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The Awakening

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When first published in 1899, The Awakening shocked readers with its honest treatment of female marital infidelity. Audiences accustomed to the pieties of late Victorian romantic fiction were taken aback by Chopin's daring portrayal of a woman trapped in a stifling marriage, who seeks and finds passionate physical love outside the confines of her domestic situation.

Aside from its unusually frank treatment of a then-controversial subject, the novel is widely admired today for its literary qualities. Edmund Wilson characterized it as a work "quite uninhibited and beautifully written, which anticipates D. H. Lawrence in its treatment of infidelity." Although the theme of marital infidelity no longer shocks, few novels have plumbed the psychology of a woman involved in an illicit relationship with the perception, artistry, and honesty that Kate Chopin brought to The Awakening.

195 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1899

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About the author

Kate Chopin

553 books1,467 followers
Kate Chopin was an American novelist and short-story writer best known for her startling 1899 novel, The Awakening. Born in St. Louis, she moved to New Orleans after marrying Oscar Chopin in 1870. Less than a decade later Oscar's cotton business fell on hard times and they moved to his family's plantation in the Natchitoches Parish of northwestern Louisiana. Oscar died in 1882 and Kate was suddenly a young widow with six children. She turned to writing and published her first poem in 1889. The Awakening, considered Chopin's masterpiece, was subject to harsh criticism at the time for its frank approach to sexual themes. It was rediscovered in the 1960s and has since become a standard of American literature, appreciated for its sophistication and artistry. Chopin's short stories of Cajun and Creole life are collected in Bayou Folk (1894) and A Night in Acadie (1897), and include "Desiree's Baby," "The Story of an Hour" and "The Storm."

Some biographers cite 1850 as Chopin's birth year.

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5 stars
54,482 (27%)
4 stars
66,120 (32%)
3 stars
51,112 (25%)
2 stars
19,964 (9%)
1 star
9,572 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 10,131 reviews
Profile Image for Kristen.
151 reviews289 followers
July 8, 2011
Why so many ugly one star reviews? All about as insightful as the ubiquitous one star reviews of Lolita which call Nabokov the man a child molester, raving morons who can't distinguish a character from an author and go beyond simply missing the point. And how ironic that all these reviews seem to be from women raging that this book (which they all obviously read for their 'gender theory' class) features a character who abandons her children. Ugh, women who criticize this as a feminist novel because the main character isn't a good mom and then base their ratings solely on how much they like the main character. Do these people only give high ratings to books with characters they like? Do they think women characters in fictional books shouldn't have flaws, ennui, and basically everything that makes a character good? They want the character to be human but lack any flaws, they want her to be a feminist hero but denounce her for not putting her children before herself. Is it that they would have accepted it in a male character but not from a 'wife and mother' because when I read these reviews that is what it looks like to me. Why is she in all those one star reviews held up and judged as a woman and not a human being? Is that not the essence of feminism? If so these dumb broads are the ones who are anti-woman, not Chopin, who wrote this in 1899 for fuck sake!

The whole point of the book is about her discovering herself as an individual, and that even as an individual we exist in a society and as humans have to balance being an individual with the fact we are social animals. Her failure isn't that she abandoned the children but that she abandons herself. If this has a failure as a feminist novel it is the formulaic ending where she is punished for her desires. I'd like to see a story when the woman runs away and is not punished by death, as is the always the ending, now that would be progress!

Not that it's a great book, my few friends who rated it gave in mostly 3 stars, and that's about right, I'm adding an extra star out of spite.

Also, this is my first book read on my new kindle, so that was pretty exciting!

Profile Image for Samadrita.
295 reviews4,678 followers
September 3, 2014
Often I have witnessed women, who proceed to talk about misogyny, sexism, or state their views on a piece of feminist literature, starting their discourse with something along the lines of 'I'm not much of a feminist...but'. As if it is best to put a considerable distance between themselves and this feared word at the onset and deny any possible links whatsoever. As if calling herself a feminist automatically degrades a woman to the position of a venom-spewing, uncouth, unfeminine, violent creature from hell whose predilections include despising all males on the planet with a passion and shouting from the rooftops about women's rights at the first opportunity.

Attention ladies and gentlemen! Feminism is not so cool anymore, at least not in the way it was in the 80s or 90s.

Don't ask what set off that particular rant but yes I suppose the numerous 1-star reviews of this one could have been a likely trigger.

So Edna's story gets a 1 star because she is a 'selfish bitch' who falls in love with another man who is not her husband, doesn't sacrifice her life for her children and feels the stirrings of sexual attraction for someone she doesn't love in a romantic way. Edna gets a 1 star because she dares to put herself as an individual first before her gender specific roles as wife and mother.

But so many other New Adult and erotica novels (IF one can be generous enough to call them 'novels' for lack of a more suitable alternative term) virtually brimming with sexism, misogyny and chock full of all the obnoxious stereotypes that reinforce society's stunted, retrogressive view of the relationship dynamics between a man and woman, get 5 glorious stars from innumerable reviewers (majority of whom are women) on this site.

This makes me lose my faith in humanity and women in particular.

Edna Pontellier acknowledges her awakening and her urge to break away from compulsions imposed on her by society. She embraces her 'deviance' and tries to come to terms with this new knowledge of her own self. She desires to go through the entire gamut of human actions and emotions, regardless of how 'morally' ambiguous, unjustified or self-centered each one of them maybe.

And isn't THAT the whole point of this feminism business?
"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people." - Rebecca West

A woman needs to be recognized and accepted as a human being first - imperfect, flawed, egocentric, and possibly even as a bad mother and an irresponsible wife, just like the way society accepts a bad husband as a bad husband, a bad father as a bad father and moves on after uttering a few words of negative criticism. Somehow being a bad father is reasonably acceptable, but being a bad mother constitutes a sacrilegious act.

Edna's husband is equally responsible for abandoning their children as she is. He limits his role as a father to performing minor tasks like buying them bonbons, peanuts and gifts and lecturing his wife on how they should be raised without bothering to shoulder some of her burden. As if the task of raising children requires the sole expertise of the mother and the father can nonchalantly evade all responsibility while maintaining a lingering presence in their lives.

I have seen readers being empathetic to unfaithful fictional husbands and their existential dilemmas (case in point being Tomas and Franz in 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' which I am currently reading) and even trying to rationalize their incapability of staying in monogamous relationships. But oh heaven forbid if it's a woman in the place of a man! Women are denied entrance into the world of infidelity or casual sex (and in the rare case that they are allowed, they are given labels like 'slut', 'whore', 'tart' and so on). They need to be absolute models of perfection without fail - angelic, compassionate, thoughtful, always subservient, forever ready to be at your service as a good mother and a good wife and languish in a perpetual state of self-denial with that forced sweet smile stuck on their faces. Double standards much?

Edna is a little flawed and, hence, very humane. Edna is in all of us. And her cold refusal to let societal norms decide the course of her life, reduce her to the state of mere mother and wife only makes her brave in my eyes.

Profile Image for Meredith Holley.
Author 2 books2,274 followers
June 9, 2013
In a hearing I observed once, the husband testified that he had tried to have his wife served with his petition for divorce in the Costco parking lot. The wife went running across the parking lot to avoid service, and her eight- and ten-year-old kids ran after her, dodging traffic and jumping into the wife’s car as it screeched out of the parking spot. The husband filmed them on his iPhone, shouting, “You’ve been served! You’ve been served!”

The judge commented that it was troubling to watch a video of the kids running through a dangerous parking lot and asked the woman why she ran. The woman replied, “I don’t believe in divorce, your honor.”

The judge said, “Well, ma’am, it’s not like the Easter Bunny: it exists.”

There is that point in a woman’s life when she wakes up suspecting that the fairy tales she grew up with were not telling the whole story, that there is life beyond the sunset at the end of the movie and that life is not easier than life before the sunset. And, there are any number of stories in which that anvil falls on a character’s head. Tolstoy writes the cautionary morality-tale version in Anna Karenina, Flaubert writes the pastoral tragedy version in Madame Bovary, and Elizabeth Gilbert writes the self-involved douche version in Eat Pray Love, to name a few. But, then, The Awakening. This one is my favorite. This is the beautiful one.

