves in the only world they knew (and that spoiler is priceless).
I think I need to re-read this novel. Triumphant review.


Samadrita @Delphine:-Exactly. There are so many things we aren't allowed to do because it's not 'womanly'. Another example would be 'cussing' which is why I purposely used profanity in the review. Thank you for the comment, Delphine and I hope to know of your own experiences after the re-read.

@Jill:- I'm so happy to know you liked reading this so much. I just hope more people read this book, understand it for what it really is, what Chopin's purpose was when she set about writing it and do not misunderstand. I guess your teacher like so many others only saw Mother Edna or Wife Edna but failed to notice the Woman Edna. I hope you post your own review of this some day just so I can read another terrific argument in favor of the message this book contains. *long distance high-fives back*

@Diane:-Thank you Diane. That's kind of you to say.


Samadrita Dolors wrote: "This kind of review is what makes me reaffirm about your gift to transmit, Samadrita. What a hell of a review, I feel invigorated.
I do have to confess though (I'll be now throwing stones to my ow..."


Whoops you commented while I was busy framing really lengthy responses to other people's comments. I am glad my review has inspired you to re-read this one, Dolors. I'm very certain you will write something fantastic in your own reaction. It's high time we discuss this book's literary merits and the prose, aside from the content. The controversies over the issues this book raises have raged way too long now. And thank you for reminding me about Madame Bovary which I am ashamed to admit I am yet to read. *sigh*


rahul I recently watched this video . A talk on many things, feminism being one of them by author Isabel Allende - http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BXiY3lk5...

Just thought of sharing it here.


message 23: by Lit Bug (new) - added it

Lit Bug This is such a beautiful review, Samadrita - I second every line you wrote, and pushed up this book to my top-among-TBR from the TBR pile. It is such a sensitive, unconditioned approach to an otherwise culturally unacceptable situation.

People love the notion of a male anti-hero, but not a female - hell, I don't want to get started on it, I'll be ranting then - when people say "You seem to be a feminist", I no longer know if they mean it as a compliment or sarcasm.

Anyway, I am going to read it soon - thanks to your review :)


Samadrita @Rahul:- Thank you for sharing the link. It has been bookmarked.

@Lit Bug:- Exactly. Most people seem to think 'feminists' are fire-breathing monsters from hell and what pisses me off the most is the association of feminism with a compulsive hatred of all men, which is so wrong. It's like a feminist authoress from China (Xiaolu Guo) writes - “They think there are only two kinds of young women in China: good girls or prostitutes.”
I am glad you liked the review and hope to know of your own experiences with the book when you do read it.


message 25: by Lit Bug (new) - added it

Lit Bug “They think there are only two kinds of young women in China: good girls or prostitutes.” - this pretty much sums up (most/many) Indians too... :(


message 26: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Peto Why are so many women unwilling/afraid/embarrassed to identify as feminist? Is it a PR problem? And if it is, who or what is responsible? I really have no idea. I generally feel comfortable with the term, I think, and assume most people I know are. Maybe I'll have to ask around and see for sure...


message 27: by Lit Bug (new) - added it

Lit Bug Jonathan wrote: "Why are so many women unwilling/afraid/embarrassed to identify as feminist? Is it a PR problem? And if it is, who or what is responsible? I really have no idea. I generally feel comfortable with th..."

I think the issue is three-fold: one is that of ingrained attitude among women - they are themselves sexist, due to the culture they are raised in, that has psychologically conditioned their minds without their realizing it.

Second is that many feminists, like Radical Feminism of the '70s take it too far - by rejecting any traces of feminity, including marriage, motherhood, make-up, dresses, among other gender-specific markers. Being a feminist MUST NOT mean being masculine or rejecting feminine things - naturally many women do not resonate with this and reject feminism under the impression that being a feminist means bashing feminity and any man who encourages feminity and also being male-haters simultaneously.

The third, and perhaps very crucial factor is that of guilt - our cultures have a peculiar way of inspiring guilt in women for being themselves - in case you find that baffling, please see this (Samadrita, if you have issues with my link being put here, please delete it and let me know, I have absolutely no issues with that and no hard feelings would EVER prevail) - http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/3...

