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The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction

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When it first appeared in 1899, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening was greeted with cries of outrage. The novel’s frank portrayal of a woman’s emotional, intellectual, and sexual awakening shocked the sensibilities of the time and destroyed the author’s reputation and career. Many years passed before this short, pioneering work was recognized as a major achievement in American li When it first appeared in 1899, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening was greeted with cries of outrage. The novel’s frank portrayal of a woman’s emotional, intellectual, and sexual awakening shocked the sensibilities of the time and destroyed the author’s reputation and career. Many years passed before this short, pioneering work was recognized as a major achievement in American literature. Set in and around New Orleans, The Awakening tells the story of Edna Pontellier, a young wife and mother who, determined to control her own life, flouts convention by moving out of her husband’s house, having an adulterous affair, and becoming an artist. Beautifully written, with sensuous imagery and vivid local descriptions, The Awakening has lost none of its power to provoke and inspire. Additionally, this edition includes thirteen of Kate Chopin’s magnificent short stories. --back cover Stories Included in the Volume: The Awakening Emancipation: A Life Fable A Shameful Affair At the ‘Cadian Ball Désirée’s Baby A Gentleman of Bayou Têche A Respectable Woman The Story of an Hour Athénaïse A Pair of Silk Stockings Elizabeth Stock’s One Story The Storm The Godmother A Little Country Girl


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When it first appeared in 1899, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening was greeted with cries of outrage. The novel’s frank portrayal of a woman’s emotional, intellectual, and sexual awakening shocked the sensibilities of the time and destroyed the author’s reputation and career. Many years passed before this short, pioneering work was recognized as a major achievement in American li When it first appeared in 1899, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening was greeted with cries of outrage. The novel’s frank portrayal of a woman’s emotional, intellectual, and sexual awakening shocked the sensibilities of the time and destroyed the author’s reputation and career. Many years passed before this short, pioneering work was recognized as a major achievement in American literature. Set in and around New Orleans, The Awakening tells the story of Edna Pontellier, a young wife and mother who, determined to control her own life, flouts convention by moving out of her husband’s house, having an adulterous affair, and becoming an artist. Beautifully written, with sensuous imagery and vivid local descriptions, The Awakening has lost none of its power to provoke and inspire. Additionally, this edition includes thirteen of Kate Chopin’s magnificent short stories. --back cover Stories Included in the Volume: The Awakening Emancipation: A Life Fable A Shameful Affair At the ‘Cadian Ball Désirée’s Baby A Gentleman of Bayou Têche A Respectable Woman The Story of an Hour Athénaïse A Pair of Silk Stockings Elizabeth Stock’s One Story The Storm The Godmother A Little Country Girl