For example, there is this:

"Do you know Mademoiselle Reisz?" she asked irrelevantly.

"The pianist? I know her by sight. I've heard her play."

"She says queer things sometimes in a bantering way that you don't notice at the time and you find yourself thinking about afterward."

"For instance?"

"Well, for instance, when I left her to-day, she put her arms around me and felt my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were strong, she said. `The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.'”

All the women in this book are birds: clucking hens, sheltering their brood; decorative birds in cages; and Edna growing wings and trying to fly away. I love the image of women as birds because I think it is so vivid in showing a woman’s disconnect with society. Just the image of a bird in a cage is something out of place, confined where it should be free. It is unwelcome and unnatural out of the cage, but unable to leave. The movie Moulin Rouge uses the image, too. Where Ewan McGreggor’s character is the traditional Orpheus, whose gift is his song, Nicole Kidman’s is the woman as a bird. “Oh, we will,” she says to her own pet bird, “We will fly, fly away from here!” I don’t know where this metaphor originated (sirens?) or how it became what it is in these stories, but I think it is poignant.

I care about people’s relationships a lot. Probably too much at times. Relationships seem like these delicate, mysterious aliens to me, and we should whisper around them so we don’t scare them away. That is one of the main reasons I hate weddings – because so often you have this new, fragile relationship, and what do people decide to do to it? Smash it with the sledgehammer of planning a giant event that symbolizes the most bitter and painful emotional vulnerabilities of everyone in the general vicinity. The relationship might be beautiful and strong going into a wedding, but after getting piled with the emotional baggage of the families and friends involved, it is something else entirely. It is just off the rack, but threadbare already from wear and strain.

And a marriage, a wedding, is not a relationship. A marriage is a contract. A wedding is an event. A divorce is a dissolution of a contract. A relationship is something else. A relationship exists or doesn’t exist outside of any events or licensing. Sometimes a wedding is too heavy for a relationship to bear, and sometimes a marriage is too heavy for it. It often looks to me, when people get engaged, like they are trying to subscribe to a certain type of relationship and the engagement is the subscription form. But, as far as I can tell, relationships are wild and can’t be subscribed. And, nobody knows how strong they are but the people in the relationship, and sometimes not even them.

But, also, if you are Edna, if you are living your life, going along, and then you suddenly realize that you are not living your life, but that you are in some kind of costume and acting in a play: devastation. None of your relationships exist, but the people around you have relationships with the character you played. And there is no going back. You've already betrayed them, and you didn't even know it, and they've already betrayed you by not realizing you weren't you. When you start realizing who you are, there is too much momentum to turn around. You are already out of the cage and flying away, whether your wings are strong or weak, whether the wind is for you or against you.

In Kate Chopin’s world, I think, divorce was like the Easter Bunny, like the sunset that a woman could swim towards but not see beyond. The end of this story, to me, is a rejection of that world, which held nothing for Edna. It is a demand for something else. It is sad, yes, because it is appalling that there was nothing for her, but it is not wrong or unfair, I think. While I do not think the story is cautionary to women, I do think it is cautionary to the world. It says, what you hold for us, with your rigid, gendered propriety and your cages, is not enough. We are more, so the world needs to be more.

And I think it has become more. I think, as a woman, that while I was funneled toward Edna’s sad, empty life, I have been able to reject it, strong wings or not, and decide to be a real girl with real relationships, not just the meaningless façade of engagement and marriage and divorce. There are other options now because of books like this. It is not easy or perfect, but it is something real, something that exists.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,993 followers
December 12, 2016
This review is being posted mainly because of the awesome backstory. I actually had to read this twice in high school and didn't care for it much either time.

But, here comes my great story!

When I was a sophomore in high school I went out with this girl who eventually dumped me and gave the reason that she was only going out with me until the guy she really liked showed interest in her. A real downer!

Fast forward to senior year . . .

I was in theater and I just so happened to do shows at the all girls school where the aforementioned girl went. After a performance (I was Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie), she came up to me and said that she needed to talk to me and that she was interested in me attending prom with her!?? WHAT!?? I hadn't talked to her in a couple of years . . . my mind was blown!

I said yes, but I was skeptical . . .

While at prom she sat me down for "the talk". She said that she felt terrible for what she did to me. She said that while reading The Awakening, she started to realize that I was really good to her and being the place holder for this other guy was not fair to me. *VINDICATED!* She wrote an essay about what she had done to me and how the book had opened her eyes (an awakening, perhaps???). This essay ended up winning some sort of state-wide competition. *Feeling pretty great by this point!*


She came up to me at the end of the prom and asked me if she could leave with another guy who she has been kind of interested in for awhile . . . (you can't make this stuff up!) So, I got my vindication, but history repeated itself - at least I wasn't officially dating her this time!
12 reviews2 followers
January 8, 2010
I'd like to give this book ZERO stars, but it's not an option. This is hands down the worst book that I've ever read. I will never say that again in a review, because this one wins that prize.


I had to read this thing twice in college, and it is a horrible story. We are supposed to feel sympathy for a selfish woman with no redeemable qualities. Just because her marriage is bad it does not give her the right to be a lousy, despicable person. Get a divorce? Yes. Find new love? Yes. Abandon your children, be completely self-absorbed, commit adultery, and drown yourself? No, no, no, and no. This is my problem with the book. Drowning oneself and leaving one's children without the guidance of their mother is a tragedy. The book would have you believe it is a triumph. This is the irredeemable flaw in the book.

It is also physically impossible to die the way she did. You cannot float to the bottom of the ocean. Your body will force you to swim and fight. It is a scientific fact that you cannot drown yourself without a struggle. She would have struggled in the end. Yes you can swim out so far that you can't make it back in and would drown in the process. But no, you can't just sink to the bottom. It would be a horrible, gagging, gasping, throwing up salt water, kicking your arms and legs fight.

The writing itself is nothing special. It's not bad. Chopin is not a bad writer on a technical level, but she is no expert either.

I hate to be the one raining on the parade, but this is the most overrated book I have ever come across.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews38 followers
April 23, 2022
The Awakening, Kate Chopin

The Awakening is a novel by Kate Chopin, first published in 1899.

The Awakening set in New Orleans and on the Louisiana Gulf coast at the end of the 19th century, the plot centers on Edna Pontellier and her struggle between her increasingly unorthodox views on femininity and motherhood with the prevailing social attitudes of the turn-of-the-century American South. It is one of the earliest American novels that focuses on women's issues without condescension. It prefigures the works of American novelists such as William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway and echoes the works of contemporaries such as Edith Wharton, and Henry James. It can also be considered among the first Southern works in a tradition that would culminate with the modern masterpieces of Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, and Tennessee Williams.

‎The awakening and other stories, ‎Kate Chopin; edited by Nina Baym; introducton by Kaye Gibbons‬, ‎New York‬: ‎The Modern Library‬, ‎2000 = 1379‬. 375 p.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش نسخه انگلیسی: روز یازدهم ماه آگوست سال2014میلادی

عنوان: بیداری؛ نویسنده: کیت شوپن؛ برگردان: ماهان سیار‌منش؛ رشت دوات معاصر‏‫، 1397؛ در 210ص؛ شابک9786009989133؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالت متحده آمریکا - سده19م‬

رمان «بیداری» نوشته ی روانشاد بانو «کیت شوپن» است، که نخستین بار در سال1899میلادی منتشر شده است؛ داستان درباره ی زندگی «ادنا»، و کشمکشهای ایشان، بر سر اندیشه هایی درباره ی زنانگی، و مادر بودن است؛ کتاب یکی از نخستین رمانهای آمریکایی است، که بر مشکلات زنان تمرکز میکند، و از سویی، در دیدگاه اندیشورزان، نقطه ی آغازینی، برای برابری زنان و مردان، به شمار میآید

داستان با «ادنا» آغاز میشود، او با خانواده اش، برای گذران تعطیلات، به جزایر «گرند» رفته اند؛ در آنجا «ادنا»، به مرد جوانی به نام «رابرت لبران» نزدیک میشود، اما پیش از اینکه با هم رابطه داشته باشند، «رابرت» به «مکزیک» میرود؛ «ادنا» بدون «رابرت»، احساس تنهایی میکند، اما چیزی نمیگذرد، که به خانه ی خویش در «نیو اورلینز» برمیگردند، و ایشان دوست پسری برای خودش پیدا میکند....؛ فیلم «گرند آیزل» نیز با الهام از این رمان ساخته شده است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 13/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 02/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,727 followers
August 22, 2021
Book Review
4 of 5 stars to The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I read this book several years ago and wrote a paper on how society treated women during that period in literature. I cut and paste some from it below, as I think it offers more than a normal review on this one. Please keep in mind, I'm referring to women in the 19th century, i.e. the characters from the book -- not thoughts on women today! As for the book -- it's fantastic... love seeing what people thought 150 years ago, seeing some things never change and some people are just always wrong! And for the record, I loved Edna... thought she had a right to, and should have, pushed the envelope more.

