Working my way down my unread book stack, I next came to The Awakening by Kate Chopin. This book was mentioned in my history book (The American Pageant) as part of the literary movement of the turn of the century. So, it came out in 1899. My edition has 190 pages. After it came out, it was banned in many places and taken off the shelves of libraries. The author was denied entrance to the Fine Arts Club. Because of this novel’s reception, Chopin was never able to publish another novel.
The story follows Edna Pontellier, a married woman with two young children. One summer, she and her family spend time at the Grand Isle, a kind of beach resort. There she meets Robert Lebrun and falls in love. When the summer ends and Robert goes to Mexico, Edna returns home a different person. Her change and her friends’ and neighbors’ responses to it, affect her way of thinking and lead inevitably to the end.
I’m nt going to say more than that on the plot of the book if I can help it. In Latin, when I was a bit over halfway through the book, Mark told me what happens in the end. It didn’t bother me too much because it’s not a suspenseful book or anything, but some people don’t like that kind of thing. I will say it’s not happy. Instead I’m going to talk about the book itself.
One of the things I always hate is when a book by a male writer is praised for how well it relates the depth of female emotion. I really don’t like it when these reviews are written by men. Chopin really shows the depth of the female mind, as from a female writer. I’m a girl and though Edna is over a century ago, her thought process is easily followed.
…A week and a half later, I return.
The book says some really thematic things about a woman’s responsibility to her children and her husband. Maybe because I just had to read As I Lay Dying for English, but I think Edna is rather clouded in her judgment. Addie Bundren, in AILD despises her children and her husband, and so feels no obligation to them. Edna however feels affection for her husband and children. At least, she enjoys the time she spends with them. Of course, she more enjoys the time she spends without them, liberated. Well, if a woman has kids, whether she’s still with the husband or not, she owes them. She gave them life. Adele, perhaps a foil to Edna because she is overly wifey and motherly, whispers, “Think of the children, Edna. Remember them!” To Adele, her children are of the utmost importance. Edna on the other hand, and this is the thing that bothers me, has thoughts like this: “The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her, who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul’s slavery for the rest of her days.” Wow, dramatic. Especially since she only has 2 kids. Plus, they are both a little older and not dependent on the mother. I understand that The Awakening is trying to show the struggle against the traditional woman’s place as baby machine, but having the protagonist have two children with a nurse and very little interaction doesn’t make sense.
Or maybe it does. Comments?
As with any older book, there are lots of different covers. I read the first one. These are a few of my favorites.