30 review for The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for tragic love and a gloomy ending. For social and moral constraints pushing down until one suffocates. I’ve lived it. I caught my breath and clutched this book and had a completely personal reaction to the beauty and the agony. Some of the one star reviews puzzle me, not because people disliked the book, which would be perfectly reasonable, but because some people suggest Edna could’ve just gotten a divorce and solved her problem that way. That she was a selfish “ I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for tragic love and a gloomy ending. For social and moral constraints pushing down until one suffocates. I’ve lived it. I caught my breath and clutched this book and had a completely personal reaction to the beauty and the agony. Some of the one star reviews puzzle me, not because people disliked the book, which would be perfectly reasonable, but because some people suggest Edna could’ve just gotten a divorce and solved her problem that way. That she was a selfish “trollop” to have an affair and leave her kids. This simplistic and unrealistic response to a book written in 1899 floors me. To rate a book low because a female abandoned her children is laughable…especially when you consider that had the protagonist been male and abandoned his kids in the same way this outrage would not exist. I guess this is what Chopin was getting at. 113 years ago.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    The Awakening ~ A Review in Two Parts ~ Me, 20 years old, circa early ‘90s Okay, so I just read The Awakening. What a novella before its time! You’ve got Edna Pontellier, manipulated into a stodgy marriage, her husband expecting her to conform to society’s rules and trappings. She now has 2 children and is feeling the pull of wanting to be her own person. An artist, a free thinker, not meant to stay at home and accept visitors. On a summer vacation in Grand Isle, she meets Robert Lebrun, a The Awakening ~ A Review in Two Parts ~ Me, 20 years old, circa early ‘90s Okay, so I just read The Awakening. What a novella before its time! You’ve got Edna Pontellier, manipulated into a stodgy marriage, her husband expecting her to conform to society’s rules and trappings. She now has 2 children and is feeling the pull of wanting to be her own person. An artist, a free thinker, not meant to stay at home and accept visitors. On a summer vacation in Grand Isle, she meets Robert Lebrun, a younger idealist, not as wealthy but still the type who will cater to her every whim. Who sees the person that she wants to be and doesn’t deny her that sense of self. Edna falls into the lull that women crave.. ‘lull’ isn’t the correct word. It’s almost opposite of what I want to say, I’d go more with the excitement of being feverishly desired by a handsome young man. It’s addicting, more than addicting, it’s dangerous. However, for some reason, Robert leaves for Mexico and Edna is left with her marriage and her position in society. She starts to act out and her clueless husband is concerned: It sometimes entered Mr. Pontellier’s mind to wonder if his wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world. Okay, so she’s not entertaining guests, she must be crazy. Upon returning to New Orleans, she continues to find herself and after her children and husband leave for an indeterminate amount of time, she starts to find her independence. She moves out of the mansion and into a ‘pigeon house’ around the corner, she begins an affair with a local playboy and all the while she still yearns for Robert. I won’t go into anymore of the plot, but to say that I can see how it would be considered a scandal when released back in 1899. Women didn’t follow their heart or their minds, they were objects upon marriage, losing all identity. Society dictates that she marry well and put up pretenses and she fights back! As Susan Powter would say, ‘Stop the Insanity!’ The Awakening shows that women are capable of being individuals and believing in everlasting love that breaks all conventions. Bring forth the Spice Girls and rock on. Me, Now, somewhat older… Edna Pontieller, what a narcissistic little hussy you are. Okay, look….It’s 1899… you’re married to a guy that adores you… Yeah, so he thinks that you might want to act like a woman of the times.. maybe he’s a little off on the whole suffrage movement (which has yet to happen, DUH) and maybe you’re feeling a bit stifled in your marriage, but it’s a GOOD marriage, you want for nothing, you don’t have to take care of your somewhat non-demonic children, you get to vacation for entire summers… when you’re down your husband plans to redecorate the house for you. It’s not like he’s ignoring you! So, what exactly is the problem? He’s not hot? Yeah. He’s not young? Okay. He doesn’t swoon over your little paintings? Whatever. Look, the short of it is, you weren’t forced into the marriage, as much as you thought you had to find a guy that would look good in society and take care of you. You could have said no. Now, what the hell are you doing? Prancing around race tracks with the 1899 equivalent of Ashton Kutcher? Waiting for this poor fool who realizes the restraints of society to come and just be your little cabana boy? Hell, if this were modern times, you’d be reading Twilight and hanging out at skate parks. Get over yourself. /rant Okay, so that was The Awakening and if I had to rate this based on that novella alone, I’d go with 2 stars. I suppose I’ve got the Sherwood Anderson syndrome here and maybe it’s my fault for not understanding 1899 like I should… I go on my gut feelings, sorry. I’m reading this now, I’m judging it now. I can appreciate the time it was written in, but I’m not going to go gaga over a story that I pretty much think of as a cop out. But, that being um… said… I did enjoy the other 15 stories, well, most of them. Kate Chopin was a hoot. I think she had the wit and the not so subtle talent and voice to let her feelings be known. She was bitter, yo. I don’t blame her… Widowed at 32 with 6 kids? Hell yeah. And, here she has this talent and what does she get when she publishes her work to make sure she can support her family? Shock, disdain, crap. Sorry… they can all go to Hell. She had balls. My suggestion is to read some of the shorter stories… I enjoyed The Story of an Hour, A Point at Issue!, A Lady of Bayou St. John, Athénaïse… those are my favorites, but they’re all short enough to enjoy and to see what a talented, wry writer she was.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    5/5stars 2019 update: I actually meant to update my rating for "The Awakening" AGES ago because I ended up using the novella as my main piece of literature in my gigantic English Major Writing Seminar essay and I really found myself enjoying it the more I worked with it and its become my go-to novel when discussing American literature. that being said, this semester i had to read a handful of the selected short stories by Chopin and I enjoyed this just as much as her novella! Chopin has just a wond 5/5stars 2019 update: I actually meant to update my rating for "The Awakening" AGES ago because I ended up using the novella as my main piece of literature in my gigantic English Major Writing Seminar essay and I really found myself enjoying it the more I worked with it and its become my go-to novel when discussing American literature. that being said, this semester i had to read a handful of the selected short stories by Chopin and I enjoyed this just as much as her novella! Chopin has just a wonderful, unapologetic way of writing that makes her and her stories incredibly relevant even 120 years after most of them were published. She's an OG feminist and I love her works. 2018: 4/5stars I actually really enjoyed this? This book is seriously revolutionary considering it was written in the 1800s and still explored women's feelings and sexuality more than 90% of books nowadays lol (I literally have a note being like "WOW this book talks about a woman pooping while books nowadays can't even mention any character going to the bathroom") but yeah wow Edna is an incredible character and incredibly real and her feelings and emotions and thoughts are very powerful. The ending of this book I'm now questioning if it was the first to do this cause I've seen it done multiple times in contemporary books. But yeah I really ended up enjoying this!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    8.0/10 The Awakening 7.0/10 An interesting, if somewhat meandering tale of a Victorian woman's "awakening". Chopin's prose is clear and precise so it becomes easy to fall into the trail of Edna Pontellier's slow emergence into self-hood, but I couldn't help but feel that Chopin's abilities were much more suited to the shorter fiction she wrote. There isn't enough magic in her "grand reveal" for one knows exactly what's going to happen to Edna from the end of the second chapter, and there isn't eno 8.0/10 The Awakening 7.0/10 An interesting, if somewhat meandering tale of a Victorian woman's "awakening". Chopin's prose is clear and precise so it becomes easy to fall into the trail of Edna Pontellier's slow emergence into self-hood, but I couldn't help but feel that Chopin's abilities were much more suited to the shorter fiction she wrote. There isn't enough magic in her "grand reveal" for one knows exactly what's going to happen to Edna from the end of the second chapter, and there isn't enough complexity in the tale to make it compelling. I found it to be a good, light read without having to think too much. There were a number of petty annoyances along the way, but I reined myself in to concede each time that Chopin, after all, was only a privileged white woman writing at the end of the Victorian era, and so what else could she do? The Awakening may be her own story, in a sense, without the rather dramatic ending. Beyond The Bayou 7.0/10 A different kind of awakening, but this time with a much more measured response by the protagonist. La Folle dares to reach beyond the bayou to find it is not as terrifying as she once imagined. Ma'me Pelagie 7.5/10 A poignant, but not overly sentimental narrative on the misplaced self-sacrifice that war demands; and the effects of "new eyes" on an old problem. Desirée's Baby 9.0/10 I knew the answer to this problem the moment Desirée had her baby -- yet it was an eminently satisfying, captivating little story of poetic justice being achieved. This is Chopin at her best. A Respectable Woman 5.0/10 Respectable women are quite boring, imo, -- and in Chopin's opinion too, it would seem. The Kiss 5.0/10 A misplaced kiss, to a different kind of poetic justice. Barely worth the writing of it I would think. A Pair of Silk Stockings 9.5/10 You would read this collection for this story alone for it captures, beautifully, how longing and desire will always have their day in the sun, if only for the briefest moment. Chopin reveals her deep understanding of the hungry heart. The Locket 9.5/10 Another startlingly beautiful and poignant message on the spoils of war. The impact is the greater for being so brief. A poem in prose. A Reflection I transcribe it here in its entirety. You be the judge. Some people are born with a vital and responsive energy. It not only enables them to keep abreast of the times; it qualifies them to furnish in their own personality a good bit of the motive power to the mad pace. They are fortunate beings. They do not need to apprehend the significance of things. They do not grow weary nor miss step, nor do they fall out of the rank and sink by the wayside to be left contemplating the moving procession. Ah! that moving procession that has left me by the road-side! Its fantastic colors are more brilliant and beautiful than the sun on the undulating waters. What matter if souls and bodies are failing beneath the feet of the ever-pressing multitude! It moves with the majestic rhythm of the spheres. Its discordant clashes sweep upward in one harmonious tone that blends with the music of other worlds--to complete God's orchestra. It is greater than the stars--that moving procession of human energy; greater than the palpitating earth and the things growing thereon. Oh! I could weep at being left by the wayside; left with the grass and the clouds and a few dumb animals. True, I feel at home in the society of these symbols of life's immutability. In the procession I should feel the crushing feet, the clashing discords, the ruthless hands and stifling breath. I could not hear the rhythm of the march. Salve! ye dumb hearts. Let us be still and wait by the roadside. The End.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christy B