Note: some spoilers below about the ending. Read with caution.

Question: Edna Pontellier: Does Innocence Prevail?

Society expects women to remain pure and chaste, to ignore the urge to engage in any type of behavior that could be construed as flirtatious, and to follow the demands of their fathers until marriage. However, women see these limitations as too restrictive, which is why they live their lives in a way that suits them and not others. Women often take control of their own lives by participating in flirtatious behaviors, ignoring parental wishes, and engaging in pre-marital sex. When women are married and still wish to live their own lives, they may have extra-marital affairs, they may leave their husbands or lovers, and they may commit suicide. These behaviors are ways of striking out against the unfair limitations placed on them. Often the “desire to be socially functional and acceptable can lead to hostility to those who appear to be unconventional or independent” (Allen 336). As a result of this hostility and striking out, whether or not women are truly innocent has pervaded the minds of American society.

Since the innocence of women has always been a subject that captivates society’s mind, writers will often take advantage of this and create works that are about women’s innocence. The realistic period of literature, from the end of the Civil War to World War I- 1865-1915, contains many works that are representative of women and their level of innocence. In works such as Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899), there are female characters whose innocence comes into question. Edna Pontellier lives her life in such an ambiguously flirtatious way that the people from the society in which they live, all question the women’s innocence and morality. Edna is somewhat guilty, although she has an excuse. Edna is just entering her womanhood for the first time at a time when views were quite different than today. She may lose her innocence with several men, but she never knew what innocence was prior to her sexual awakening. Regardless of Edna’s actions, she is still innocent even though her flirtatious behavior implies that she isn’t. After she faces society’s wrath, she turns inwardly to find support instead of turning to the people around her. After thinking about her future, Edna meanders down the path of self-destruction and commits suicide, as a way to get out of the misery that she is in. When her innocence appears to be lost, she chooses to take her own life, rather than fight to show society that she has done nothing wrong. However, she never really loses her innocence permanently, as it was only hidden under her awakening to womanhood.

In The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, Edna Pontellier, a young, married woman is also removed from her usual American home to that of the French Creole society in New Orleans, Louisiana. Even though the story still takes place in America, the French Creole society is more European than American. It expects the people that live there to follow European beliefs about women, innocence, and sexuality. Edna has been married to Leonce Pontellier for several years and they have two sons also. They spend their summer vacations on an island off the coast of Louisiana during the summers, not that far from the mainland where they usually live. Edna grew up with a father who expected her to follow his rules as perfectly as possible. He was a “hypocritical, gambling, toddy-drinking, pious-talking Presbyterian [from Kentucky]” (Skaggs 98). His interpretation of religion was to be irreconcilable during the week, and then atone for it on Sundays at worship. Edna thus became two separate souls within her own body. She wanted to be pious and good which explains why she remained married to Leonce in a loveless marriage for nearly ten years. However, she also had a passionate, wild side to her which suddenly erupted after she met Robert Lebrun on the Grand Isle. According to James H. Justus, the imbalance which haunts Edna is within the self, and the dilemma is resolved in terms of her psychic compulsions. Caught between conflicting urgencies-her need to succumb to her sensuality is countered by an equal need for a freedom that is almost anarchic” (Justus 73).

Edna Pontellier is bored with her husband, her life of motherhood and housekeeping upon her return to the mainland. She also wants to be free to do whatever she chooses instead of being chained to her husband. She enjoys the attention that she gets from Robert and finds the young man quite attractive. Once started, “Edna makes no attempt to suppress her sexual desire, she does not hesitate to throw off her traditional duties towards her family. She realizes she is unable to live as the inessential adjunct to man, as the object over which man rules” (Seyersted 62). As a result, “Edna Pontellier has her first affair out of sexual hunger, without romantic furbelow. She is in love, but the young man she loves has left New Orleans” (Kauffmann, 59). Edna Pontellier is an adulterer, but one can forgive her because she was thrown into a marriage that she was not ready for after living by her father’s rule for so many years. Edna never had a chance to grow up as a woman. As a result, she is forced to suppress her sexuality, and it comes out full force during her summer vacation with the Lebruns.

Nevertheless, Edna and Robert’s affair has a positive influence on Edna’s life. Carley Rees Bogarad believes that “Edna’s desire for the first time in her life is directed at someone who returns it and who has been fulfilling her emotional needs. She finally has evidence from the way Robert has been treating her and from her own emerging sense of self that she might choose to live in a more meaningful, constructive and active way. She does not lose her sense of responsibility; she redefines it” (160). However, Edna loses Robert when he leaves the country, and she is forced to return home with her husband and two children where her life becomes monotonous and dull without Robert. Later, She meets Alcee Arobin, who reminds her of Robert in some ways. Edna and Arobin also begin an affair with each other. This time, “Edna enjoys the company because [Arobin] is a charming man, attentive, amusing, a person of the world. He is a sexual partner who does not ask for, expect, or give love. Consequently, Edna need not feel that she is compromising him because she loves another. What she slowly discovers is that there is no way to separate what the body does from what the mind or heart is feeling without creating a violation of self (Bogarad 160). Edna definitely seems as though she has no morals by this time. She couldn’t care any less about her family; all Edna wants to do is explore her new found sexual awakening. She is viewed negatively for this among society; Yet, in reality, “the men in her life split her-Robert sees her as the angel, and Alcee sees her as the whore” (Bogarad 160).

Edna Pontellier is a victim of fate, and cannot be faulted for that. She can’t help but be awakened sexually, which leads to her numerous affairs with Robert and Alcee. After moving out of the house and living on her own, in the way that she wants to, Edna slowly dwindles down to nothing. She loses her husband, Robert, and Alcee. Robert briefly returns and it seems as though he and Edna will reunite, but they don’t. Instead, Edna’s awakened feelings and lifeline diminish her. Spangler remarks that “in the final pages, Edna is different . . . she is no longer purposeful, merely willful: no longer liberated, merely perverse: no longer justified, merely spiteful” (Spangler 155). In the end, Edna is left barren and desolate. She wanders out to the sea, strips off her clothes, and jumps in to her death. According to Spangler, “Chopin surrounds Edna’s death with contradictory symbols of defeat and rebirth. This makes it difficult to assess the meaning of Edna’s final act and accounts for the various readings proposed. There is also the further complication that it is not clear whether Edna’s death is consciously chosen suicide or whether it, like much else in Edna’s life, is simply drifted into” (156). Edna’s tragic end leaves readers wondering what her purpose was. Edna could represent women who are “‘perversely attracted to forbidden fruit’ [and for women that] want to possess [which] forms only destructive relationships rather than those that [are] true and lasting’ (Roscher 292). All that the readers can infer is that “her actions and final suicide suggest that she is a woman whose will and determination force her ‘to go her own way’; but a closer look at Edna shows that she is not a character who rejects a society in ‘thought and act’ . . .” (Portales 431). Edna Pontellier may have had some affairs, but she still remains innocent in some ways. She never knew what love was when she married Leonce. She had been influenced by her father and assumed that she would fall in love with Leonce once they got married. Nevertheless, Edna tries unsuccessfully, so she then determines to just have a good time, but she falls for Robert and enters into a relationship with him - perhaps the first one when their is requited love between the two. Edna cannot be blamed for losing her innocence therefore, since she didn’t have it when she was married. She didn’t even know what it was to not have innocence at that time. Edna suffered at the hand so fate and her father. She rarely had control of her own life.

