The Awakening by Kate Chopin

January 9, 2011
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Imagine a woman who lived more than 100 years ago with a lifestyle of lavish and wealth and one day she woke up to only realize that life has become devoid of meaning. Edna Pontellier, a member of the wealthy class` in New Orleans, struggled with no specific identity that is unable to solidify her monotonous life with her family. Thus, this fact about Edna evokes the scandalous events in the fiction novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin published by Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. I was fully enlightened by the ideals and theme of solitude, woman’s role in society and self expression illustrated with the life of Edna Pontellier set in 1800’s.

The story begins with Edna and her lover Robert Lebrun, in an unconventional marriage. Setting the mood for the Pontellier’s relationship, Robert decided to choice a business affair over a family dinner. Lebrun excludes his children and disrespects his wife in exchange for beneficial social gains. While Edna did not believe in the societal duties of women and gains for her husband, but Robert did and became angry of her ignorance on the subject matter. This is one of the many examples that illustrate the differences in beliefs that drove the couple’s strain. This strain throws Edna into an artistic mode of self expression through her natural talent of painting. As the novel progresses, Edna’s aggression, passion and self expression cross the lines of the conventional wife and mother of two children in Louisiana.

Kate Chopin’s use of the predictable French Creole society as a setting for the strict moral and societal conditions in society intrigued me. The conservative nature of the place and the independent nature of Edna caused me to oppose the strict standard of little or no self-expression. Edna’s influences of her friend Mademoiselle Reisz and Alcée Arobin caused her to care for her happiness and express her feelings, sexuality and independence. This book contains so many progress aspects and modern feminist aspects of life that I was naturally drawn to the novel. I thought Reisz was a representation of independence and freedom which all help solidify her life. Reisz is great example of how women and especially Edna should live their life to express themselves freely such as Reisz’s expression with music. Thus, Edna solidified her life with her painting and pursued her romance and sense of belonging with Alcée Arobin who was her long lost love.

The feminist aspects of The Awakening inspired me to achieve happiness as well as helping others to embrace their unconventional characteristics of themselves. Though Kate Chopin’s novel was rejected by her critics in 1890’s, it took many decades for the ideas of strength, self expression and feminism to be accepted in America. Like The Awakening, The Feminine Mystique, published February 25, 1963, written by Betty Friedan, shares the same ideas of Chopin in the fact that they both address the importance of woman’s independence to better their lives. As a modern reader who has grown up with ideals of the novel, I agree with the principles and themes of the book. However, I do not care for the way the book ended, at the end because the suspenseful action is taken by Edna and her fate is left open to interpretation. I like definitiveness and extended information of the whole story from beginning to end. Without these final pieces of information I felt lost and unsatisfied with the end.

I feel that this book was a great overview on the issues of feminism and independence from the perspective of a non conformist of the 1800’s. The ideals of individuality are still cohesive to the ideals of today and many young women can relate to this. I feel that this novel will be great for many young women who struggle or want to embrace and discover their feminine side and strength. I gained great insight to struggles of women of different principles and I’ve learned how to apply the energy and ideas from The Awakening in my daily life to emulate Edna Pontellier’s growth as an individual.

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