    I loved this story for the beautiful writing and the intricate way of exploring the life of a tragic woman. I saw this as a tragic story, not as the example that feminists having been using it as for decades. The feminist themes are there, no doubt, but I don't think that Chopin intended it to be used as an example of what a woman in a similar situation should do. The Awakening is a story of a woman who feels bound and oppressed by her marriage and by motherhood. This stuff was never for her and s I loved this story for the beautiful writing and the intricate way of exploring the life of a tragic woman. I saw this as a tragic story, not as the example that feminists having been using it as for decades. The feminist themes are there, no doubt, but I don't think that Chopin intended it to be used as an example of what a woman in a similar situation should do. The Awakening is a story of a woman who feels bound and oppressed by her marriage and by motherhood. This stuff was never for her and she tries to escape them. I don't agree with her ways of escaping them, especially what she did to her children! Is that what feminists want to use as an example? I don't want to give too much away for someone who hasn't read this, but her actions in this book are too extreme. Seeing this simply as a tragic story of a selfish, oppressed woman, it is wonderful. At times I felt for this character and at times I was frustrated with her. The writing was, as I said, beautiful. Chopin really had a knack for conveying emotions without much dialogue.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I spent an entire afternoon reading the short stories in this book, enthralled and enraptured, skipping "luncheon" to bathe in the hedonistic tendencies of Chopin's women. I am now tempted to spent all of my student loans in some tailor's shop, a fine restaurant, a play. I am tempted to sleep with the neighbor and call it infidelity, though I'm not bound to any man. And mostly, because of this, I am happy to be free and alone, to have my options open in modern day life, to follow my thoughts and I spent an entire afternoon reading the short stories in this book, enthralled and enraptured, skipping "luncheon" to bathe in the hedonistic tendencies of Chopin's women. I am now tempted to spent all of my student loans in some tailor's shop, a fine restaurant, a play. I am tempted to sleep with the neighbor and call it infidelity, though I'm not bound to any man. And mostly, because of this, I am happy to be free and alone, to have my options open in modern day life, to follow my thoughts and no one else's, to have no responsibility designated to anyone. To fulfill my passions without approval, to work, to read and learn and spend money on no one but me. Selfish? Yes. But, living in the American south, why not be selfish? Everyone else seems to suffer under the weight of providing for more than one. Content alone, and materialistic by nature, Kate Chopin's work makes me happy. And that's all the women in this work want, really. But it doesn't stop at so mindless a conclusion. Her work deals with racism, inferiority, the suffering of women, the controlling and lesser minds of certain men who put themselves on a high horse, plain and dull, courting women of beauty. She deals with independence. The fulfillment of the woman. By any means she, and no one else, deems fit. *This review excludes The Awakening, which I will read sometime soon. For now, I'll review a couple of choice short stories. “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin Though Armand’s courting was swift and defined by a blind romantic prospect, the miscegenation triggers a wave of racism, a trait hoarded by the antebellum south’s white population. While it is overwhelmingly about race, there are tones of sexism dispersed throughout the work. Desiree, while housed by loving parents, is a typical childrearer when it comes to her relationship. Though not necessarily unexpected in the 1800s, the treatment she receives when eschewed from the home is packaged with the typical “mother’s duty.” She takes the child, now purged by its father for its skin tone, and she does not gather any possessions. Like some primordial mother, she’s forced from her own home without her own belongings, holding her only creation while his land metaphorically rips from her what little she has left on her own back. It begins with a dreamy outlook of motherhood and turns into a drudging responsibility. She is weighed down by a forced-upon inferiority complex that she believes in not because of her nature, but because of his designation of said nature. The twist at the end, a zenith of irony in literature, deems him partially African-American as well, but the wording—“I thank the good God for having so arranged our lives that our dear Armand will never know that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery”—implies that purging Desiree of her home is equal, in a sense, to purging his own mother, who also gave birth to a “quadroon,” a one-quarter African-American by descent. Familial ties are ruptured on the basest level, but also on a level of maternal guilt. “At the Cadian Ball” by Kate Chopin A predecessor to “The Storm,” the work seems to focus on transitory relationships that might have grown into something more befitting and fulfilling. However, they’re both stunted by the emotions and regulations of a culture. Because the ball is one of suitors and dames, there’s a finality to the relationships in place, and Calixta feels obligated to finish her time in the single life, regardless of who it might be with. Although Alcee is best-suited, his departure (a hoax) seems to indicate a permanent loss of what was blooming, turning into what Alcee sees as “a myth.” She goes away with a plain-faced and dull man that she has no real interest in, but rather settles for. Meanwhile, he is swayed by the confession of love from Clarisse. Never would he have gone with her if not for the extreme call of an emergency, a lie, indicative of her melodrama and desperation. It ruptures what might have been, and comments on the culture’s prospect of dating and marriage—limited dating, permanent devotion. Though it may result in a loveless marriage, she doesn’t care, as long as she’s adhering to southern culture. “The Storm” by Kate Chopin Chopin continues to take on heavy subject matter, especially for the time period, and the illicit sex is taboo even today. Adultery is a sin to theists, and theists dominated the literate bunch in the American south. However, she bravely writes about a lack of consequence due to this risqué happening. Calixta and Alcee, from the prior work, are ushered in the same house during a storm and their past tension from the ball culminates finally, six years after meeting. Meanwhile, their respective spouses take shelter—Bobinôt in a store as he buys his wife a gift of canned shrimp, and Clarisse in a town, unaware of the storm. They screw, they feel no guilt for having these feelings and the blissful unawareness of their spouses is indeed blissful. Perhaps if Alcee and Calixta had married those years ago, the passion would have long dwindled, as it has between him and Clarisse, who is relieved to get his letter saying she may stay away longer if it so pleases her. And it does. They’re all peaceful, and it’s a commentary on how the taboo of society does not always hurt—it may even gain for some individuals. Which kind of makes the word “taboo” null. “A Pair of Silk Stockings” by Kate Chopin While it may be pondered by early critics that the work is one of empty materialism, the silk stockings a metaphoric “serpent of Eden,” I think the work is a deserved indulgence of the modern woman at the time. Mrs. Sommers, having come across $15, initially plans to take the responsible route and spend it on her children, borne with a man who she’d never dreamed of being with in her youth. She’d been taken from her previous wealth and thrust into a life of motherhood in which her own joy was sapped for the duties expected of her. A day of indulgence is not a blasé, glamorous escapade, but also a brilliant display of a woman’s guilt in the time period for doing something she’d enjoy. She doesn’t strip herself bare to feed her children but she doesn’t starve them either, she cares for them, as mediocre as it may be. But the hedonistic tendencies of the individual is a subject I particularly like, the meaning of self-satisfaction and the attitude of women bravely engorging alone, shopping alone, pampering themselves alone. There is no sentiment from a man that she’d fall to her knees to appreciate in the work—it all comes from her. It’s a brave and particularly enjoyable work of greed and feminism. It is her money. Not her husband’s, not her children’s. And though moral responsibility has designated it being spent on them, the overtaking self-pampering usually unseen by the audience as a good thing prevails over those demands. “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin Cheering at the funeral procession and giggling in the wake of death is a crime due with the punishment only karma can pay. But is Louise Mallard so wrong for celebrating the death of a shackling life? Chopin studies the nature of the woman who must suffer under the wings of a usually nondescript man, not necessarily abused but subdued, and her study of women is unconventional for the time. They indulge—they’re all hedonists. They’re nowhere near angels, but they don’t want to be. They care, sometimes, to please people, but more importantly, they aim to please themselves. And who can argue against happiness? No, they don’t hurt anyone, but they certainly don’t care for people getting hurt. In this case, Louise is more than ready to embrace her husband’s death. Even the weather reflects her joy of warm, sunny days to come. Her abrupt sob is not genuine. There is no shock. When you’re told of death, the disingenuous and trained part of you says to cry. The natural part of you denies it. She swallows this claim with haste, springing up at the prospect of it. Of course, this cannot go. Denoting that women cannot survive without men might not have been Kate Chopin’s intention, but the implication is there. Perhaps it’s written that way to sell to audiences—this woman celebrating death is bad, isn’t that right, fellow moral readers? But her enjoyment strikes her so hard that her body cannot function anymore. A woman has not lived with such joy in her heart—a woman is not trained to endure such a pleasure.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)

    I did not enjoy this story, and I did not see why Edna's life was so bad. I can understand feeling restricted, but I think Edna was a very selfish woman. If anything, she should have thought of her children. I am not here to say that women don't have existences outside of their marriages, their children. I disagree strongly with that. But a woman has a choice to make. When she brings children into the world, it changes the decisions that she can make. She can be happy and she can have joy, but s I did not enjoy this story, and I did not see why Edna's life was so bad. I can understand feeling restricted, but I think Edna was a very selfish woman. If anything, she should have thought of her children. I am not here to say that women don't have existences outside of their marriages, their children. I disagree strongly with that. But a woman has a choice to make. When she brings children into the world, it changes the decisions that she can make. She can be happy and she can have joy, but she has to make sure that her children are loved and cared for. Edna was a pampered woman with an indulgent husband, and got to go on a nice vacation every year. She had servants, and friends. A lot of women don't even have those things, but manage to get up out of bed everyday and live their lives. Yes, she felt that she was denying her inner self, and had to marry, although maybe she didn't want to. I cannot deny that must have caused some emotional angst, but there is no either/or. There is, okay this is what I have, let's see what I can do with it. Make the best of what you have. Edna continually made bad choices. She made a mistake and had an extramarital affair. Not the end of the world. I believe her husband would have forgiven her. Or she could have even lived apart from him and hopefully still be a mother to her children. (Maybe I'm being naive about this for the time period, maybe not). She could have stayed with her husband and had a friendship marriage with no physical involvement and painted. Even carried on her affairs as long as she was discreet. She had some choices. A lot of women, a lot of people don't. I just didn't buy the option that she took. I think she was a drama queen.Sorry, I just didn't have much sympathy for this woman. I'd love to read Kate Chopin's other stories because she sounds like a phenomenal women. I hope that her other female characters have a maturity that Edna lacked.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mafalda Fernandes

    The Awakening - 4.5* I want to save and savor the other short stories for another time since I don't have other Kate Chopin works to read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    E. G.