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For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.7k followers
May 26, 2022
assigned reading is good, actually.

probably i never would have thought to pick up this novella from a million years ago unless i had once been made to read it, but not done so really, and ultimately felt a lasting low-level guilt that would motivate me to revisit it 6 years later.

and that was an enjoyable scenario by and large, so.

this is my argument.

anyway. this is a good feminist text. it's not as magically still equally relevant as a room of one's own, nor is it as charming or funny or beautifully written, but still. that feels like an unfair standard.

i will say, though, if you're in the market for a short and feminist novella-ish thing from a hundred-ish years ago, i have to recommend that one over this.

but why not both?

bottom line: a rare win for public education standards!

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Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
943 reviews14k followers
November 6, 2015

probably the most beautifully written book i've ever read, plus so much feminism it makes me weak. I adore this book and I am going to be buying my own copy soon so that i can reread and reread and reread it until I die.
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,320 followers
June 22, 2019
"Not Waving But Drowning!"

Edna doesn't want to belong to anyone but herself. She wants to be free to choose her life and love with a passion not directed by society's expectations. She will not give up the essence of her soul to anyone or anything and that ultimately destroys her spirit - for lover and husband and family all have the same idea of a woman's place in the world: she "belongs" to them like a possession. She can be given up or traded or protected as if she was a tool or a piece of jewellery.

When she capitulates, it is to the impossibility of life if you are not strong enough to fully dare and defy like an artist.

She does not give in. She gives up.

A wonderful short novel of identity and community, of love and integrity, of belonging and freedom. To be read and reread whenever one feels like one is much too far out, and no one sees the waving.

Profile Image for Sanjina.
7 reviews7 followers
February 20, 2008
I guess I can understand why The Awakening is considered so important in the development of the feminist canon. At the same time, I can understand why it was rejected so adamantly in its own time. Chopin is an okay writer. Her work, however, seethes ignorance. Her work was ignored in its time because it really was not worth the recognition. Anyway, that’s my humble, and not so intellectual, opinion.

The protagonist, 29, seems to awaken into an adolescence of sorts in this book. In the guise of discovering her sexuality and moving towards some kind of self-actualization, she does little more than become the town trollop while engaging in pseudo intellectual banter and hysterics. Yes, I said hysterics.

She addresses such issues as being a prisoner of marriage, society, social graces, and motherhood. At the same time, she never makes the mental baby steps towards a lifestyle that would give her the power of her own agency. She is spoiled, coddled, and does not have the courage to be a self sufficient person. When she decides to rebel, she does it by cheating on her husband, abandoning her children and responsibilities. All the time she is surrounded by servants, extravagance, and people feeding her distorted sense of entitlement. Ultimately she is humiliated when someone with a better sense of reality rejects her advances. She is left to build this new life for herself alone. Truly alone. This tremendous blow leads her to suicide. She could not handle standing on her own two feet.

You can’t tell me that Chopin’s work is so juvenile and lacking because she was the first. She wasn’t. Not in Creole Louisiana. Look at Aphra Behn, Mary Wollstonecraft, even Mary Shelley. That was literature. Those were the building blocks of feminist writing. Chopin is spoiled, confused, and completely unaware of how the world around her really works.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jr Bacdayan.
211 reviews1,741 followers
March 28, 2019
If a woman decides out of whim to shun the familial responsibilities of motherhood and wife and become a servant to her passing senses – she should be rebuked. If a man does it – he should be rebuked all the same. Any person regardless of gender, age, or social standing who demonstrate such irresponsibility deserves their chastisement.

I have read a lot of varying responses to this novel and a good deal of them criticizes this book for the selfish irresponsibility of its flawed heroine. And make no mistake; I would be the last person to approve of her actions. However the gravity that this book carries lies not in the heroine’s flawed actions but in her ability to be flawed. Written during the backward 19th century society that not only asks but creeds that women should be the perfect embodiment of macho yearning: subservient, immaculate, modest, sensitive – and to be otherwise was to be unwomanly. Kate Chopin presented the then remote possibility that perhaps a woman defines herself rather than is defined by the conventions and social-edicts around her.

Our heroine, Edna Pontellier, cannot shake this feeling of unease. There lies upon her this great premonition that there exists someone inside her that is neither a wife nor a mother. “She thought of Leonce and the children. They were part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul.” And so, driven by affection for another man, she walks slowly along the tragic path of her defiance against her husband and the cruel society that she is part of. Bolder with each step she takes, she slowly comprehends that her war against the world is not just about which man she chooses to love but about her sense of identity as a woman.

There lies the devil. Edna was condemned for there was no victory at hand for her no matter how she struggled. Society did not permit her, a woman, to freely become the person she sought to become – a creature of her own volition. Yet in the face of certain defeat she displayed courage and will power till she had none more to give, defeated by her time.

“The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth. Whither would you soar?”

The 21st century is as unforgiving and treacherous for a woman as centuries past. Patriarchy and misogyny, for all the battles won, have found new ways to contain the gifts of womanhood and shackle her thoughts. But the wind of progress is blowing stronger than it has ever had. Mothers are not just mothers, and wives are much more than wives. There is a clamoring for you to be brave, to lead, to be different, to be flawed.

Will you soar?
Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
576 reviews7,764 followers
April 10, 2015
Even though the entire plot of this novel can be summed up as, "woman sits around and does nothing while having feminine thoughts", there is a resounding beauty in its monotony. The Awakening is a quick and affecting novel (especially with that ending). While I do think that it may be slightly subject to over-hype, there is no contesting its importance as an early feminist work. And on that account, I would recommend it.
Profile Image for Houston.
11 reviews32 followers
November 14, 2007
“It sometimes entered Mr. Pontillier’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.”(p. 79)

“What have you been doing to her, Pontillier?”
“Doing! Parbleu!”
“Has she,” asked the Doctor, with a smile, “has she been associating of late with a circle of pseudo-intellectual women—super-spiritual superior beings? My wife has been telling me about them.”(p. 91)

“Authority, coercion are what is needed. Put your foot down good and hard; the only way to manage a wife.” (p. 99)

“Conditions would someway adjust themselves, she felt; but whatever came, she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself.” (p. 110)

These quotes sum up for me the difficulty Edna faced as she became herself, or discovered herself. The book is her journey, inward and then outward as well, to finding who she is and how she wants to be. I love the image of ‘daily casting aside’ her old self like a ‘garment.’ Of course, the trouble was that her husband and the men around him all thought that she was losing her mind. The Doctor even accuses the husband of being too lenient. Blame is directed not only at the husband, but also at other women, unnamed ‘pseudo-intellectual’ women. These men cannot understand or explain Edna’s behavior or change in attitude. At this time, and even now, women struggle to gain independence from the role of wife and mother. Trying to figure out where the self is within the confines of those roles, and how to manage the three successfully is still difficult. The last quote is so strong, Edna finally recognizing that she owns herself, that she is not property—not just someone’s wife, mother or even lover or friend—she is her own person and she grows stronger, finding her resolve. This resolve is what leads her to her final decision, becoming absolutely her own person to the exclusion of any other role. The end is somewhat disturbing, though poetic. The struggle between Edna and her environment, her time and those around her—her inner struggles—all seem to lead her to that final point of no return.
Profile Image for Kelly.
889 reviews4,127 followers
May 9, 2017
“It may all sound very petty to complain about, but I tell you that sort of thing settles down on one like a fine dust.”
-Warner, Lolly Willowes

This book is an early distillation of a particular kind of novel that was being written periodically throughout the early twentieth century. These novels are all variations on the same theme, but the basic outline is the same. This one will serve to give you a pretty good idea of the lot:

Edna Pontellier is the rather well-to-do wife of a New Orleans businessman with two children, a well-appointed home, servants and a clear, clearly fulfilled place in her particular social circle. Her husband is kind to her in many conventional ways: he spares no expense on the household, takes something of an interest in the raising of the children, buys her personal and lavish presents and summer holidays, seems to offer periodic compliments and is not at all jealous or possessive. He has his faults of course- he likes his routines to be how they are and he places great importance on his wife fulfilling her “feminine” role in the household and society- dealing with the servants, ensuring high quality dinners, ministering to his needs and generally putting him first when he is home, being constantly involved with children, paying the same morning calls to the same wives of business associates that she always has. None of these expectations is particularly out-of-line for her time and place, and indeed she has never had to bear some of the extra morally horrible but legally acceptable extra burdens other wives have to shoulder without questioning. Her husband is occasionally rude and out of temper, he sometimes spends his evening out with his friends and blames her unfairly for occurrences that are blown all out of proportion. But that's about it.

