19th Century Epic Romances discussion

The Awakening
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The Awakening- Feb. 2015 > The Awakening- Chapters 1-8

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message 1: by Angela (new) - added it

Angela Rohde (angelarohde) | 72 comments This thread is for discussing Chapters 1-8 in The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

message 2: by Jean (new)

Jean | 1 comments So glad we're doing a discussion on this book. I read it a few months back but don't feel like I completely understand it. :)
The book starts off pretty easy, and I really enjoy reading Madame Ratignolle; she is pretty smart (and maybe a bit selfish) when it comes to Robert. I personally think she is so different from Edna, who annoys me sometimes because she doesn't seem to have deep feelings for the things in her life (ex. when she said "sometimes she would even forget" her child). Don't know what to make of Robert tho. It just bothers me that he used the same strategy on Madame Ratignolle before

message 3: by Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition (last edited Jan 31, 2015 11:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments "Kate Chopin was born Catherine O’Flaherty on February 8, 1850, in St. Louis, Missouri. She was one of five children, but both her sisters died in infancy and her brothers died in their twenties. When she was five years old, Kate was sent to a Catholic boarding school named The Sacred Heart Academy. Just months later, however, her father died in a train accident, and she was sent home to live with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, all widowed. After two years in their care, she returned to Sacred Heart, where she excelled in French and English, finishing at the top of her class.

Both at home with family and at school with the nuns, Kate grew up surrounded by intelligent and independent women. Her childhood lacked male role models; thus, she was rarely witness to the tradition of female submission and male domination that defined most late nineteenth-century marriages. The themes of female freedom and sexual awareness that dominated Chopin’s adult writings were undoubtedly a result of the atmosphere in which she was raised.

After graduating from Sacred Heart, Kate became a part of the St. Louis social scene. In 1870 she married Oscar Chopin, the son of a prominent Creole family from Louisiana. Fulfilling the social responsibilities expected of her, Kate Chopin bore six children in the first ten years of her marriage to Oscar. Unlike many women of her time, however, she also enjoyed a wide range of unconventional freedoms. While Chopin was known to be a good wife and mother, she often grew tired of domestic life and escaped to smoke cigarettes or take solitary walks through New Orleans. She took strong, often controversial positions on the issues of the day. Chopin’s husband loved her very deeply and supported and admired her independence and intelligence. She and her family lived happily in New Orleans for nine years.

When Oscar Chopin’s cotton brokerage failed in 1879, he moved the family to Cloutierville, Louisiana, where he owned some land. Kate Chopin adjusted her habits easily to the smaller provincial lifestyle of Cloutierville and became the subject of much gossip. While other women in town were completing their household chores, Chopin would stroll or ride horseback down the town’s main street, earning the attention and admiration of any man who passed her. In 1882, her husband died suddenly of swamp fever, leaving Chopin devastated. However, she would soon learn to enjoy the pleasures of independence and was rumored to have had an affair with a married neighbor, Albert Sampite, in the year following her husband’s death. After a year spent managing her late husband’s general store and plantation, Chopin moved back to Missouri with her children to be with her mother and family, a move that may have coincided with the end of her affair with Sampite. Sadly, Chopin’s mother died shortly after her return, another in the series of tragic deaths that marked Kate’s life.

In 1889 Chopin began writing fiction, an activity that enabled her to develop and express her strong views on women, sex, and marriage while simultaneously supporting her family. Chopin enjoyed immediate success with her writings about the French Creoles and Cajuns she had met and observed during her New Orleans and Cloutierville years. She sold dozens of short stories and essays exploring themes of love and independence, passion and freedom. By setting her stories in a specific region and community and by basing her characters on real people, Chopin was able to publish controversial stories in a socially acceptable format. Readers could choose to see the passions she described as curiosities of a localized culture rather than universalities in human nature. Chopin was often asked to attend conferences and give speeches and was widely celebrated for the majority of her short but prolific career.