    Introduction: The Second Coming of Aphrodite, by Sandra M. Gilbert Suggestions for Further Reading A Note on the Text --The Awakening --Emancipation: A Life Fable --At the 'Cadian Ball --Désirée's Baby --La Belle Zoraïde --At Chênière Caminada --The Story of an Hour --Lilacs --Athénaïse --A Pair of Silk Stockings --Nég Créol --Elizabeth Stock's One Story --The Storm: A Sequel to "The 'Cadian Ball"

  10. 4 out of 5

    kaelan

    With several hours to kill before an appointment, I decided to pop inside a bookstore to pick up something "short but old." In pursuit of this end, I solicited the aid of the shop lady—one of those former English majors who've evidently forgotten everything they might have once learned in university. Following several false starts ("Sorry, ma'am, but I've already read both Animal Farm and The Metamorphosis"), she pulled a slender book from the shelf, saying as she did so: "I can't remember if I With several hours to kill before an appointment, I decided to pop inside a bookstore to pick up something "short but old." In pursuit of this end, I solicited the aid of the shop lady—one of those former English majors who've evidently forgotten everything they might have once learned in university. Following several false starts ("Sorry, ma'am, but I've already read both Animal Farm and The Metamorphosis"), she pulled a slender book from the shelf, saying as she did so: "I can't remember if I read this in school, but I think people view it as important for feminism or something." Trying my best to ignore the garish cover design, which suggested some sort of third-rate historical romance novel, I consented to buy it. Before this incident, I had not heard of either The Awakening or Kate Chopin; and as I read through some of the short stories and vignettes that pad out this volume, I began to fear that her recent revaluation by critics had been more the result of patriarchal-related guilt than literary merit. Granted, tales like "Beyond the Bayou" and "Désirée's Baby" display a subtle knack for characterization and an admirable economy of prose. But as exquisitely crafted as they might be, these pieces nonetheless struck me as mere sketches, as études rather than sonatas. The Awakening, however, boasts all of the strengths of Chopin's shorter fiction, but without the flaws. First published in 1899 and originally (and more forcefully) titled A Solitary Soul, the novel follows the travails of a certain Edna Pontellier, a young New Orleans woman who grows disillusioned with her hollow yet perfect-on-paper existence. Married to a wealthy Louisiana businessman, Edna already feels alienated from the tight-knit, rambunctious and casually sensual Creole community in which she lives. Yet her feelings of isolation and discontent become amplified when she garners the attention of a young Creole man named Robert Lebrun, an attraction which, to Edna's simultaneous joy and despair, turns out to be mutual. Critic Marilynne Robinson, in her largely astute introduction, explains how many readers have taken the book to be a wholesale endorsement of the liberation of femininity from its patriarchal prison. But such an interpretation obscures the full extent of Chopin's genius. For The Awakening doesn't simply pit one half of a dichotomy against the another; rather, the novel teases out tensions and contradictions inherent to the notions of femininity, family and love. What is a woman's obligation to her children? What is the relation between love and duty? Like any other great novelist, Chopin shows herself to be far more interested in asking questions than in generating any definite answers. Sadly, The Awakening represents both Chopin's first and final excursion into the art of novel writing: in the face of a vicious critical backlash, the talented author opted to leave the business entirely. One hundred years later, the least we can do is give her magnum opus the attention it deserves.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dusty

    Most reviews of The Awakening begin with a qualification -- "For a woman of her time, Kate Chopin..." -- but not this one. I loved it from start to finish, loved it up, down, and sideways, loved it in a house, with a mouse, etc. It's an angsty American masterpiece -- a Catcher in the Rye for late 19th Century women, if you will, though not only women should/do identify with Edna Pontellier's internal/external struggle against the social "norms" that strap her without her consent into the "mother Most reviews of The Awakening begin with a qualification -- "For a woman of her time, Kate Chopin..." -- but not this one. I loved it from start to finish, loved it up, down, and sideways, loved it in a house, with a mouse, etc. It's an angsty American masterpiece -- a Catcher in the Rye for late 19th Century women, if you will, though not only women should/do identify with Edna Pontellier's internal/external struggle against the social "norms" that strap her without her consent into the "mother-woman" electric chair. But just as enjoyable, and just as worthy of your time, is Chopin's short fiction, a few representatives of which are included in this Penguin Classics edition. I had read a few of these before -- "The Story of an Hour", about a woman who revels for 60 short minutes in the (misreported) news of her husband's death in a train accident; "A Pair of Silk Stockings", about a woman who squanders her time and money in a desperate but guilty attempt to break away from her family and think about herself for awhile; and "Desirée's Baby", about a woman of unknown heritage whose life and marriage are ideal until (gasp!) her baby is born black -- but the others are playful and innovative and socially important, too. I kept the book on my "to-read" list for an extra month hoping I would find the time to return to and finish the last three of these stories, but it seems the stars have other plans in mind for my reading time, at least until the end of the semester. Anyway, Kate Chopin: One of my new favorites. The obsession commences.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    2016: I enjoyed reading this, but I wasn't enthusiastic about reading it. I think this will benefit from rereading. The characters and endings aren't the most developed, but the atmosphere of Louisiana is lush and realistic. I can see why this is an acclaimed work, but I wasn't blown away by it. 2020: I quite enjoyed a few of these short story this time: Ma’ame Pélagie, A Pair of Silk Stockings, and A Locket. I also was better able to analyze elements of The Awakening. I really loved how Chopin c 2016: I enjoyed reading this, but I wasn't enthusiastic about reading it. I think this will benefit from rereading. The characters and endings aren't the most developed, but the atmosphere of Louisiana is lush and realistic. I can see why this is an acclaimed work, but I wasn't blown away by it. 2020: I quite enjoyed a few of these short story this time: Ma’ame Pélagie, A Pair of Silk Stockings, and A Locket. I also was better able to analyze elements of The Awakening. I really loved how Chopin captured hot and tiresome summer days. I had also forgotten three-quarters of the plot, so that was a surprise!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Genia Lukin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I have to put this out there straight off; objectively this is a quite good book, a classic, and I have seen many other people like it. I cannot tell anyone not to read it, and, in fact, the writing style (though very much of its time) is clear and easy and well-crafted. Chopin knows her job as a writer, and does it decently, though perhaps, in my opinion only, she is not as fabulous as others make her out to be. On the other hand, my personal prejudice plays a great part in the rating of this boo I have to put this out there straight off; objectively this is a quite good book, a classic, and I have seen many other people like it. I cannot tell anyone not to read it, and, in fact, the writing style (though very much of its time) is clear and easy and well-crafted. Chopin knows her job as a writer, and does it decently, though perhaps, in my opinion only, she is not as fabulous as others make her out to be. On the other hand, my personal prejudice plays a great part in the rating of this book. I have never been able to understand that brand of Feminism (though I consider myself a Feminist, with full honours, I hope) that said women should, as a reaction to their oppression, become petty, thoughtless egotists, abandon everything, and do what they want, or else there is no point to their lives. Edna is exactly that sort of character, and though I can't say for sure whether the author condemns or approves of her (though I think the latter) I know that the text is considered a classic cornerstone of feminism, and that genuinely bothers me. Edna is not a wholly reprehensible person, of course, nonetheless, her basic attitude, which is made legitimate in the book, is "screw everyone, I'll do what I want". Her husband is certainly not a supportive, nice man, whom she could love, but he is not abusive or dreadfully oppressive, even for the times, and he deserves a modicum of respect, which she fails to give him. Her children, too, are to be pitied. Her life at the last, and her suicide, are all done with that complete throwing-off of responsibility that, I think, has no place in feminism, just as it has no place in any other movement or set of human relations. I can't approve it, condone it, or rate it higher than I did.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lesle