And yet, “It may all sound very petty to complain about, but I tell you that sort of thing settles down on one like a fine dust.”

Of course, as we know, this is not the real problem. The problem is with the underlying foundations of the Patriarchal System of Various Assumptions and Ground Rules. In this case, the System manifests in her husband’s casual assumption that she sees her “occupation” as he does, to live her life as a recommendation and added enticement to her husband’s business career, or even to further it. There’s a scene where he recommends that she accept and reject calling cards and invitations on the basis of whether each woman in question has a husband that will further his career. He expects to everything at home reflect his success out of the home, including the dinner he eats (which he seems to be more upset about on the basis that it does not suit his status than anything). He conceptualizes her private life as a “public” one (since she has no “public” one to add to his), bound by all the same accommodations and professional decisions that a person in a career might make. When she deviates from her conventionally feminine choices, he assumes she may need medical treatment.

Like the feminine version of Bartleby the Scrivener, the rebellion phase begins with “I would prefer not to,” and continues until she’s figured out she would simply prefer not to live most of her life at all. Then of course, she has to decide what to do next.

This is where a lot of the stories differ. In Lolly Willowes, perhaps the clearest parallel to this book, the book brings to the surface all the guilt and self-hatred that that “fine dust” can arouse in a woman used to a lifetime of its constraints. Lolly actually conceives herself to be a witch, *an actual servant of the devil*, because she finally chooses to live a life according to her desires, to ignore the claims and needs of the other people that she has spent her life tending thus far. This is encouraged by the fact that Lolly has never achieved that supposed “highest calling” for women: a husband and children. Thus, all she is supposed to have to offer is a life of selfless service to others that she is dependent on. Thus it makes sense for her to consider herself not only less than nothing, but actually actively evil for denying to further repay society what is seen as her only natural duty, given her lack of these highest blessings. All Passion Spent is another perhaps more mature parallel. In this iteration, Lady Slane actually has achieved the husband and children. What is more, they are grown and successful, with children of their own. Her husband was an eminent public servant and she fulfilled her “role” (just like Edna’s husband had requested) for all of her life. As Edna states clearly and expressively in The Awakening:

"at a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life- that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions."

Lady Slane has maintained this and chosen not to tell anyone for decades upon decades of marriage, so much so that even her family forgot that she was an actual person rather than a precious object, of sorts, to be taken care of much as an heirloom might be. Her Bartleby moment comes through in a meeting deciding her future, where her children have almost forgotten that she is a participant in the conversation. She decides to live out her life, like Lolly, in a house of her own. In this case it is the house itself, rather than an imaginary relationship with the devil, that becomes Lady Slane’s rebellion. A quirky, falling apart house with a sympathetic caretaker, becomes, bafflingly to her family, of greater interest to her than her children and grandchildren.

The Enchanted April is a luxurious, loving and-all-too-temporary bath of the golden sunlight of the prime of this story. It’s presented as a fantasy of escape. The women involved take a house in Italy and spend charmed, perpetually-twilight-hour weeks of stillness, contemplation, repressed anger and joy escaping their obligations to their family, to their husbands or other men, their poses to the world and their need to repress their feelings. There is one woman, indeed, who sometimes barely seems to move at all, perpetually walking around with a suppressed, blissful smile on her face. There are men in the novel, but they enter what is clearly a world of women, enchanted indeed by their fantasies and repressed longings. Some women place more boundaries and limitations on letting themselves go than others, but the trend is there, and it is the opposite of what is found on the outside. Even this brief moment of suspension and stillness restores some of the women enough to go on, some couples leave transformed, more or less, and we fade out with quiet, with sheer quiet still the ultimate dream of nirvana.

Mrs. Dalloway provides a different, more kaleidoscopic perspective on the same theme, perhaps even a slightly more optimistic and loving one in its own way. Clarissa Dalloway actually finds a kind of fulfillment in her duties as a housewife, in her every day errands and domestic creations. The interesting change of perspective here is that it seems like Woolf’s attempt to understand how this can be the case when she herself is so unlike this, rather than having the perspective be explaining a “different” woman to a mass of people who understand and live her opposite. Clarissa Dalloway, like Edna, understands that split between the interior and exterior life and instinctively lives it out each day. She, like these other women, has desires beyond her household, but has found reasons not to fulfill them. She has found her own way of making her life her own- even with a husband that she seems to have not much connection to, with a former lover for whom she can still have strong feelings after all these years, and with an unsatisfying daughter who is decidedly not her double in any way. She’s able to make these obligations into a kind of mission and to see the tiny beauty in the every day things that she achieves, or at least to come to see it after a daily struggle with her whole situation that mirrors some of the feelings these other women have, even if she justifies it to herself and thinks through it differently. Her slightly more optimistic conclusion (in its way) about the business of fulfilling her role as a woman and what it can lead to, at its best, does not at all lessen the struggles and doubts and reflections that we see her go through. Her success in repressing them might make her stronger in some ways, but it doesn’t mean that she, like Lady Slane, has seemingly ceased to be a person in the eyes and become only outward show. She maintains her personhood throughout, which is triumph most of these ladies desire to achieve anyway.

Of course, the most obvious precursor to all this is the infamous Emma Bovary’s disastrous venture into speculation and dreams, due to her insatiable longing for something more, something higher to believe in than the calling she’s been given as a woman. Anna Karenina has its own piece to share as well, of course, in its way. But these headlong, rush-to-the-head statements, these explosions of joy and rage are screams in the night, almost in a category by themselves, one separate from the whispers, the candlelight dreams and embedded-in-the-everyday transformations that are the rest of these books. Those ladies seek to destroy, to smash, in a way, whereas these ladies seek to simply… exist in a different way. They want to find a way for themselves that is slightly different, not the expected, but not…publicly. These are still private individuals still interested in keeping their privacy and existing within most bounds. They are at most…. Slightly off, in the context of their day, or perhaps in the case of Clarissa Dalloway, not outwardly “off” at all. They are interested in delving into and acting on some specific and long cherished thoughts that are not necessarily radically out of the norm. It is the sort of “odd” that earns you sideways looks from your children and a “Well, I just never thought that you,” or “I just don’t know what you mean by…,” when you push them as to what exactly is wrong. It’s eccentricity, not revolutionary.

I think the better predecessors are the more-or-less coded versions of the narrative that we find in Villette and Jane Eyre, and a wistful, painful statement of it through Dorothea in Middlemarch. Charlotte’s versions of it are covered over with the Victorian balm of marriage, of course, in the end. But both Lucy and Jane are interested in the sort of honesty, the sort of “to thine own self be true” that leads so many of the other ladies above to question what it is that they want and why. Villette, especially, offers its audience an ending that is, at best, deeply ambiguous as to whether it is marriage itself (rather than the act of it) that sets Lucy free or not. Her husband will never be any sort of ideal, and the way that he speaks to her has what would politely be called bracing honesty for a virtue. With Jane, of course, while she allows marriage to be more of an ideal achieved for her, the ideal is not achieved until they can meet as both financial and intellectual equals with something both material and spiritual to bring to the marriage, to assure anyone judging them that Jane has something worthwhile to contribute. This echoes Edna’s abandonment of her home and everything her husband ever bought her, her fixation on her husband’s money as the thing that binds her and keeps her in servitude, the same way that Jane refused the finery Rochester offered for their first wedding.

