Kate Chopin’s The Awakening - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

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  1. Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

  2. Kate Chopin (1851-1904) • Born 1851 in St Louis, Missouri • Spoke French and English • Slavery part of daily life • Married Oscar Chopin from Louisiana in 1870– lived in new Orleans 6 kids • Husband died 1882– Chopin never remarried but had other relationships • Wrote mostly about the South and French-American culture • Radical idea– a woman’s needs were important (women weren’t considered to be independent)

  3. Chopin Family Pictures

  4. Background: Women’s Rights • Napoleonic Code said that all of the wife’s "accumulations" after marriage belonged to the husband and that the husband automatically got custody of children in a divorce • Louisiana law claimed that • a woman could not sign a legal contract other than her will • could not initiate a lawsuit • could not hold public office • could not serve as a legal witness to any document • Others who could not do this included the blind, the deaf, the mute, children under 16, the legally insane, or those with criminal records

  5. Background: Creole Society • Creole culture (French and Spanish ppl in New Orleans) • very family-oriented • considered themselves an elite social class in New Orleans • Creole women, even if very poor, were not permitted to speak of poverty • expected Creole women to be • very religious, usually Catholic • modest and pure of thought but still able to talk frankly about sexuality and childbirth • enthusiastic mothers • good dancers • artistic by nature • good housekeepers • good conversationalists

  6. The Awakening: Key Facts • Published 1889 • Controversial! • Main premise: Woman’s journey to self-discovery away from traditional upbringing towards personal desires/needs. • Edna Pontellier (protagonist) realizes that her life is not what she wants, so she seeks to find self-fulfillment outside of her social duties/ responsibilities • Setting: Grand Isle (vacation resort), New Orleans– late 1800s

  7. The Awakening: Key Characters • Edna Pontellier- wife and mother of 2, seeks her own life outside of society’s accepted roles • Adele Ratignolle- socially ideal woman- Edna’s friend • Robert Lebrun- single man, Edna falls in love with him, but he doesn’t know how to respond • Alcee Arobin- charming man– known as a “player” in New Orleans; seduces Edna • LeoncePontellier- Edna’s husband- often away on business; wealthy; cares about social expectations • Mademoiselle Reisz- unmarried/no kids, devotes life to art (piano); teaches Edna about independence

  8. Symbols • Water/Sea • Swimming • Birds (caged, free, Pigeon house, broken wing) • Art • Music • Lady in black • Two lovers • Farival twins

  9. The Awakening: Reviews • Then • “Trite and sordid” • “Essentially vulgar” • “Unhealthily introspective and morbid in feeling” • “. . .its disagreeable glimpses of sensuality are repellent" (from The Outlook,1899) • Contemporary (now) • “She’s one of those writers whose sense of craft puts her right on the edge of poetry. . . . The rediscovery of The Awakening came as a Godsend, the most incredible gift to the women’s movement” Prof. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Emory

  10. Realism • Accurate imitation of life • Characters drawn to present the reader with illusion of actual experience • Topics include love, marriage, parenthood, infidelity, and death • Characters find life dull and are often unhappy, but find touches of joy and beauty in life

  11. Local Color/ Regionalism • A form of Realism • Devoted to descriptions of characters, dialect, customs, and geography of a specific setting. • Emphasizes setting and the character of the region instead of character of the individual. • Characters are usually there to add to the "feel" of the place (think Arobin, servants and residents at Grande Isle, Madame Ratignolle, etc). • Main character usually an outsider makes it easier for the reader to identify with them, because reader is outsider • Common plot involves tension between traditional and new ways of life, often symbolized by the intrusion of an outsider who is demanding something from the community.

  12. Regionalism in Art

  13. Feminism • Chopin denied that she was a feminist or a suffragette. • Her fiction repeatedly deals with female characters’ efforts to find place, love, and autonomy (independence) in a society that denies these needs. • Feminist theory • examines women’s social roles and lived experience • provides a critique of social relations– focuses on analyzing gender inequality and the promotion of women’s rights, interest and issues • depicts elements of oppression and patriarchy (male as primary authority figure, central to social organization)