    The Story of an Hour (page 182) is a short story of Mrs. Louise Mallard who endures heart trouble and with great care is given the news that her Husband is killed in a train accident. Oh how life is gone as she knew it. She succumbs to grief and retreats to a room. She is so sad, a typical marriage they had, not a bad marriage at all. He was a loving husband in his way. Stupor takes over. Than postive sightings of Blue Skys and listening of Birds singing allows the grieving to soften and a sense The Story of an Hour (page 182) is a short story of Mrs. Louise Mallard who endures heart trouble and with great care is given the news that her Husband is killed in a train accident. Oh how life is gone as she knew it. She succumbs to grief and retreats to a room. She is so sad, a typical marriage they had, not a bad marriage at all. He was a loving husband in his way. Stupor takes over. Than postive sightings of Blue Skys and listening of Birds singing allows the grieving to soften and a sense of relief to slip in. She will have a life of living for herself and not for her husband, a bit of freedom. The thought lightens her heart and she leaves the room with a bit of happiness. But the sight...she was robbed of her freedom once again. Chopin writes with a bit of controversy subject but mostly in this story is realism, life as it was known.

  15. 4 out of 5

    sologdin

    A complex text. On the one hand, it chronicles, somewhat sympathetically, worthless waste of space proprietor losers in New Orleans, who are unwilling to do anything for themselves and accordingly would not survive without their legions of anonymous servants, whom they identify on the basis of skin color alone and about whom they complain constantly despite their abject dependence thereupon (cf. Agamben on Aristotle regarding slavery and the 'use of bodies')—a presentation in which the Civil War A complex text. On the one hand, it chronicles, somewhat sympathetically, worthless waste of space proprietor losers in New Orleans, who are unwilling to do anything for themselves and accordingly would not survive without their legions of anonymous servants, whom they identify on the basis of skin color alone and about whom they complain constantly despite their abject dependence thereupon (cf. Agamben on Aristotle regarding slavery and the 'use of bodies')—a presentation in which the Civil War is no caesura for slaveowners, except for a change in nomenclature. We see this plainly in comparing the novel with the concomitant selected shorts, mostly set in and around New Orleans—some of which are antebellum, demonstrating an unchanged proprietor demeanor and lexicon--except that the earlier tales mention 'slaves' specifically. This attitude toward servants persists currently in the city—we have homes marketed on the basis of no ‘white hands’ ever having worked the kitchen, say. It’s irredeemable, no matter which time period. On the other hand, this text is certainly an important moment of gender egalitarianism, making the feminist argument for liberation from servile marriages to indifferent or cruel spouses. In this regard, it rectifies an imbalance carried forth from the ancient world, as described by Foucault in the History of Sexuality books--how husbands maintained wives for household management and production of heirs; concubines external to the oikos for care of their persons, including sexual aesthetics; and young boys for ‘true love'--an erotic-economic quadrilateral. Chopin’s protagonist accordingly maintains a marriage that lacks desire, but features wealth and social position (which her husband is eager to preserve despite her leaving him); an out-of-town paramour whose main function is to catalyze the liberation of her mind from an indifferent marriage and which person she very likely prefers over all others; and a convenient crosstown lover who fills the void, as it were, left by the liberator when he is unable to be physically present at all times. Though Chopin was ostracized in her time for suggesting uxorial liberty in this novel, the modern era is thoroughly chopinized, insofar as it is not so difficult, for instance, to have become entangled simultaneously with three married women, who are quite distinguishable otherwise, in the three different roles described by this novel, i.e., as loathed spouse, as extrajurisdictional lover-liberator, and as hot local convenient and casual fuck. At no extra cost, all three women themselves shall be involved with all three types of person simultaneously, a quadrilateral of quadrilaterals, all because the women “apprehended instinctively the dual life—that outward which conforms, the inward life which questions” (57), which reminds one of the Frankfurt School interpretation of Luther--and, in apprehending it, the requisite revolutionary anagnorisis, desire to escape it. In both the novel and the real situations that I’ve known, the catalyst that awakens a somnolent spouse from her dogmatic slumber is a near-death experience or some event that confronts mortality—here, a swim into the Gulf, “as she swam she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself” (74), the “stretch of water behind her assumed the aspect of a barrier which her unaided strength would never be able to overcome” (id.). When she explains this experience to her husband later, his dismissiveness triggers the inference that life is too short for indifference and cruelty—which creates the space for desire for the absentee lover: “No multitude of words could have been more significant than those moments of silence, or more pregnant with the first-felt throbbings of desire” (77). From there, it is more or less axiomatic that she will leave her husband—and once that seal is broken, it is beyond easy to develop a third person when the second is unable to discharge the obligations created. She “began to feel like one who awakens gradually out of a dream, a delicious, grotesque, impossible dream” (78)—almost effortless, therefore, to create erotic quadrilaterals. It's likely, then, that this text stands for one of the practicable Rules for Affairs. We all know the first and most basic rule--mutuality of risk and obligation (i.e., married persons who have affairs with unmarried persons are fucking insane, say)--but here we see the chain of inferences to show that there will need to be some sort of distance between the spouse and the lover-liberator for the liberation to occur: out of town might be enough. And the corollary: once the distant lover-liberator defaults, the local casual lover is retained. Good times shall accordingly be had by all. Heavily recommended, especially for those living out the four-sided life.

  16. 5 out of 5

    S. Adam

    Okay, technically, I haven't finished reading the book because I still need to read the short stories that follow The Awakening. However, I must write what I think about Chopin's prized story before it escapes me. I absolutely disliked Edna Pontellier. I came into this novel with many expectations, primarily that this would be an amazing feminist novel. Nope! It was not, which I am okay with. I am not okay with how unhappy Edna is with her life. Yeah, her husband isn't super romantic, but her li Okay, technically, I haven't finished reading the book because I still need to read the short stories that follow The Awakening. However, I must write what I think about Chopin's prized story before it escapes me. I absolutely disliked Edna Pontellier. I came into this novel with many expectations, primarily that this would be an amazing feminist novel. Nope! It was not, which I am okay with. I am not okay with how unhappy Edna is with her life. Yeah, her husband isn't super romantic, but her life seems to be pleasant. When he sees that she is acting peculiar, he gives her space and trust. She is wealthy, has marvelous social dinners, and two adorable sons. Her life seems pretty darn great. Yeah, I understand that she sought her personal freedom, but compared to the mulatto women she has employed as nannies and maids, she seems pretty darn free to me. I have nicknamed this book "Rich white girl problems". I may have liked her more if she was not so immature. She refuses to attend her sister's wedding for no apparent reason even though it would mean a lot to her sister and father, and she smashes vases and stomps on her wedding ring like a juvenile. Um, girl, aren't you like 28? Her love for Robert does not seem like love but more like an obsession. It promises her adventure and change, which she is justified for wanting, but she could have gone about it more maturely. First, she was never for sure that Robert reciprocated it, so it seemed like she lived mostly on fantasy. Once, Robert came back and she pulled out the truth in him, she was ready to do anything for him--not very independent. Also before Robert returns, she has that affair with Alcee just because she felt like it. Alright,cool, she should be free to do so, but it just shows how capricious she is. I suppose she is groundbreaking by breaking social norms of the time, like moving out of her home and leaving her children, but at the end her suicide just proves she is weak. She is not an example for anyone. She lacks maturity and strength. I don't see her as an example for either women or men, or anyone really. I see that she felt oppressed and suffocated,but she was too extreme in her way of escaping. I will say that I enjoy the description of the Creole life in New Orleans. I love that history that Chopin relates. I hope her short stories don't disappoint.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Molliegordon