Dorothea’s Saint Theresa is a more or less open presentation of a woman with more passion, intelligence and drive to achieve something than the bounds of her life will allow. Like Lolly, her dreams and thoughts of how to conceptualize these capacities inside of her are bounded by the perceptions and assumptions that are presented to her by society. Thus, she dreams of assisting a “Great Man,” of the sort of loving service that Lolly has been condemned to provide, if of a more intellectual sort. When women are encouraged to make ideals of men, to see them as the “superior sex,” those sorts of personalities that are inclined to want the best for themselves, to reach for all life has to offer, will take actions to see that they are a part of that. Her disillusionment is both expected and painful to read about. What is interesting about her is that she actually is a person who wants obligations to fulfill and to provide the sort of self-sacrificial service that women are demanded to provide. She’s begging for it- her problem is that the obligations given to her are not enough. In the end, she too finds happiness in the “better marriage,” that allows her more outlet to take on more obligations and be happy doing it. And yet, her end still leads to one of my favorite expressions of the reasons why feminism exists and is still so necessary:

“Many who knew her, thought it a pity that so substantive and rare a creature should have been absorbed into the life of another, and be only known in a certain circle as a wife and mother. But no one stated exactly what else that was in her power she ought rather to have done.”

It’s tossed in the middle of a paragraph in the midst of an epilogue that includes the entire main cast- coded, in its own way then and robbed of the end-of-book statement it should have enjoyed, but we still end on Saint Teresa, contemplating the great sacrifices that Dorothea was capable of, and questioning what more she might have achieved without these every day obligations pressing on her.

Thus Edna Pontellier had many eloquent sisters saying, painting, singing, and subliminally messaging all the shades of this message for decades before The Awakening gained a wide, or almost any, audience. But she was one of the ones who did it both first and openly (remember again that the Brontes and George Eliot did it in more coded ways, and that Madame Bovary was, after all French and a scandal for decades.) In 1899, while not banned, the book was widely rejected and shunned by the reading public. Libraries refused to carry it. It got mixed reviews, but even the good ones who shied away from prudish or “conventional” condemnation of morality and unorthodox gender roles chose the secondary criticism of those who find it distasteful but realize that to say so would make them look backwards of bourgeois: the condescending complaint that she could have chosen a loftier, better subject for her talents rather than “entering into the overworked field of sex-fiction,” as a writer for the Chicago Times Herald put it.

Of course I understand that in 1899 writing about women having any sort of sexual feeling or longing would have made this smut, automatically. But looking at the book from a modern reader’s point of view, I would be hard pressed to call this “sex fiction” of any kind. What I appreciate, and what I think other modern readers may appreciate about this particular iteration of the theme was how honest and free of…. devices, I guess would be the best word, that it was. There were minimal metaphors used to try to describe what she was trying to say, nor was the thing encased in the alternate, inner universe of thought. The book was almost… naïve, childlike, even sentimental about the way that it depicted Edna’s realization and actualization of her freedom. I thought that it was very earnest about trying to just… almost just record a series of moments that added up to Edna’s inability to deny what she had been feeling.

Therefore, like these other quiet, figuring-it-out- ladies above, we get to go from her smallest feeling of “oddness” and difference through to her growing desire to act on it. The first major stand-off starts from a desire that Edna has to sleep outside on a hammock on a warm evening, rather than come inside. It is a small thing that increasingly becomes important the harder her husband pushes her on it. Eventually, he joins her outside to smoke his cigar and pretend to anyone watching that this was a communal desire. Slowly, this crushes out any magic her rebellion has until she slowly slips inside. We see her little by little move from stand-offs to the simple refusal to do ever larger things, withdrawing herself by choice from her life, from every thing that does not matter in itself, but, when added up, constitutes the life that she has been living in its entire. I think that this method of doing it was quite powerful, since we get to see all the little things that prick her and needle her into, after years of repetition, making the huge change that she does.

Eventually, Edna has a frank conversation with one of her closest friends, trying to explain the essential difference between this woman’s priorities and her own. She finally tells her:

“I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.”

The woman doesn’t understand, and says so, but the important part is that we see Edna trying to think through this and express her own new limits and boundaries and define them as different than others. Which is of course, as we saw above, the real work of becoming a person on your own, rather than an accessory, or someone acting out a defined role for themselves that does not require them to think out their own feelings or desires.

This was my favorite part about what Edna’s journey tries to show us. That, sexuality and all, one of the major essences of feminism is, as someone said, that women are people. All Edna is doing in this book is testing out her likes and dislikes, finding friends that she herself enjoys, finding an occupation that fulfills her, and rooting out those things from her life which she does not like or need.

I mean, that sounds like college to me. High school, college, my twenties. Edna is twenty-eight and has had really, none of that experience except brief infatuations, conquered quickly. She’s missed out on it all, and this is about her realizing that she has missed out on something. Which, as Chopin eloquently tells us, is more than most women of her class and status get the chance to realize, given the confines, expectations, obligations and, frankly, apparent rewards and the something-like-happiness endings that many are able to achieve, at least according to the script they’ve had since they were little girls:

“A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly within her- the light which, showing the way, forbids [her realization of why she was doing what she was doing]. At that early period it served but to bewilder her. It moved her to dreams, to thoughtfulness, to the shadowy anguish which had overcome her the midnight when she had abandoned herself to tears.

In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her. This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight- perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually vouchsafed to any woman.

But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such a beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult!”

Do you see what I mean by how straightforward it is?

(... continued in the comments).
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,219 reviews9,916 followers
July 31, 2020

He looked at Edna's book, which he had read; and he told her the end, to save her the trouble of wading through it, he said.


If you piled up all the novels about marital infidelity you would… well, you’d need a team of assistants with engineering skills and probably ninja powers, plus some hang gliding experts when the extendable ladders reached their limit, and then a lot of expensive final assistance from the NASA International Space Station because the pile would reach to the moon.

So I can’t recommend this novel for its original theme. Reviewers at the time called it the American Madame Bovary. In fact it got a bad reception all round. They were shocked by the boldness of Edna, our heroine, who never loved her husband, can live cheerfully without seeing her two kids for months at a time, and gets to kiss two separate men who aren’t her husband.

This was 1899, not the swinging sixties, and it was New Orleans, not Paris when it sizzles, so Edna’s awakening to the possibilities of life outside bourgeois convention was never going to be a frenzied spree of threesomes and hot tubs and alfresco shagging exploits. But there is no doubt Edna does get to shag one of these kissy guys. This is how Kate tells us :

He had detected the latent sensuality, which unfolded under his delicate sense of her nature's requirements like a torpid, torrid, sensitive blossom.

That’s hot, isn’t it.


Aside from the implied extramarital sex the reviewers hated on Edna for her less than maternal desire to park the kids and get on with her painting. But actually, you see guys in books doing this all the time, Brideshead Revisited springs to mind, but any story featuring a boarding school will do. Edna got clobbered for being seen to breathe a sigh of relief when the kids were off her hands. She makes oddball statements like :

I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself.

Elsewhere Kate is fiercer and less ambiguous

The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul's slavery for the rest of her days. But she knew a way to elude them.

Such a kicking was dished out to The Awakening that it faded into obscurity for 50 years and was rediscovered and then became a classic, whatever that means. So Kate Chopin lines up with the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Nick Drake, Rodriguez and, of course, Herman Melville (you couldn’t give copies of Moby Dick away in 1920).


Kate is funny, She has a glinting, wicked, stiletto-between-the-ribs humour, especially about ghastly husbands. Edna’s other half moans to his doctor

She’s making it devilishly uncomfortable for me…she’s got some notion in her head concerning the eternal rights of women

And she point-blank refuses to go to her sister’s wedding :

She says a wedding is one of the most lamentable spectacles on earth. Nice thing for a woman to say to her husband!

The doctor comforts Mr Pontellier

Woman, my dear friend, is a very peculiar and delicate organism—a sensitive and highly organized woman, such as I know Mrs. Pontellier to be, is especially peculiar. It would require an inspired psychologist to deal successfully with them. And when ordinary fellows like you and me attempt to cope with their idiosyncrasies the result is bungling. Most women are moody and whimsical. This is some passing whim of your wife, due to some cause or causes which you and I needn't try to fathom.

