Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

If you haven't read The Awakening by Kate Chopin you've missed a great read!

The Awakening is a short novel by Kate Chopin, published in 1899. It is widely considered to be a proto-feminist precursor to American modernism.

Plot summary

Edna Pontellier, the wife of a successful New Orleans business man and the mother of two, vacations with her family at a seaside resort in Grand Isle, Louisiana. She spends much of her time with Robert Lebrun, a romantic young man who has decided to attach himself to Edna for the summer. After many intimate conversations, boating excursions, and moonlit walks, they both realize that they are developing romantic feelings for each other. Edna then realizes that there is much within herself that has remained dormant throughout her adult life.

When vacation ends and the Pontelliers return to New Orleans, Edna frees herself from the trappings of her old life, including her social position, her role as a mother, and her role as a wife. A major part of this freeing in Edna's life is accomplished through her affair with Alcée Arobin. Moving out of her husband's house, she establishes herself in a cottage and hopes that Robert Lebrun will return soon from an extended business trip in Mexico.

Upon Robert's return, Edna discovers that he is unable to come to grips with her newfound freedom. Indeed, he seems hopelessly bound by the traditional values of the French Creole community.


Edna thereupon returns to the seaside resort in the off-season. She makes arrangements for her lunch before heading off to the beach, and carries along a towel for drying off. Unable to resist the lure of the water, she strips nude and swims out as far as she can and, having exhausted herself, drowns. Most readers interpret this final passage as a deliberate attempt at suicide.



Heather Kathleen said...

that sounds wonderful and is going on my list!!! and i'm in arkansas, not arizona. but don't feel bad it's a very common mistake! :) thank you for coming by and i'll be back to visit you!

my father is from elmira. are you nearby??

Heather Kathleen said...

oh i'm so jealous! i love the city and have been lucky enough to have visited several times. i love how small it makes me feel. :)

david mcmahon said...

Thank you, I'm so glad you liked the picture of the Singapore storm! I do enjoy coming here and seeing what you have highlighted for us avid readers - this one sounds riveting.

In a few days, I'll be posting some elements from my forthcoming novel on my blog and asking readers what they think ....

I'd be honoured if you could let me know your opinion.

(Whisper - in short, a marriage that goes terribly wrong, a young mum who suffers post-natal depression, a teenager who grows up with a drunken father, a love story, two ghost episodes, a wartime meeting and the unmasking of a spy)

.... and that's just between you and me, OK?!!!



the teach said...

Sure, david, I'd be glad to read some of your forthcoming novel...I'll tell no one what it's about! Ssshhh!

Pretty Life Online said...

thanks for sharing... this reminds me of the quote "If every day is an awakening, you will never grow old. You will just keep growing.” thank you so much for always dropping by!

jennifer said...

Oh the things that you must know! I admire your profession. I grew up in a college town and it was a lovely way of life - many interesting people. If you ever visit my blog, please excuse the poor grammar and spelling! I hope that you have a nice weekend...Jennifer

Chuck said...

I stopped by here after seeing your post on Cafe @ the End of the Universe. This book looks like such a good read. I don't read nearly enough and miss it dearly.

Have a gr8 week, Teach.

(f/k/a Rhonda @ I'm Running To Win Two)

Chuck said...

i didn't realize you hadn't posted for a while. i guess this gives me time to catch up - i haven't stopped by in so long!

come by when you can, 'cause i left you some bling.

the teach said...

Chuck, thanks so much for my awards. I'm going to post these awards here on my books and reading blog that I don't get to that often but love nevertheless.

Sandy Carlson said...

This is an interesting read of the ending. Must it be read literally, Mary? I often wonder about these things. I would be inclined to read the exhaustion as release from all things. What other logical options are available to a storyteller working with this character?

With the Russian writers, I think literal works....

Chopin is amazing.

the teach said...

Sandy, I've taught Chopin's The Awakening to my lit classes and I will do it again in the Spring semester. Chopin leaves the ending vague so that the reader can decide what happens to Edna. I mean yes she does drown but was it intentional? I think so because of all that comes before in the story...I think Chopin means for her to commit suicide as a relief from everything that she cannot tolerate any more. Just as you say "a release from all things."

Have you read Chopin's novella? I couldn't tell from your comment. Read it and see what you think...

Chopin doesn't admit of other options for Edna because Edna is trapped in a society that doesn't allow women to be themselves and achieve except in the milieu of the family as wife and mother. I'd love to discuss this further with you...:)

Mary said...

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and commenting on my show and tell post about my daughter's birth. I hope you will visit again and enter my Easter giveaway.


wifespeak said...

Hi. I used to teach college literature, too. The Awakening is a must read for all my students in a class called Women in Literature. I really love your blogs. I'll check in again soon. Happy Valentine's Day!!!