The Awakening

The Awakening

Book - 1992
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Although originally published in 1899, this book's leading character, Edna Pontellier, could be mistaken for a modern-day liberated woman. In the summer of her twenty-eighth year, as she watched numerous mothers on a beach, she vowed to honor the deep yearnings within herself that she sensed were unfulfilled by marriage and motherhood. She abandoned her conventional role in life and made for herself a controversial and ultimately destructive life.
Publisher: New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1992.
ISBN: 9780380002450
Call Number: CHOPIN
Characteristics: xliii, 221 p. ; 21 cm
Subjects: Women -- Louisiana -- New Orleans -- Social conditions -- Fiction.
Self-actualization (Psychology) -- Fiction.
Adultery -- Louisiana -- New Orleans -- Fiction.
New Orleans (La.) -- Fiction.
Southern writing.


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Jun 16, 2019

One of the earlier American Feminist novels, The Awakening tells the story of a housewife who falls in love with another man and starts to recognize the fragility of the illusion of her previous happiness. At the end, she realizes that she is unable to return to the lifestyle expected by society and faces two choices: leaving her husband and becoming independent (but thereby ruining the reputation of her young children) or preserving her integrity through death.

Since this is a relatively short novel, I listened to it as a podcast. Yet it reminded me of two other novels I had read — that’s right, Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina. All three are about women whose social and economic powers are limited to the domestic sphere and who yearn for more. In a way, all three women seek self-agency through adultery, which (although wrong) may be seen as reflections of contemporary social constraints.

I even wrote an article on this parallelism and tried to understand why the three novels, written by people from three different countries and spanning a century in time, had such similar plots, as well as their significance to us today. Unfortunately the article is in Chinese but I will still include it in case anyone is interested

For more book reviews, check out my Instagram @ RandomStuffIRead :)

Dec 26, 2018

Reminiscent of Madam Bovary and Anna Karenina-I found Edna more compelling as the reader was made privy to her inner process-the revelations she uncovered and the choices she made-

Aug 03, 2017

Kate Chopin wrote this book when people didn't speak about leaving their husbands. Symbolism abounds throughout the novel. The references to a bird in the description of everyday moments lead a reader to believe that Edna Pontellier is the bird and the cage is marriage and the traditions of society. She felt trapped and wanted to be free to be her own person. A sad story in the end. I felt that Kate was mocking society by writing a story about a woman wanting more from life and in not receiving it kills herself because life wouldn't be worth living in the restraints of society's norms.

athompson10 May 28, 2017

The story of a young married woman with children, who experiences an awakening of self and desire when she falls in love. Chopin writes beautifully and evokes the atmosphere of New Orleans and society life at the turn of the century. However, the book was a little predictable and certainly pessimistic in the author's view of what the choices were for women at the time.

Oct 02, 2016

A feminist classic about the emotional and sexual awakening of a woman and her search for independence and creativity. In the end, she is unable to sacrifice her new- found awareness of self. The book was banned at the time.

Sep 16, 2015

If you read this you have to take into account that it was published in 1899, not 2015. The writing is lovely but my modern senses were frustrated at times at the oh-so-correctness of everything. This is touted as a feminist novel and taught in some school courses. Edna Pontellier is 29 years old, the mother of two little boys, and the wife of a successful businessman from New Orleans. Up to now she has fulfilled her duties consisting solely of looking good, caring for her husband's well-being, running the household, and seeing to their two little boys. Her life appears to be bliss - servants to care for everything, a husband who does not abuse her, who gives her much freedom, children who are no trouble. We meet her on vacation, away from her normal life and her husband, she is at the seaside on Grand Isle where she meets Robert and feels something new and strange. He encourages her in her first triumph - actually swimming after years of attempts at learning. This accomplishment breaks her armour of convention and we see her slowly emerge as her own person. Robert figures prominently with a strongly hinted liaison between the two. Once home, with Robert gone to Mexico, she begins to live a new life. Her husband does not interfere and she quickly sheds the trappings of an upper class life; even going to the extent of renting and living in her own little house. The ending has us circle around to that momentous realization that she could swim on her own.

Mar 25, 2014

I quite enjoyed this read. I found the character of Edna appealing, and I also found it interesting how Chopin refers to her more often as "Mrs. Pontellier" at the beginning and switching to just "Edna" as the story progressed. As a feminist, and since it was written in 1899, I found it immensely enjoyable. Its only shortcoming would be the ending. I did not find the character or Robert quite so attractive, and I don't think the end did justice to the ideas of the book. I would recommend to a feminist-and also to a misogynist to have some sense knocked into them.

crankylibrarian Apr 28, 2013

Can't believe I've never read this! Must have skipped that semester of English. Unfortunately, I can't say I missed much. The self-indulgent heroine and her feckless would-be lover grated on my nerves after the first 5 pages.(l

dulynoted Feb 28, 2012

I can understand why this book is important--it depicts the many restrictions on femininity in the late 19th Century. It is beautifully written. However, I became a bit impatient with the heroine for her inability to cope with her new and sudden sense of freedom--her freedom makes her childlike in her decisions. Maybe my impatience with the heroine reflect the book's interesting themes and ideas.

DesPlainesReaders Jan 08, 2012

This is a wonderfully poignant perspective on the plight of women at the turn of the 20th century (and one would argue, even today). Chopin so perfectly captures a certain mindset that it's startling at times, and it makes the main character easily relatable if you've ever felt even slightly dissatisfied. WeAreSpartacus/jdenn


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Jul 30, 2012

This story of a woman's struggle with oppressive social structures received much public contempt at its first release; put aside because of initial controversy, the novel gained popularity in the 1960s, some six decades after its first publication, and has since remained a favorite of many readers. Chopin's depiction of a married woman, bound to her family and with no way to assert a fulfilling life of her own, has become a foundation for feminism and a classic account of gender crises in the late Victorian era.


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Aug 03, 2012

The past was nothing to her; offered no lesson which she was willing to heed. The future was a mystery which she never attempted to penetrate. The present alone was significant, was hers, to torture her as it was doing then with the biting which her impassioned, newly awakened being demanded.


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