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Login to Fave. Description Comments Ungluers 4 Editions. Edna Pontellier and her husband are vacationing with their two boys at a resort in Grand Isle.

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Edna is an upper-middle class woman who has married into the Creole elite when she begins to believe that there is more to life than societal status and frivolous wealth. At Grand Isle she enters into an extramarital relationship with Robert LeBrun, the son of the woman who runs the resort. She flirts with Robert and seeks his support of her dissatisfaction with materialism, until he realizes it is apparent that something must be done to shake her constant attention to him.

He "decides" to go to Mexico.

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Edna is lonesome when he leaves, but on her return to New Orleans with her family, she suddenly starts to do things differently: she will not receive guests or makes social calls; she starts drawing and painting; she takes lessons on the piano with the notoriously unpleasant Mademoiselle Reisz who also listens to Edna's reading of Robert's letters. Her husband leaves for New York on a long business trip, and Edna sees her chance to move out of his house into a place of her own. She throws herself a going away party and discovers that Robert is returning.

She is then called to her friend Adele's house to help with the delivery of her latest child.


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Being witness to the birth has a terrible effect on Edna. In the meantime, she learns that Robert, despite all his promises of love, has left her. She experiences an "awakening" of her awareness of the truth surrounding her entire situation.

However, Chopin's style could more accurately be described as a hybrid that captures contemporary narrative currents and looks forward to various trends in Southern and European literature. Mixed into Chopin's overarching nineteenth-century realism is an incisive and often humorous skewering of upper-class pretension, reminiscent of direct contemporaries such as Oscar Wilde , Henry James , Edith Wharton , and George Bernard Shaw.

Also evident in The Awakening is the future of the Southern novel as a distinct genre, not only in setting and subject matter but in narrative style. Chopin's lyrical portrayal of her protagonist's shifting emotions is a narrative technique that Faulkner would expand upon in novels like Absalom, Absalom! Chopin portrays her experiences of the Creole lifestyle, in which women were under strict rules and limited to the role of wife and mother, which influenced her "local color" fiction and focus on the Creole culture.

By using characters of French descent she was able to get away with publishing these stories, because the characters were viewed as "foreign", without her readers being as shocked as they were when Edna Pontellier, a white Protestant, strays from the expectations of society. The plot anticipated the stories of Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor and the plays of William Inge , while Edna Pontellier's emotional crises and her eventual tragic fall look ahead to the complex female characters of Tennessee Williams 's plays.

Chopin's own life, particularly in terms of having her own sense of identity—aside from men and her children—inspired The Awakening. Her upbringing also shaped her views, as she lived with her widowed mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, all of whom were intellectual, independent women. After her father was killed on All Saints' Day and her brother died from typhoid on Mardi Gras, Chopin became skeptical of religion, which she presents through Edna, who finds church "suffocating".

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The Awakening and Selected Stories

Being widowed and left with six children to look after influenced Chopin's writing, which she began at this time. Emily Toth argues against the view that Chopin was ostracized from St. Louis after the publication of The Awakening , stating that many St. Louis women praised her; male critics condemned her novel. Aspects of Chopin's style also prefigure the intensely lyrical and experimental style of novelists such as Virginia Woolf and the unsentimental focus on female intellectual and emotional growth in the novels of Sigrid Undset and Doris Lessing.

Chopin's most important stylistic legacy is the detachment of the narrator. Birds — In the beginning of the book, a parrot is in a cage shouting to Mr. Pontellier "Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! That's all right!

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It is clear that the parrot represents Edna's unspoken feelings towards her husband. It also represents how Edna is caged in her society, without much freedom to live as she pleases. As Edna is walking towards the ocean in the end of the novel we see a bird with a broken wing. Many have a different interpretation of this injured bird. Some would say that the bird is a representation of Edna finally breaking away from the idea of Victorian womanhood, as throughout the entire novel we see caged birds and now we are finally seeing a bird that is free despite its injury.

Other say that this injured bird represents Edna's failure to live outside of the expectations that society had placed on to her at this time. Ocean — The ocean can be interpreted to represent many different things. While the Pontellier family are vacationing at the resort Edna teaches herself how to swim.

This signifies her "awakening", her realizing that she holds some sort of independence. It is as if this first swim was Edna's first taste of freedom and after that she becomes more and more rebellious. The ending of the book all depends on the perception of the reader. Many questions whether or not Edna dies in the end of the novel. If Edna is thought to be dead, then it is an ironic death because the sea is where she discovered herself. Those that believe Edna purposely kills herself justify her death as saying the ocean is what Edna believed would free her from the chains that were placed on her by society.