Some other old trout gives up the following wisdom :

“You are too lenient, too lenient by far, Leonce,” asserted the Colonel. “Authority, coercion are what is needed. Put your foot down good and hard; the only way to manage a wife. Take my word for it.”
The Colonel was perhaps unaware that he had coerced his own wife into her grave.

When Edna does finally grab a few pleasurable evenings with a nonhusband, the delicious cynicism is still there

“I'll go away if I must; but I shan't amuse myself. You know that I only live when I am near you.”
He stood up to bid her good night.
“Is that one of the things you always say to women?”
“I have said it before, but I don't think I ever came so near meaning it,” he answered with a smile.


I loved all of this novel, even the ending. I could imagine some readers hurling The Awakening at the wall after reading the last page – I can’t say why naturally – and I sympathise with them but no, this was a great ending.

I could have read this many years ago, it was always there, but better late than never.
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews964 followers
March 25, 2020
A once-controversial novella about marital infidelity, The Awakening considers the devastating emotional toll of the constraints of Victorian womanhood. The story follows Edna Pontellier, a would-be artist trapped in a loveless marriage, as she pursues illicit romance and financial independence in the face of suffocating social disapproval. The more distant Edna becomes from her husband and children, the more awakened she feels to life’s possibilities and the richer her inner life becomes; at the same time, her guilt over relinquishing her responsibilities as a mother skyrockets, and she ricochets between optimism and despair. The feminist moral’s muddled by the fact that a man’s the cause of Edna’s awakening and, later, her ruin, and the pacing’s jerky, just as the local color prose often feels archaic.
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews532 followers
June 7, 2020
Sexual Suppression in Fin de siècle Southern Society

Grand Isle, Louisiana, 1899. I can imagine it. The muggy salt air creeps off a windless glittering gulf. White wooden chairs pose in the antique, misty elegance of a large veranda. Blinds half-drawn at sundown to corrugated silhouettes, as the dimming sunlight honeycombs a laced corset.

Edna Pontellier was raised Protestant in rural Kentucky then married into a Catholic, French Creole family in New Orleans. She was completely unprepared for the constraining societal demands Set upon her on her first visit to the Pontellier summer house on Grand Isle. Nor was she ready to deal with 1899 Southern belles who sashay from house to summer house stifling the stuffy air as they swelter over sweaty glasses of iced tea. As Pat Conroy wrote, "the sweetness of Southern women often conceals the deadliness of snakes." So true. Donna Tartt probably best explains being raised and living among this coquettish set in writing that, "many Southern ladies are fierce, dignified ex-belles who changed their ways before they went crazy or killed somebody."

The voluptuary Edna is sexually awakened by the young single Creole, Robert LeBrun, thereafter commences an affair with a bad cad named Alcee Arobin, and ultimately moves out of her house to start her new "independent" life. In the end, she cannot handle the societal demands of New Orleans and goes for a long swim.

In some ways, it reminds me of Madame Bovary published 43 years earlier (1856). Besides the geographic differences, Edna was more driven to seek independence by her circumstances and society, to rebel against sexual repression in a place that was more chauvinistic and puritanical than France half a century earlier; whereas Bovary dreamed of romance and free love like that in the books she read.

The writing was commendable and tantalizing. Certainly, it was forward-thinking from the female point of view in the U.S. at the precipice of the 20th century. From what I've read, this short novel shocked American readers in 1899 with its uninhibited look at infidelity and female sexuality, and did not sell well until re-discovered in the 1960s by feminists in academia who saw and still see it as significant and liberating.
Profile Image for Lynne King.
494 reviews676 followers
January 22, 2017

This is a work about a rather unusual woman, Edna Montpellier who lives in New Orleans with her husband Léonce, a rather successful businessman, and their two children, Etienne and Raoul. Part of the book is also based on their vacation in Grand Isle on the Gulf of Mexico.

The scene is soon set as Edna is beginning to feel unsettled after six years of a rather bland marriage to an older man and feels that there is something lacking in her life. An incident then occurs that soon sets her on a course that cannot be changed. She doesn’t know what it is but she’s determined to find out.

Now this doesn’t sound a very interesting book you may ask, and perhaps somewhat pedestrian, but this is where you will be proved wrong. The reason being, it was published in 1899, a period when a woman was meant to believe and to maintain that her place was purely in the home, having children and taking care of her husband. As was the case with Edna but one day she went unexpectedly completely against the establishment when to her own amazement friendship, love and desire plunged into the arena. Her whole personality changed but I believe this really came about when she learned to swim for she discovered a strength within herself that she had never known existed. I’m not a feminist as such but I could indeed empathize with Edna when she casts off some of her shackles and leaps with élan into the unknown, without a thought for whatever the outcome.

I also began to sense the similarities of behavior with Emma Bovary.

Set for the majority of the time by the sea, water will turn out to be the catalyst in this remarkable work. Edna discovered water and then she…. But it’s up to you to read this little literary gem!

Profile Image for Sandysbookaday .
2,052 reviews2,105 followers
July 19, 2023
Set in the late 1800's this is a beautifully written, gentle book about the awakening of a woman to a side of herself she had never suspected existed.

Edna married her businessman husband Leonce "quite by accident" when he fell madly in love with her. He appears to be a good husband, provides well for his wife and family, but is quite controlling, his life, and therefore Edna's, dictated by the social mores of the time.

She has had a slightly unorthodox upbringing and holds some radical views on motherhood and femininity, stating that while she would die for her children, she would never 'lose herself' for them. But perhaps she is already 'lost', or at least wandering.

Slowly she starts shedding the confines placed upon her, and despite veiled warnings from those she considers friends, she allows her own personality and desires to come to the fore.

The Awakening, originally titled "A Solitary Soul" caused an outcry when it was first published, dealing with marital infidelity instead of the norm of that time, romantic fiction.

This is a book that I fully intend to revisit, and savour. Modern authors could learn a lot from MS Chopin.

The audio version is beautifully narrated, and the music is sublime. 4 1/2 stars from me.
Profile Image for MihaElla .
228 reviews359 followers
March 18, 2021
I'm not very convinced on the full awakening -- partially, yes -- but a substitute for the novel's title might be 'On the shortness of life' (Seneca). This is a (very) sorry story, from start to end, and definitely, quite predictable, back then as to present times. This is not a memoir or an autobiography (from what I read regarding the author there might be certain similarities with her real life), notwithstanding, during the entire reading course, my mind seemed frozen on a short text from the introduction to Orwell's essay named 'Benefit of clergy: some notes on Salvador Dali': 'autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.'
So does the main heroine of the story view her life -- maybe too late and too carelessly -- and sees the long train of mistakes, which eventually explode into a certain kind of awakening, not solving the life's riddles, but giving a choice for herself, not necessarily the wiser considering the variety of options.
On a much positive note- I definitely enjoyed the fantastic Grand Isle environment - simple, rustic, just enough for a most desired summer vacation. Ah, and the sea, the sea...
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,492 reviews2,730 followers
October 2, 2022
For the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her.

Written in 1899, this is the radical story of a married woman's 'awakening', not just to sexual desire ('It was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch that kindled desire') but also to a sense of self-hood ('But I don't want anything but my own way') and independence ('I am no longer one of Mr Pontellier's possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose').

The aspect that I found most unexpected is not so much Edna's embracing of her sexuality but the way she contests society's view that motherhood is the only route to fulfilled femininity - Edna loves her children, she just doesn't think that her life should be solely confined to them.

Chopin writes with precision, with some passages of lyricism, but mainly in a straightforward way: we're not left in any doubt about her message here and while there's some use of symbolism (birds, the sky, the sea, the claustrophobic interior of Edna's family home), there's nothing difficult, obtuse or oblique about her style - it's there on the surface.