    I enjoyed this book. I read it in 3 days, over a weekend, and while I rushed the ending, I was engaged by it. What I found so important about this book is that it was written in a style where I felt I understood the main character's inner process. I enjoyed the limited dialogue with an emphasis on description, even during conversations. However, I felt that there was only one main character, Edna, and all the other characters reflected her setting. The ending (which I will not spoil) was particu I enjoyed this book. I read it in 3 days, over a weekend, and while I rushed the ending, I was engaged by it. What I found so important about this book is that it was written in a style where I felt I understood the main character's inner process. I enjoyed the limited dialogue with an emphasis on description, even during conversations. However, I felt that there was only one main character, Edna, and all the other characters reflected her setting. The ending (which I will not spoil) was particularly troublesome, but very indicative of the time. Our attitudes towards the issues in this book have changed in the past 100 years, so it is particularly interesting to view it as a window to another culture as well as literature of and by a woman. What I appreciate is that it was written at the end of the 19th century, by an American, and it's only purpose was to express itself. I felt no Feminist Agenda as we have come to know the Feminist Canon, and I appreciate it for what it was. It was a woman doing her best to express the natural process of awakening that is unique to women. In a way, it foreshadows Virginia Woolf's essay "A Room of One's Own". Again, a window into the culture of the time. I recommend it, and I look forward to reading it again.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Free download available at Project Gutenberg Just arrived from Canada through BM. A very touching novel, I loved it. Free download available at Project Gutenberg Just arrived from Canada through BM. A very touching novel, I loved it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I like some of Chopin's short stories so it was kind of disappointing to get to the Awakening and find that there really isn't that much to it. Beyond anything, I'm confused by it, because when I think of feminist texts, this just doesn't seem to do the trick. This is completely up to interpretation and debate, of course, but Edna Pontellier just doesn't scream "feminist hero" to me. Feminism (at least in my mind) should be embracing one's identity as a woman and seeking equality with men. Here, I like some of Chopin's short stories so it was kind of disappointing to get to the Awakening and find that there really isn't that much to it. Beyond anything, I'm confused by it, because when I think of feminist texts, this just doesn't seem to do the trick. This is completely up to interpretation and debate, of course, but Edna Pontellier just doesn't scream "feminist hero" to me. Feminism (at least in my mind) should be embracing one's identity as a woman and seeking equality with men. Here, we get Edna, who, if she didn't want to get married and be tied down by kids, shouldn't have gotten married and had kids. Even still, the Pontelliers have someone to take care of their kids for them, and they have a cook, so it's not even like Edna is really so overcome with domestic roles. There's like one day a week when she has to stay home to help her husband out, and she just quits everything to paint in her attic. I don't get it; if roles were reversed and Leonce dropped everything to pursue his hobbies, there would be a problem, so why don't we have a problem when Edna does it? Furthermore, is being discontent in a marriage an excuse to have an affair? Then the book ends and Edna literally quits. everything. I get that there's a problem in general with women being treated as possessions or as inferior in this books' society, but I don't think Chopin does a very good job tackling the issue. Edna wants Leonce to treat her better but she doesn't actually talk to him like a real person; she's just petty all the time. And that brings me to my second issue with the book, which is that, if this book wasn't a social commentary, it would be utterly unimpressive. I do admire some of the symbolism with birds and some of Chopin's writing style, but none of the characters are likeable and they aren't developed that much. With the exception of Edna going from hopeful to hopeless, nobody changes. Maybe Chopin did that intentionally to show the futility of society, but if she was going to write static characters, the least she could do was make some of them sympathetic. I don't feel anything towards anyone in this book, and that just doesn't make for good story-telling. So it's no wonder that the plot is pretty much at a stand-still for the entire duration of the novella. Not a whole lot happens. To close, I'll paraphrase a close friend of mine, who suggested that maybe the reason so many critics disliked The Awakening had less to do with the social criticism, and more to do with the fact that it's also not a very good book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Again)

    This is a short novel, published in 1899. It caused such a scandal that it was banned for decades afterward. The furor over this book was so upsetting to Kate Chopin that she gave up writing altogether. The story is about Mrs. Edna Pontellier, a Kentucky girl married to Leonce, a New Orleans Creole. One summer, When she is twenty-eight, something inside her starts to shift. She's not fully aware of what's happening, but she knows she feels different. Gradually she stops obeying social convention This is a short novel, published in 1899. It caused such a scandal that it was banned for decades afterward. The furor over this book was so upsetting to Kate Chopin that she gave up writing altogether. The story is about Mrs. Edna Pontellier, a Kentucky girl married to Leonce, a New Orleans Creole. One summer, When she is twenty-eight, something inside her starts to shift. She's not fully aware of what's happening, but she knows she feels different. Gradually she stops obeying social conventions and begins to do and say what she wants. Because she's a woman, everyone dismisses it and says, "Leave her alone and she'll get over it." But she doesn't. She becomes more and more independent and willful, unwilling to play the game anymore. It's a good read, and paints an interesting picture of New Orleans life and customs of that time. My copy (Bantam Classics) has an intro by Marilynne Robinson that really made me mad! She gives away the conclusion of the story in the second paragraph of the intro! So I read the entire book knowing how it would end, which I never would have guessed on my own. Mad, mad, mad!!! From a modern perspective, it's hard to see what could be scandalous about this story, but it was written in the Victorian age. The book also has a small collection of excellent short stories at the end. As far as storytelling, some of them are almost better than the novel. I especially liked: Beyond the Bayou Ma'ame Pelagie The Locket

  21. 4 out of 5

    Yoana

    Review of The Awakening here. The short stories are also great, especially At the 'Cadian Ball, A Gentleman of Bayou Têche and Elizabeth Stock’s One Story, showing a diverse and vital talent for storytelling. The introduction, however, is dismal. First of all, it promptly spoils the novel and almost all of the stories, without any warning whatsoever. Secondly, it's rambling and lacks focus or any discernible point, wandering from trying to excuse or erase Chopin's racist beliefs to pointlessly ask Review of The Awakening here. The short stories are also great, especially At the 'Cadian Ball, A Gentleman of Bayou Têche and Elizabeth Stock’s One Story, showing a diverse and vital talent for storytelling. The introduction, however, is dismal. First of all, it promptly spoils the novel and almost all of the stories, without any warning whatsoever. Secondly, it's rambling and lacks focus or any discernible point, wandering from trying to excuse or erase Chopin's racist beliefs to pointlessly asking questions about her personal life that lead nowhere. And thirdly and most offensively of all, it contains completely ridiculous accounts of the short stories that feel as though they were written by an internet troll to get a rise out of Chopin lovers by purposefully misunderstanding every single one of them. (view spoiler)[ For example: the author of the introduction states the protagonist is The Story of an Hour died of happiness upon seeing her husband she'd believed to be dead - when literally the entire freaking story is about her happiness at being free from her tyrant at last and the last line is *so obviously* ironic; she believes Desiree's husband knew about his origins and purposefully lied to her in an act of supreme cruelty that drove her to suicide when it couldn't be plainer from the text that he's only then just found his mother's letter that reveals the truth - not to mention that the whole dramatic power of the ending is completely lost if that's the case; she claims the protagonist in At the 'Cadian Ball loves Calixta but marries Clarisse for her social status - his feelings fro Clarisse are directly described as a kind of love he's not known before, they drive his actions and the narrative of the story, and when she accepts him at the end I don't know how his supreme happiness could have been shown more clearly. (hide spoiler)] So, in conclusion, it's 4 stars for the novel and stories and 1 for the Introduction.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paula W

