Powerful Women Representation in Chopin’s The Awakening

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

The author of The Awakening was Kate Chopin from St. Louis, Missouri. Kate Chopin is known for writing short stories such as “The Storm”, “The Story of an Hour” and “A Pair of Silk Stockings.” She published two novels in addition to her short stories, At Fault and The Awakening. Her first novel, At Fault, went largely unnoticed after its publication in 1890. Her final novel, The Awakening was published in 1899. The critics and public both condemned the novel, calling it vulgar. After Chopin’s death her work was forgotten until it was rediscovered in the 1950’s by scholars. If you like the aspects of Chopin’s writing, then you might also like Susan Glaspell and Charlotte Perkins Gilman writing style.

Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, was published in the year 1899. This means that the novel was written during the Reconstruction Era of the United States after the end of the Civil War. This was a time when white men held virtually all the power in the United States. Therefore, much of the public had a lot of issues with Chopin’s feminist aspects. They did not enjoy the brutal honesty with which she wrote about the life of a woman at that time. The political climate of the time influenced the story. If the climate had been different then the story could have been received better. This story would be able to be written today. The people today would embrace the story and enjoy the story of a woman finding herself. There are many novels and tv shows that center around the same thing that Chopin wrote about.

The Awakening walks readers through the life of Edna Pontellier. In the story she defies the social standards in many ways. For the first half of the summer New Orleans natives Leonce and Edna Pontellier are vacationing in Grand Isle, Louisiana. During this time Edna meets a man named Robert Leburn. Edna begins to fall in love with him and question her treatment by her husband. The presence of Robert begins to change the way Edna thinks of herself. She starts to develop certain interest and desires that her simple life as a mother and wife does not satisfy. Robert soon realizes the feeling Edna has develop for him and leaves her. During the second half of the novel the Pontellier’s return to their life in New Orleans. Edna becomes increasingly unhappy with her life and at the end of the novel she decides to take her own life by walking out into the ocean.

Throughout the novel Kate Chopin does a good job of focusing on a theme of self-expression or the language at which we use to express ourselves. During this novel Edna learns different aspects of this language from many different people during her awakening. An example of this is the way the creole women behave. Chopin writes “A characteristic that distinguished them and which impressed Mrs. Pontellier most forcibly was their entire absence of prudery.” (IV) Edna was raised to meet the social standings. She was taught to be polite and kind and uphold the obligations to society, but these women were doing the opposite. Chopin writes “Their freedom of expression was at first incomprehensible to her…” (IV). A book was passed around that Edna felt she needed to read “in secret and solitude.” (IV) but these women openly discussed it with no shame. These women show her that she can show her emotions and sexuality without fear. Another person who helps Edna with her self-expression is Robert Leburn. Edna’s marriage is a loveless one, more of a social expectation. Robert showers her with love and attention things Mr. Pontellier has never shown her. Edna feels, “The sentiment which she entertained for Robert in no way resembled that which she felt for her husband, or had ever felt, or ever expected to feel. She had all her life long been accustomed to harbor thoughts and emotions which never voiced themselves.” (XVI) Now she began to want certain things and feel certain emotions “She began to do as she liked and to feel as she liked. She completely abandoned her Tuesdays at home, and did not return the visits of those who had called upon her. She made no ineffectual efforts to conduct her household en bonne menagere, going and coming as it suited her fancy, and, so far as she was able, lending herself to any passing caprice.” (XIX) Edna completely changed throughout the novel not just a little bit, Edna changed so much that towards the end of the novel she began to surpass everyone who showed her what is was like to express her emotions. Its as if she came full circle at the beginning of the novel she was unhappy and lonely not expressing her emotions, feeling as if no one understands her and now after learning to express herself people still do not understand her and she is just as lonely.

Kate Chopin succeed in causing controversy with her publication of this novel whether that was her intentions or not. She made people open their eyes to the expectation society puts on women. Get married at a certain age and then become a slave to your husband, do things not because you want to but because your social standing does.

Source

Read more