Connie's Reviews > The Awakening

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
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really liked it
bookshelves: classic, feminism, fall-2013, 1001-books, book-club, louisiana

Published in 1899, "The Awakening" is a story revolving around personal and sexual freedom for women. The book was set in New Orleans and nearby coastal areas where women--and any property they accumulated after marriage--were considered the property of their husbands. Divorce was almost non-existent in that Catholic area.

Edna and Leonce Pontellier are vacationing at a coastal resort with their two little sons. Leonce is a generous husband in material ways, but does not connect well emotionally with his wife. Edna falls in love with Robert Lebrun, a young man at the resort. Robert leaves for Mexico since he realizes that the relationship would not have a good outcome.

Edna befriends two women with contrasting lifestyles. Madame Ratignolle is a perfect wife and mother, but Mademoiselle Reisz, a pianist, has a very independent life. Edna is unhappy in her life as a wife and mother, even though she has servants to do most of the work in the home. She has the opportunity to rebel when her husband goes on a long business trip and their children are sent to their grandmother's house for an extended stay. She begins a dalliance with Alcee Arobin, a man with a reputation of chasing married women. She asserts her independence by moving out of her large house into a smaller abode, dabbling in art, and is awakened as a sexual woman. When Robert returns later, she says, "I am no longer one of Mr Pontellier's possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose."

The book was very controversial because Edna left her husband and children for her own freedom, a move that would be socially shocking at the turn of the century. Even today, society looks down severely on women who abandon their children. Early in the book, it was stated, "Mrs Pontellier was not a mother-woman." Near the end of the book, it said, "Despondency had come upon her there in the wakeful night and never lifted....The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul's slavery for the rest of her days. But she knew a way to elude them."

The book has wonderful imagery of hunger and food, the draw of the sea, birds in flight, sleeping and awakening. Edna was a fascinating character. She seemed to be a woman who was unable to count her blessings, could only see the problems which were certainly genuine, and probably suffered from depression. She moved so much into a fantasy world that a solution seemed hopeless. Finally she hears the call of the sea, "The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude. All along the white beach, up and down, there was no living thing in sight. A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water."
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Reading Progress

October 15, 2013 – Shelved
October 15, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
October 15, 2013 – Shelved as: classic
October 15, 2013 – Shelved as: feminism
October 15, 2013 – Shelved as: fall-2013
October 16, 2013 – Started Reading
October 16, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
October 20, 2013 – Shelved as: 1001-books
October 20, 2013 – Finished Reading
January 16, 2014 – Shelved as: book-club
June 23, 2014 – Shelved as: louisiana

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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Dolors "The book has wonderful imagery of hunger and food, the draw of the sea, birds in flight, sleeping and awakening."
Beautifully put Connie.
I should re-read this novel as I tackled it too young and I was too judgmental to understand Edna's motivations. Great review.


Connie Dolors wrote: ""The book has wonderful imagery of hunger and food, the draw of the sea, birds in flight, sleeping and awakening."
Beautifully put Connie.
I should re-read this novel as I tackled it too young and ..."


Thanks, Dolors. I thought it was a beautifully written book. As a mother myself, I also found it a bit difficult to relate to Edna. It was a book that made me think about the role of women a century ago.


Carol Wonderful review Connie!


Connie Carol wrote: "Wonderful review Connie!"

Thanks for your kind words, Carol.


message 5: by Diane (new)

Diane Barnes I love your review, Connie. It occurred to me while reading it that men are never judged as harshly when they abandon their wives and children, so that's another link in the chain that binds women. Still, SOMEONE has to care about the kids, so women are expected to be morally superior. It's difficult for women who don't have the maternal instinct, like Edna.


Connie Diane wrote: "I love your review, Connie. It occurred to me while reading it that men are never judged as harshly when they abandon their wives and children, so that's another link in the chain that binds women...."

That's a good point, Diane. Even today, people expect women to want to care for the children. There's also more pressure for the man of the house to be financially successful. Considering that Edna had household help with the chores and the children, she had many more options than most women of her time.


message 7: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Laird Would love to hear what you might think of Anna Karenina!


Connie Ian wrote: "Would love to hear what you might think of Anna Karenina!"

Interesting question! I haven't read the book yet, just saw the movie. Definite parallels between the two stories.


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