I think women succumb to this guilt despite loathing their weakness/inability to overcome it.


Delphine I would agree with all of the above and I want to add one more reason: approval. I think a lot of women are raised to need approval from the world (from men, other women, authority figures, etc). When one segment of the female population breaks off and causes trouble, another part will call them out as "dirty feminists" in order to gain approval from the establishment. It's a survival strategy.


message 29: by Lit Bug (new) - added it

Lit Bug Yes - I do think I'm still missing out on many important elements on what makes women their own enemies :) It's exhausting to be always fighting for one's survival - day in and day out, with only a flicker of hope to sustain oneself.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Keep the faith, my sister. Edna is brave and so are you.


message 31: by Clara (last edited Sep 10, 2013 07:20AM) (new)

Clara Brooks It's simply the accumulation of masculine marketing of ideas which is ultimately a product of male power.

The problem faced by feminism is that it is not necessarily easy to understand all of the concepts and ideas that underlie the different arguments and ideologies it embraces, and it's easier for male-dominated society to sell the idea that everything is as it should be - because it's easier to understand and easier not to rock the boat - and it's ultimately harder to convince people that the status quo ought to be changed.

Equality is not a dream that most uneducated people aspire to. The capitalist dream is what most aspire to, the seductive desire to get rich quick and be to be more successful than everybody else. There's too big a pull between the idea of seeking self-gratification and caring that your fellow woman might have a harder life because she's a woman.


message 32: by Arnie (last edited Aug 10, 2014 07:24PM) (new)

Arnie As far as monogamy goes, it's something each couple has to work out as to what's best for them. However as to abandoning their children, I can't respect any man or woman who does that. For some reason, probably because it's so common, I have a particular contempt for men who do.


Samadrita @Jonathan:I guess Lit Bug and Delphine have already answered your question quite eloquently so I'll refrain from harping on the same issue again.

@Lit Bug:- On the contrary, thank you for sharing the link. I'd take a look at that. Must be insightful and well-written like all your other works I am sure.

@Steve:-Thank you for this wonderful comment, Steve. I try to have faith, but sometimes it becomes difficult in the light of all the instances of misogyny one gets to witness everywhere.

@Clara:-Thank you for sharing such incisive comments. I am tempted to make a few points here but I feel Lit Bug has already done that for me in the space above.

@Arnie:-With respect to this book, Edna doesn't really abandon her children, she abandons her life altogether the moment she realizes she won't be able to take control of it.


Karen Samadrita, I read your revies of books for many reasons but number one among them is you give me hope. I'm a 50 something woman who took "women stdies" in college and was not radical but an adament feminist. As I aged I continued to meet these girls who thought we didn't need to discuss women's right anymore or equal protection laws because women had all of that. Oh how I cried. I'm so happy when I meet intelligent and strong younger women who speak eloquently of how far we have yet to go. I read The Awakening as part of one of my women's studies lit classes. I remember loving the book, thinking it was beautiful but do want to read it again. Thank you for your beautiful reviews.


Samadrita Karen wrote: "Samadrita, I read your revies of books for many reasons but number one among them is you give me hope. I'm a 50 something woman who took "women stdies" in college and was not radical but an adament..."

Karen, thank YOU for these lovely, heart-felt words of yours. I am glad there are people who read and appreciate what I write.


rahul It is so wonderful when you come across a review which then initiates such wonderful opinions from a large group of people all coming together in the comments section, hence adding to the potency of the review itself. And the discussion lifting itself from the confines of a book to ideas, thoughts , observations and things that still can't be put into words but are kindled somehow.
Just fantastic.


Samadrita Rahul wrote: "It is so wonderful when you come across a review which then initiates such wonderful opinions from a large group of people all coming together in the comments section, hence adding to the potency o..."

That I believe is the best thing about Goodreads. :)


message 38: by Steve (new)

Steve Views on such things seem to be evolving and I'm happy people like you are leading the way, Samadrita. Well said! (Seems like I've said that before.)


