The Awakening By Kate Chopin. Setting. Time: The novel is set in 1899, at a time when the Industrial Revolution and the feminist movement were beginning to emerge yet were still not accepted.
Time: The novel is set in 1899, at a time when the Industrial Revolution and the feminist movement were beginning to emerge yet were still not accepted.
Place: The novel opens on Grand Isle, a popular summer vacation spot for wealthy Creoles from New Orleans. The second half of the novel is set in New Orleans, mainly in the Quartier Français, or French Quarter.
Edna is a young mother in her late twenties, who over a period of months awakens to her own sexuality. She rebels the New Orleans social system by abandoning her role as a “trophy wife” and as a mother.
Dr Mandelet: He is hired by Leonce to understand why Edna is rebelling her duties as a wife. He suspects Edna is having an affair (which she is) but isn’t entirely sure.
RobertLebrun: The love interest of Edna in which she is very fond of that devotes himself to satisfying a woman every summer. Edna is his interest for that summer.
Alcee Arobin: The town seducer that Edna seeks an affair with after Robert goes out of town. Although he satisfies her sexual needs, she is only in love with Robert.
The book opens with a parrot in a cage. This symbolizes Edna’s life. It is a metaphor for her situation.
Edna is the wife of a successful Lousiana business man that seeks freedom from her duties as a wife and mother. She longs for an awakening and the ability to have a choice which leads her to have an affair and abandon her family and responsibilities. This eventually takes her to her grave in the ocean for she was not able to accept her place as a trophy wife.
Edna’s dual life is that outwardly she conforms to her “role” or duties. But in inward she questions her life.
During her AWAKENING she longs for a choice. Edna was clearly a mother by accident. Not by choice.
Although THE AWAKENING has various symbols throughout the entire book, the most important are:
The Sea- Represents freedom and escape. In addition water is also related to baptism which means rebirth. In The Awakening Edna learns how to swim which gives her power and gives her an AWAKENING.
Birds- The caged birds represent Edna’s entrapment. Edna is limited by society as birds are limited by their cages. The Victorian women in general use their “wings” to protect and shield, never to fly as birds.
Protagonist: The protagonist of course is Edna. She seems to go against what society expects her to do.
Antagonist: Lust and passion are what eventually led Edna to her death because she was unable to survive the only existence left to her.
In The Awakening Chopin leaves open the question if ultimately Edna’s suicide was a cowardly surrender or a liberating triumph.
Did Edna give herself to the sea because she was giving up and couldn’t accept her “role” in society?
Did Edna see suicide as the power to rebirth and protest?
Biography: Kate Chopin was born Kate O'Flaherty in St. Louis, Missouri in 1850 to Eliza and Thomas O'Flaherty. In 1870, at the age of twenty, she married Oscar Chopin, twenty-five, and the son of a wealthy cotton-growing family in Louisiana. He was French catholic in background, as was Kate. By all accounts he adored his wife, admired her independence and intelligence, and "allowed" her unheard of freedom. After their marriage they lived in New Orleans where she had five boys and two girls, all before she was twenty-eight.
Her first novel, At Fault, was published in 1890, followed by two collections of her short stories, Bayou Folk in 1894 and A Night in Acadia in 1897. The Awakening was published in 1899, and by then she was well known as both a local colorist and a woman writer, and had published over one hundred stories, essays, and sketches in literary magazines.The content and message of The Awakening caused much controversy. So much that she was denied admission to the St. Lois Fine Art Club.
Like Edna in The Awakening, Kate was also seeking artistic development until she died of a cerebral hemorrhageon August 22 1904.
CliffsComplete- The Awakening (book)
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Special Thanks to Batman and to Ms. Mazzoni for recommending such a meaningful book.