Chopin’s second and final novel, The Awakening, was published in 1899 at the height of her popularity. Ironically, this work, now regarded as a classic, essentially marked the end of Chopin’s writing career. Many of Chopin’s earlier works had been accepted despite their controversial subject matter because they appeared to contain narrative reporting rather than critical commentary. An underlying sense of support invaded the generally objective tone of The Awakening, however, and the reading public was shocked by such a sympathetic view toward the actions and emotions of the sexually aware and independent female protagonist.

The feminist movement, just beginning to emerge in other parts of America, was almost entirely absent in the conservative state of Louisiana. In fact, under Louisiana law, a woman was still considered the property of her husband. Chopin’s novel was scorned and ostracized for its open discussion of the emotional and sexual needs of women. Surprised and deeply hurt by the negative reaction to The Awakening, Chopin published only three more short stories before she died of a brain hemorrhage in 1904.

After her death, Chopin was remembered for her “local color” works about the people of New Orleans but was never acknowledged as a true literary talent until the rediscovery of The Awakening some fifty years later. New generations, more accepting of the notions of female sexuality and equality, praise the novel’s candid and realistic views and have found it to be informative about early American feminism. Modern critics have noted the book’s rich detail and imagery and find that its ironic narrative voice is a rich source for analysis. The Awakening has now earned a place in the literary canon for the way it uses these formal and structural techniques to explore themes of patriarchy, marriage and motherhood, woman’s independence, desire, and sexuality both honestly and artistically." - Sparknotes

message 4: by Cedricsmom (new)

Cedricsmom (lindaharrison) | 27 comments Thanks for sharing this bio.

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Just realized it is Kate Chopin's birthday today -

Mary Stevens | 16 comments Terry wrote: "Just realized it is Kate Chopin's birthday today -"

Happy birthday to Kate Chopin!

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Leonce is confused by his wife's treatment of their children, almost forgetting about them at times, and her distance to him. However, he doesn't attempt to understand her feelings, which were considered unusual for a 19th century woman. He kind of ignores her attitude and hopes she will outgrow it.
Leonce is fulfilled by working outside of the home, but he expects Edna to find fulfillment in running the household to his specifications, caring for her children and catering to his desires. He even expects her interest in art and music to be more of a social hobby, instead of a true expression of herself.
Leonce loves Edna, but he sees her as a pretty possession rather than a soulmate.

message 8: by Glenna (last edited Feb 10, 2015 10:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Glenna | 109 comments I agree Terry. He expects her to do her duty and be his pretty little wife. He is more concerned with appearances and what others will think or say. There is also no intimacy between the two of them....you will see that the more you read. I did question why he didn't address her distance to the children. It was written as a passing thought and nothing more added to it which was disappointing.

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Maybe he didn't address her attention to her children because he knew she loved them, but he couldn't figure out why she seemed disinterested at times. Heaven forbid he would actually want to seriously discuss her feelings about anything! Also, it was common to have a servant attend to the children, for the most part.

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments What did the lady in black signify? She followed the unnamed lovers around at the beach like a chaperone.

Glenna | 109 comments That is a good question! Thanks for getting me to think about that one....maybe it represents a pending doom and since the young lovers are unnamed they may represent Edna and Robert?

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments I guess so - I am sure there were a lot of symbols going over my head as I read this book. Like the birds at the beginning, and the ocean, for sure.

message 13: by Leda (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leda | 15 comments I found this on Sparknotes.com:
The Lady in Black -  The lady in black is a vacationer at the Lebrun cottages on Grand Isle. She embodies the patient, resigned solitude that convention expects of a woman whose husband has died, but her solitude does not speak to any sort of independence or strength. Rather, it owes to a self-effacing withdrawal from life and passion out of utter respect for her husband’s death. Throughout the novel, the lady in black remains silent, which contributes to her lack of individuality and to her role within the text as the symbol of the socially acceptable husbandless woman.

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