    I really liked this. I think this novella made me a bit uncomfortable, though. I saw a lot of myself in Edna, and that's probably why I kept needing to put this book down and find something else to do for a little while. "A southern woman in a bad marriage who finds herself in a new place one day where her eyes are opened to realize that things shouldn't be the way they are" hit me like an intensely personal ton of bricks, because I've been there. Of course, it was easier for me to end a marriag I really liked this. I think this novella made me a bit uncomfortable, though. I saw a lot of myself in Edna, and that's probably why I kept needing to put this book down and find something else to do for a little while. "A southern woman in a bad marriage who finds herself in a new place one day where her eyes are opened to realize that things shouldn't be the way they are" hit me like an intensely personal ton of bricks, because I've been there. Of course, it was easier for me to end a marriage than it would be for Edna, and divorce wouldn't place a terrible stigma on my child and ruin his life. The choices available to me in this day and age were not available to her, so she reacted differently than I would have. Yet I truly understand when Edna said that she would give her life for her children but would not give her self. Everyone, even women and mothers, are entitled to a self that is an actual person instead of being forced to identify only as someone's wife or someone's daughter or someone's mother. I still don't feel like we have gotten there. Progress is being made, but we still have a long way to go.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Yuki

    The altar, 'tis of death! for there are laid The sacrifice of all youth's sweetest hopes. It is a dreadful thing for woman's lip To swear the heart away; yet know that heart Annuls the vow while speaking and shrinks back From the dark future that it dares not face. The service read above the open grave Is far less terrible than that which seals The vow that binds the victim, not the will: For in the grave is rest. The Marriage Vow, Letitia Elizabeth Landon (view spoiler)[ Found Drowned, George Frederic Watt The altar, 'tis of death! for there are laid The sacrifice of all youth's sweetest hopes. It is a dreadful thing for woman's lip To swear the heart away; yet know that heart Annuls the vow while speaking and shrinks back From the dark future that it dares not face. The service read above the open grave Is far less terrible than that which seals The vow that binds the victim, not the will: For in the grave is rest. The Marriage Vow, Letitia Elizabeth Landon (view spoiler)[ Found Drowned, George Frederic Watts (hide spoiler)]

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chase Anderson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Yaaaaas, Queen Edna! Do you or die tryin, girl. Hero all the way. This is why one must always live near water.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Reread from high school; I remembered almost nothing but the ending. The writing is beautiful.

  26. 5 out of 5

    maricar

    I admit it’s difficult to try to put up what I think would be my own review of The Awakening without it being influenced by Sandra Gilbert’s introduction (uhmm, so maybe I shouldn’t bother, eh). And yes, this reading was done haltingly, in between long stretches of intervals… *shakes fist* damn you, attention span shot to hell! To posit Edna Pontellier as a ‘mother-woman’ on the verge of going through minute yet slyly rapturous, if harrowing, changes from within which would ultimately coalesce in I admit it’s difficult to try to put up what I think would be my own review of The Awakening without it being influenced by Sandra Gilbert’s introduction (uhmm, so maybe I shouldn’t bother, eh). And yes, this reading was done haltingly, in between long stretches of intervals… *shakes fist* damn you, attention span shot to hell! To posit Edna Pontellier as a ‘mother-woman’ on the verge of going through minute yet slyly rapturous, if harrowing, changes from within which would ultimately coalesce into a sort of ‘second coming of Aphrodite’ is an interesting take. I’m not well-versed in feminist schools of thought, and, indeed, Edna’s (rather inexplicable) journey towards emancipation from the shackles of family and societal expectations to approach an existence much like that of the deity, is something I would not have been able to connect. But, as Gilbert has listed the nuances with which Chopin laid the setting and events wherein Edna would find brimming dissatisfaction, disquiet, and then silent resistance (for example, recurring themes of gendered objects), I do find myself having to applaud this author’s writing style. What is also striking for me is the resilience with which Chopin refused to stick to conventional norms as to how an event should play out, and even how seemingly innocuous statements or behaviors from decidedly normal characters inadvertently give a faintly surrealistic dimension to a scene. Edna’s persona in turmoil, for instance, sums up the ways in which a reader can never truly anticipate anything from this story. The heroine shifts from extremes of happiness and complacency with her lot in life, and in the next, she wants – no, craves – to be disconnected and swept away from her husband, her friends, her suitors, and even her children. She could be mellow in a nondescript domestic tableau and then later on become slightly irritable and choose to walk away from it all. She could be unwittingly seductive to the two men who pursue her attention and in the next breath wish to be rid of their company (the fact the she is entertaining such attentions is, of course, food for thought already). Perhaps it is because of how Chopin almost always abruptly turned the nature of Edna and of the events unfolding around her in ways unexpected or unconventional that makes this novel worth waiting out ‘til the end. True, the ending was too ambiguous to provide any concrete sort of closure, but that perhaps was the intent… And as I do try to find words to describe how I more or less feel about this work, the image that persistently (and strangely) crops up is that of a scene from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film, in which Elizabeth Bennet’s aunt remarks to Lizzy, after meeting Mr Darcy, “There’s something…pleasant about his mouth when he speaks.” For me, Chopin’s style is not so much grandiose or flowery (as I have originally feared from some authors during this period) as it is sedately elegant. She has honed a fine balance between injecting a sense of judicious economy and allowing freedom for fanciful and emotive ruminations in her narration. (Perhaps that’s where the Mr Darcy spectre comes forth – a man outwardly staid but surprisingly capable of impassioned expression… I don’t know…) Such juxtaposition can, for instance, be witnessed in the following passage: Mademoiselle opened the drawer and drew forth the letter, the topmost one. She placed it in Edna’s hands, and without further comment arose and went to the piano. Mademoiselle played a soft interlude. It was an improvisation. She sat low at the instrument, and the lines of her body settled into ungraceful curves and angles that gave it an appearance of deformity... Edna did not know when the Impromptu began or ended. She sat in the sofa corner reading Robert’s letter by the fading light... The shadows deepened in the little room. The music grew strange and fantastic – turbulent, insistent, plaintive and soft with entreaty. The shadows grew deeper. The music filled the room. It floated out upon the night, over the housetops, the crescent of the river, losing itself in the silence of the upper air... Edna was sobbing, just as she had wept one midnight at Grand Isle when strange, new voices awoke her…,” (116). As it is, The Awakening is an easy read. More often than not, even enjoyable. However, I have to say – much to my surprise – that is it not as enjoyable as the short stories following it. These short stories, showing snapshots of the complexities of relationships between men and women, women and women, and almost everything else in between, were superbly written. Chopin illustrates, among other things, how the much-vaunted romantic love can be skewed, misunderstood, highly-politicized, or later be revealed as really nothing more than an ideal – which in itself can either be cathartic or disastrous. Marriages are never completely stable, and, indeed, are more likely to be a prison that can literally bring a woman to her knees in despair. Husbands and wives can be shown as people possessing unknown depths of blissful ignorance at the rot that has taken hold of their relationship. And then there are stories that dwell largely on the role of women – mothers who, for once, allow themselves to be selfish and indulge (be it for just one day), wives who have reached the end of their tether and stand up their husbands, and in turn, discover something about themselves, or single women who daily have had to confront the world at large and often come out as the victims. Overarching these vignettes is a reflection of women in society (and indeed, society reflecting on women), as problematized and succinctly highlighted by the author. And, yes, the endings in these short stories can leave one surprised, disoriented, or rueful. Well, that certainly was the case for me. And the sensation was so refreshing I never wanted my edition to run out of these novellas.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I have tried very hard to understand why so many people like Kate Chopin's work. I read "The Awakening" a year ago, and I am currently working my way through "At Fault." I just don't get the appeal. Certainly, her skill drastically improved in the span of time between "At Fault" and "The Awakening." However, as a writer she is not very good. Her writing is mundane, monotonous, and sometimes just plain dull at best. She had a way of being blunt to an extreme and I don't think I've ever read anot I have tried very hard to understand why so many people like Kate Chopin's work. I read "The Awakening" a year ago, and I am currently working my way through "At Fault." I just don't get the appeal. Certainly, her skill drastically improved in the span of time between "At Fault" and "The Awakening." However, as a writer she is not very good. Her writing is mundane, monotonous, and sometimes just plain dull at best. She had a way of being blunt to an extreme and I don't think I've ever read another writer's work that was so devoid of meaningful character development or description. As a whole, I couldn't understand why this is considered a positive feminist novel. This story was hard for me to enjoy because it essentially asks you to feel something for a bunch of characters that don't really deserve your pity or respect. Selfishness reigns supreme in this tale, from the villainous cold-hearted husband to the supposed hero, right down to the so-called heroine Edna. (view spoiler)[Her husband wants exactly what he wants, what he feels he is entitled to since Edna consented to their marriage, and he systematically turns the children against Edna because he does not get satisfaction. Edna agrees to be married but is unhappy when it affects her free and flighty nature. She laments not having a connection with her children but also makes no genuine effort to restore a connection with them. She flirts with Robert and eventually they fall in love, and she begins to feel conflicted by marriage and her desire to be with a man she really loves. Robert is also selfish. He seemingly has no issue with flirting and dallying with Edna right under the nose of her husband, however, he does not want the responsibility of a genuine relationship with her. Once he begins to realize that Edna is seriously considering leaving her husband for him, Robert starts backing out. He plays the coward and travels off to Mexico to avoid her, only to come back and toy with her again before dumping her for good. Meanwhile, while Robert is away in Mexico, Edna's love is not quite so strong for him to prevent her from taking another man as a lover. Yet when Robert leaves her for good, her empowerment and strength as a 'modern woman' abandons her with him. Her pride won't let her overcome it, and she instead chooses an easy out by way of suicide. (hide spoiler)] The choices made by the 'heroine' of this piece do not reflect a positive message for feminists. At best, the 'awakening' that this character experiences is one of an immature girl to that of a slightly-less immature young woman. A true feminist novel would not send the message that the final conclusion made by Edna is the only positive outcome available. If Edna had truly 'awakened' into a mature woman of her age and with her obligations, she would have taken pride in re-building a relationship with her children, regardless of whether she went back to her husband or not. If her pride would not let her bend to his will or at least attempt to compromise between the two of them, it could have at least allowed her to behave in a manner that would not reflect poorly on her children. Instead she dooms her children to a life in which scandal hangs about their heads like a perpetual rain cloud. Feminists, truly, are not ruled by vanity, lust and selfish pride in themselves. They want equal rights in society for the female sex across all nations. They want a better, equal opportunity for all their children, and their grandchildren, and future generations. It is not personal selfishness to want a better and fair life for all. Kate Chopin's character couldn't care less about anyone but herself and her own vain desires. At the heart of it all, in the end she is an incredibly weak woman who was dependent on and crushed by a man who abandoned her. Where is the feminism in that?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    I haven't finished the entire book yet - I'll get to the short stories in the next day or so. But I finished "The Awakening," and I'm not sure just what I think of it yet, thus I've given it somewhat of an ambivalent 3-star rating. (Warning: my review contains information about the plot...) This was an interesting read, made more so by understanding the era in which it was written (late 1800s) and that women back then didn't have the right to be as autonomous as they are in today's world. Edna is I haven't finished the entire book yet - I'll get to the short stories in the next day or so. But I finished "The Awakening," and I'm not sure just what I think of it yet, thus I've given it somewhat of an ambivalent 3-star rating. (Warning: my review contains information about the plot...) This was an interesting read, made more so by understanding the era in which it was written (late 1800s) and that women back then didn't have the right to be as autonomous as they are in today's world. Edna is in a marriage that doesn't suit her, and she doesn't find much happiness in the day to day responsibilities of her domestic life, though she wouldn't describe herself as discontent. Then she meets Robert and ends up falling in love with him, and a switch is turned on as her "awakening" to her new self begins. My question is, what exactly is she awakening to? Robert disappears from her life for a few months just as Edna realizes her love for him; subsequently, Edna continues to uncover her true self as she starts shedding her domestic responsibilties - she stops taking callers to her home, she leaves the care of her children entirely up to the nanny, and she begins to do whatever she pleases despite the impact it seems to have on her husband and how their acquaintances view them. Then she meets another man, and while I'm not sure she ever gives herself completely to him, she spends much of her time with him and has an affair, all the while pining away for Robert. Of course, Robert returns to her life at this point, and Edna tries to resume her affair with him. Her "awakening" is beginning to make her look like the town trollop. It seems she is awakening to her adolescence, rather than to a new, better self. But perhaps this is to be expected. Women today are able to study whatever interests them and support themselves without breaking any rules of society. Today's woman also freely dates and sleeps with whomever she wants, usually without creating a scandal. Most women go through this time of their life during their early twenties or while in college. Edna was never given that freedom, nor were other women of that time. Maybe it's normal that she seems to regress by today's standards. The part of the novel that I truly had a hard time with was the ending. Throughout the book, Edna is striving to become more independent. She follows her own desires and even moves out of her house to live in a small apartment on her own. But when Robert rejects her because he realizes that their society will never allow them to be together in the end, I think she does something that is out of character - she kills herself. Instead of awakening to the independent Edna we've been witness to throughout the novel, in the end she shows herself to be dependent on a man for her happiness.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paula Bardell-Hedley

