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The Awakening (Literary Classics) Paperback – October 1, 1996
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
A taboo subject back in its day, The Awakening tells the story of one woman's emotional journey from a stifled, miserable marriage to a spirited and lusty freedom. Young Edna Pontellier feels trapped in a loveless, although pampered, life with husband, Leonce. Stirrings of independence begin one summer while resorting in Grand Isle, an island off the coast of Louisiana. These new feelings have begun a profound change in Edna, liberating her beyond belief. Thus ensues an infidelity that dreams are made of, although at the expense of her marriage and motherhood.
Hardly shocking in this day and age, The Awakening's subject of marital infidelity and physical lust for another is always a pageturner. The theme of the novel -- Edna's torment at the chains that bind her and the flutterings of an unbridled passion -- is brought to life with beautiful writing in simple, elegant words. I am surprised to find such a passionate and provocative story within its pages. Short but penetrating, The Awakening will move you.
Kate Chopin's writing is deliberate but not labored. She is particularly successful at depicting ambiguity in a way which is highly descriptive and communicative. This is a skill which I can't praise highly enough, and it culminates in an ending which is absolutely perfect. While criticism could be raised against "The Awakening" as another apology for the suicidal artist, Edna's literal and symbolic escape is less pretentious than Harry's in "Steppenwolfe," nor as indecipherable as that of any of Joyce's creations. Kate Chopin's novel is truly a classic in the sense that it should be a part of any survey of American literature. The Norton Critical edition is the best way to go, too, with helpful biographical information and literary criticism. If you want a more enriching experience with this novel, I'd highly recommend this version.
Kate Chopin wrote this story of female self-actualization back in the late 19th century, but it's as applicable today as it was then. I think we all feel trapped by decisions we've made capriciously or because we've been told they are correct, and we all consider, even briefly, escape. The main character in this novel not only realizes that she has trapped herself, but she actively seeks to free herself. Her action, rather than just emotion and despair (a la Goethe), is what separates her from the herd.
Here's the low-down: Edna is a woman, probably in her 30s or so, married to a successful financier and mother to two charming children. She summers on an island, probably to escape summer diseases in the city, New Orleans. One summer she acquires a friend, Robert. Although married women in this society frequently have male friends, Edna is an outsider, and she takes Robert's attentions far too seriously. Apparently, he is similarly infatuated. Basking in Robert's attention, Edna understands at last that she has discarded her youthful dreams and hopes and that her current life is unfulfilling. She takes small steps toward freeing herself, and Robert seems a willing accomplice for a while.
During the course of the novel, Edna relearns who she is, reclaims the dreams of her youth, and abandons her husband and children. The author is careful with this last, making it seem tragic and irresponsible, yet ultimately unavoidable. By the last 20 pages, Edna is free.Read more ›
Having much faith in Kate Chopin as a writer, I never felt 'the awakening' was about sex. This was too easy, even for a book set in Victorian Society. Further, it occurred to me that although women were limited beyond the domestic sphere in this era, suicide was not particular to the phenomenology of Victorian women (as it was, say, to Wall Street brokers at the onset of the Great Depression).
"The Awakening," in title and content, is irony. Edna Pontellier's awakening is about who she perceives herself to be, and who she actually is. She dreams of passion and romance and embarks on a summer affair, yet she married Leonce simply to spite her parents, who don't like him. She moves out of the family home to live on her own--with the permission, and resources, of Leonce--hardly independent. She claims to crave intimacy, yet she fails horribly at every intimate relationship in her life: she is detached with her children, indifferent to her husband, leery of her artist friend, and can hardly stand another minute at the bedside of her warm, maternal friend, Mrs. Ratignolle, to assist her in childbirth. (Ratignolle was my favorite character of all, read after read, simply because she was so content with herself.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I got this as a book I loved and want to read again. I really cannot remember if the woman narrates it from the first person or not! Read morePublished 1 month ago by Pixie
I had to chose a novella to read for my Senior Seminar class and then do a 20 page seminar paper on chosen novella before I could graduate. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amanda
Honestly, I didn't like the plot of the novel. I thought that although it really opened up the idea of what womanhood could be, I think at times it was selfish. Read morePublished 2 months ago by S Cox