Samadrita Steve wrote: "Views on such things seem to be evolving and I'm happy people like you are leading the way, Samadrita. Well said! (Seems like I've said that before.)"

Thanks so much for reading, Steve. (Seems like I've said that before too.)


message 40: by Steve (new)

Steve Which is not to say that we've become redundant to each other, is it? I hope not.


Samadrita Steve wrote: "Which is not to say that we've become redundant to each other, is it? I hope not."

Haha nope. Endless repetitions of thank-yous and variants of well-said, well-written can never become redundant.


Lynne King Indeed another super review Samadrita which I somehow missed.


Samadrita Lynne wrote: "Indeed another super review Samadrita which I somehow missed."

Thanks, Lynne. Glad you liked it.


Zanna Yes, a bad mother is a demon in this culture. While men cannot be expected to care for their children, it's not in their nature.

Thanks for this excellent review... I'm now eagerly looking forward to the book


Samadrita Zanna wrote: "Yes, a bad mother is a demon in this culture. While men cannot be expected to care for their children, it's not in their nature.

Thanks for this excellent review... I'm now eagerly looking forward..."


A demon indeed! I look forward to knowing your thoughts on this one, Zanna.


Zanna = ) I'd better hurry up and get my hands on a copy...


message 47: by Leah (new)

Leah WOW. This review.

I've yet to read the novel but please permit me to give you a standing ovation. I'm enthused to read it now with your review as a frame of reference.

This in particular speaks to me:

So Edna's story gets a 1 star because she is a 'selfish bitch' who falls in love with another man who is not her husband, doesn't sacrifice her life for her children and feels the stirrings of sexual attraction for someone she doesn't love in a romantic way. Edna gets a 1 star because she dares to put herself as an individual first before her gender specific roles as wife and mother.

But so many other New Adult and erotica novels (IF one can be generous enough to call them 'novels' for lack of a more suitable alternative term) virtually brimming with sexism, misogyny and chock full of all the obnoxious stereotypes that reinforce society's stunted, retrogressive view of the relationship dynamics between a man and woman, get 5 glorious stars from innumerable reviewers (majority of whom are women) on this site.


YES. A MILLION TIMES YES. I am so dismayed to see this happen again and again. It's women who write and read that regressive sexist crap. It's women who perpetuate misogyny and double standards on each other in romance fiction.

It reminds me of the Dear Author discussion on why women are so critical of other women: http://dearauthor.com/features/letter...

Internalized misogyny, cultural misogyny, projection, self-doubt, etc. all play roles.

It's so depressing to look around and seemingly see this everywhere in romance fiction. It's depressing to see feminism distorted by women themselves into a byword for man-hating fringe lunacy. God, it's all so depressing. Thanks for this review, though. It's a bright little candle that gives me hope.


message 48: by Samadrita (last edited Sep 03, 2014 09:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samadrita Leah wrote: "WOW. This review.

I've yet to read the novel but please permit me to give you a standing ovation. I'm enthused to read it now with your review as a frame of reference.

This in particular speaks t..."


Thank you so much Leah, for taking time out to read and post such a thoughtful comment. It's incredibly heartening to see you, as a representative of women NA writers, acknowledging the importance of writing books free of noxious stereotypes. You give me hope.


Samadrita Nina wrote: "Leah wrote: "WOW. This review.

I've yet to read the novel but please permit me to give you a standing ovation. I'm enthused to read it now with your review as a frame of reference.

This in partic..."


Thank you, Nina. Glad to come across another female author and reader agreeing with my views on this book.


message 50: by Smita (new)

Smita This is a cherished text! I wholeheartedly agree with your glowing review of the novel and of your analysis of Edna's plight. I support your chastisement of contemporary society which rebukes women for being individuals. The pendulum has swung back to some anachronistic space where women must maintain traditional roles delineated by a separate spheres ideology. Sartre's quote comes to mind: "[Wo]man is condemned to be free."


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