    "She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before." This short but impassioned novel, first published at the turn of the 19th century, portrays a new way of thinking; a dissension among the women of North America and Europe, which caused excitement and consternation in equal measure. Kate Chopin's clever, lyrical story, set on the Louisiana Gulf coast and in New Orleans, draws on the lives of the Franco-Creole beau monde, using their apparently sparkling lives as a backdrop to highl "She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before." This short but impassioned novel, first published at the turn of the 19th century, portrays a new way of thinking; a dissension among the women of North America and Europe, which caused excitement and consternation in equal measure. Kate Chopin's clever, lyrical story, set on the Louisiana Gulf coast and in New Orleans, draws on the lives of the Franco-Creole beau monde, using their apparently sparkling lives as a backdrop to highlight the strict social conventions of the day. The young Edna Pontellier, an attractive, seemingly happily married woman, dreams of putting her needs before those of her husband and children. She is far from contented with her cosseted but strictly controlled existence, and becomes wilful and defiant. Her subsequent behaviour is considered unacceptable and unwomanly in such a patriarchal society. Chopin is a magnificent storyteller. Her frank portrayal underscores the very real frustrations experienced by her contemporaries and vividly depicts the tremendous courage required for a woman to slip her shackles.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I read this book for the first time when I was sixteen, before I understood myself as a feminist or an artist or had any sense of my own possibilities or power, and it changed my life. This story for me is a cautionary one about the danger of awakening to your reality and trying to take control of your own life before you have the necessary skills, a community or a system of support. Edna is invalidated by her husband and his world, abandoned by her lover, and not truly believed in by the one wo I read this book for the first time when I was sixteen, before I understood myself as a feminist or an artist or had any sense of my own possibilities or power, and it changed my life. This story for me is a cautionary one about the danger of awakening to your reality and trying to take control of your own life before you have the necessary skills, a community or a system of support. Edna is invalidated by her husband and his world, abandoned by her lover, and not truly believed in by the one woman she turns to for inspiration and support. I grappled with a story for a long time that paints a revolutionary woman as ultimately not enough, but I've come to see Edna not as a failure, but as failed. She is brave, idealistic, and takes unimaginable risks to make her life into something good. In the end, she finds herself utterly alone--it's understandable that she could not come back from the abyss she dared to contend, because there was no one on the other end, urging her through.

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