Piano — Throughout the novel many characters play musical instruments, specifically the piano. It is as if she has a better understanding of herself and her feelings after hearing the woman play the piano. Edna also feels that same emotion when Mademoiselle Reisz plays the piano. It is as if the music that comes from this instrument represents how these women inspire Edna to become a stronger and more independent woman. One of the most prominent themes in The Awakening is solitude. As referenced previously, Chopin's work once contained the word in its title when it was originally called A Solitary Soul.

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Through Edna Pontellier's journey, Kate Chopin sought to highlight the different ways that a woman could be in solitude because of the expectations of motherhood, ethnicity, marriage, social norms, and gender. Chopin presents Edna's autonomous separation from society and friends as individually empowering while still examining the risks of self-exploration and subsequent loneliness. In an attempt to shed her societal role of mother and wife, Edna takes charge of her limited life and makes changes to better discover her true self.

For example, Edna leaves her husband and moves into a new house to live by herself, a controversial action since a true woman would never leave her husband. Although Edna's journey ultimately leads to an unsustainable solitude due to lack of societal support, "her death indicates self-possession rather than a retreat from a dilemma. By making Edna's experiences critically central to the novel, Chopin is able to sound a cautionary note about society's capacity to support women's liberation.

As shown through Edna's depressing emotional journey, isolation, and eventual suicide, Chopin claims that the social norms and traditional gender roles of the 19th century could not tolerate an independent woman. Chopin's The Awakening questions the value of solitude and autonomy within a society unable to positively sustain women's freedom. The themes of romance and death in The Awakening aid Chopin's feminist intent of illuminating the restrictive and oppressive roles of women in Victorian society. Edna has an emotional affair with Robert, who leaves in order to avoid shaming her in society.

Through these affairs, Edna exercises agency outside of her marriage and experiences sexual longing for the first time. Leaving society all together was Edna's way of rejecting and escaping this oppressive dichotomy. One critic stated that the book leaves one sick of human nature, while another one stated that the book is morbid because it is about an unholy love that tested traditional gender roles of the late s and that the book belongs to the overworked field of sex fiction.


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When the book was reevaluated years later it was then recognized as canonical due to the feminist theme. This later then led to many other women writers of the Nineteenth century to become recognized for literary themes on gender roles viewed by their regions, culture, or religion. When Edna first hears Mademoiselle Reisz play, she develops a strong appreciation towards music and art. At the ball at the Grand Isle, when Edna is seen with Robert listening to Mademoiselle Reisz play a piece by Chopin, the piece sends shivers down her spine.

The emotional fluidity of music is not solely responsible for Edna's evolving constitution. Such an assertion would deny any individual agency on her part and misrepresent the synthesis of artistic form and content that serves as a musical parallel to Edna's experiences. Chopin's music successfully integrates the opposition of "the 'classical' concern for form and the 'romantic' urge of inspiration.


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Therefore, due to Edna's fascination with romantic melodies, it causes Edna to 'Awaken' and desire new things to free herself from confinement. Camastra states that Edna comes to the same despondency that the writer Maupassant arrived to.

The Modern Library classics: The awakening and other stories by Kate Chopin

Maupassant attempts to commit suicide a few months before his actual death in Maupassant fictionalized spirits and Frederic Chopin internalized them in his music. In "The Awakening", Edna is fascinated by the musical poet's repertoire, and is forced to confront the spectral presence of an existential yearning for something else that eventually drives her to commit suicide.

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The Awakening was particularly controversial upon publication in Although the novel was never technically banned, it was censored. The public reaction to the novel was similar to the protests that greeted the publication and performance of Henrik Ibsen 's landmark drama A Doll's House , a work with which The Awakening shares an almost identical theme. Both contain a female protagonist who abandons her husband and children for self-fulfilment. However, published reviews ran the gamut from outright condemnation to the recognition of The Awakening as an important work of fiction by a gifted practitioner.

Divergent reactions of two newspapers in Kate Chopin 's hometown of St. Louis , Missouri , reflect this. The St. Louis Republic labeled the novel "poison" and "too strong a drink for moral babes", [9] and the St. Louis Mirror stated, "One would fain beg the gods, in pure cowardice, for sleep unending rather than to know what an ugly, cruel, loathsome Monster Passion can be when, like a tiger, it slowly awakens. This is the kind of awakening that impresses the reader in Mrs. Chopin's heroine. Louis Post-Dispatch praised the novel in "A St.