Despite that, it's easy to see this as a founding feminist text: it may not have the complexities of Edith Wharton or Virginia Woolf, say, but it makes a bold statement all the same.
Profile Image for Chavelli Sulikowska.
226 reviews219 followers
June 17, 2020
…‘there was nothing subtle or hidden about her charms; her beauty was all there, flaming and apparent…’

Another book that I had heard so much about and finally got around to reading. This is a really unusual story. Not much happens, but it is exceptionally captivating and I can see why it always features on all the “Must Read Before You Die Lists” and Top 100s... Chopin’s best known work is a deeply insightful dive into a young woman’s restlessness and disquietude in her marriage. Meet Mrs. Pontellier – She has no specific reason to be unhappy; she may not be head over heels in love, but her husband is reasonable, they are financially secure and she has two healthy sons. She is young and pretty and enjoys holidays at the beach with friends. Her time is her own. She seemingly wants for nothing. So why is she so miserable? Good question. It is the same question we could ask Madam Bovary…if she hadn’t ended her life too soon.

Boredom. I am convinced these women are just plain bored. So, they look for entertainment. Something to make them feel something. They want something wrong. Something that is outside of their mundane, predictable, stifling lives. Something that shocks them to sensation. Rather than numbing their pain or settling their restlessness, they want to feel. Mrs Pontellier ‘grew fond of her husband, realizing with some unaccountable satisfaction that no trace of passion or excessive and fictitious warmth colored her affection, thereby threatening its dissolution. She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would sometimes forget them…’ It still makes me aghast, it's one thing to leave your husband, but what mother can walk away from her own children?

Our protagonist, ‘was not a woman given to confidences, a characteristic hitherto contrary to her nature. Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions…’ It is this wrestle with her conflicting realities that ultimately leads not to Mrs Pontellier’s liberation, but to a further narrowing of her existence. As she shakes off her domesticity, rebukes society's expectations and dogmas, she also condemns herself to misery – as she comes to rely on the pursuit of the love of a younger man. ‘She reminded him of some beautiful, sleek animal waking up in the sun…’ But admiration is one thing. A commitment to love is another. I'm not particularly sympathetic to Mrs P, was she really that repressed, or did she get bored, make her bed and then was forced to lie unwillingly in it?

Chopin’s writing is very elegant – feminine I would say, she ‘began to feel like one who awakens gradually out of a dream, a delicious, grotesque, impossible dream, to feel again the realities pressing into her soul. The physical need for sleep began to overtake her; the exuberance which had sustained and exalted her spirit left her helpless and yielding to the conditions which crowded her in. The stillest hour of the night had come, the hour before dawn, when the world seems to hold its breath. The moon hung low, and had turned from silver to copper in the sleeping sky. The old owl no longer hooted, and the water-oaks had ceased to moan as they bent their heads…’

Along the same lines as Madam Bovary, though not as ‘dark’ and bleak in atmosphere, this is definitely one of those must read ‘must reads.’
Profile Image for Adina .
891 reviews3,547 followers
February 7, 2017
I do not feel like reviewing this novel/novella, whatever it is... I will just say that these kind of books made me have problems with my literature course and run away from most of the "classics". Although the books were written by Romanian authors I recognize the type. I came to my senses after joining GR and I now try to gain the lost time by reading the books that I should have covered earlier in my life. Until now the results were satisfying as I am on my way of becoming a big fan of Victorian literature. However, this book was so, so slow and i could not feel anything. I understand the power of the novel but it wasn't enough to make me like it. Also, I wish there were other endings to women having affairs than suicide.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 2 books2,962 followers
August 8, 2020
Truly amazing - a fascinating exploration of gender and marriage in late 19th century American society, compelling and thought-provoking and beautifully written.
September 9, 2011
For starters, I did not enjoy this story, and I did not see why Edna's life was utterly miserable. I didn't care about her, really. And her plight didn't speak to me at all.

Everything is subjective, however, Edna has many more options and choices than some women ever have. More than anything she has safety and the ability to protect herself and her children. That in itself is more than many women have, even today. 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 she had the means 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 can see how this must have been an important work at the time it was written. However, it fails to speak to me of female empowerment in a world that allows women less power, choices, and equality. My rating is based moreso on this novella's failure to demonstrate what it set out to accomplish than my dislike of the story. I would read more Chopin, and I intend to do so.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Frona.
27 reviews33 followers
March 2, 2017
Sea, sun, bathing and loose summer rules form a recipe for a respite. Warm and welcoming environment, shaped by people with different predispositions gathered under the same soothing conditions, lighten the protagonist's manners. Her senses, before entangled beyond recognition, suddenly soften and let the melodies, smells and shapes in. Adjustments within her, long having been guided by society's calls, now slowly, but steadily, change course. In awakening to the stimulants and novelties the protagonist quietly, but firmly, demands her right to feel her own feelings.
If in the works of similar stature the nuances of emotions are often but subtly implied and hidden behind the excessive behavior, they are here stated openly and affectionately. Although we are given free access to her thoughts, it is with less spectacle than any implication could leave us to imagine. It's a silent, straightforward strength; she doesn't lose herself in a love affair, but gains vigor from it. Similarly, her decline is more connected with a realization of the eternal gap between human nature and natural laws than it is with love itself. When summer ends, autumn comes and interrupts the immediacy of her bond with nature. Being enclosed between the walls of human invention, she knows no way out, for her awaking progresses linearly and is not attuned with the nature's cyclic seasons.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,063 reviews497 followers
August 18, 2021
The setting and time of this novel is News Orleans, 1899. A married wife with two children feels trapped by her situation (free to be nothing more than a caring mother and obedient wife who has to play by society’s rules). One night her husband seems to command her to do something, and she snaps…how dare he talk that way. Her husband is not really a bad man, but he just comes to expect his wife to better his lot in life and attend afternoon teas and such…her father who is a retired Confederate colonel tells the husband this:
• You are too lenient, too lenient by far, Leone. Authority, coercion are what is needed. Put your foot down good and hard; the only way to manage a wife. Take my word for it. 😮

Edna also starts to fall in love with another man. She is being awakened. Not just awakened sexually but also wanting to strike out on her own (have a vocation of her choosing…not just pouring tea for rich ladies or being a mother).

When reading the synopsis on Wikipedia I think there is an error regarding the outcome of one of the characters. I wonder if other people who read this would comment on this (i.e., does Wikipedia have it right or am I correct when I say they got it wrong? They say:

The book was considered scandalous when published and this was to be Chopin’s last work (a book after that got apparently canceled by the publisher, and she died 5 years after publication of The Awakening).

It is a period piece and should be read as such. With that said, I thought it was very well written and it pretty much held my attention throughout. I had read this 25 years ago and several weeks ago pulled it from my bookcase because while I knew I read it, I forgot what it was about. ☹ Of course, it didn’t help this time when there was a review from The Atlantic Monthly inside and I read it before re-reading the book, and the reviewer gave away the denouement. Thanks a lot Benjamin Schwarz! 🤨

I had given it a ‘B’ in 1997 and my assessment remains pretty much the same. I very much liked the book! 🙂 🙃

A synopsis along with an overview of the book’s reception by reviewers (many of them negative) and other interesting sections can be found on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Awa...

• I read this from a very nice edition put out by Simon and Schuster, called a CommonPlace Edition, which has a clear plastic dust jacket, attractive front cover, and several black and white photographs from the 1890s-1900s (period in which the novel takes place) of homes and streets of New Orleans.
• The book was published in 1899 by Herbert S. Stone & Company (Chicago and New York), and a true first edition is going to cost you $12,500. On the plus side, the bookstore provides free shipping! 😊 (For those who don’t want to buy the book, ‘The Awakening’ is available online for free along with a number of her short stories (see the reference section of the Wikipedia link above).

• Willa Cather’s Review of The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899): https://www.literaryladiesguide.com/b...
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,596 reviews288 followers
February 6, 2023
One thing I try with all my soul not to do is judge others for their reading tastes. It's been done to me and I hate it.

that being said I was unprepared for the hate from so many for this shining jewel of a book. I understand everyone's tastes are unique. But -- and perhaps I should change my wording -- I guess I was not prepared for the hate for the protagonist.

I liked her. I felt I understood her. I pitied her, deeply. I sort of ached for her.

Now here is the problem. I cannot do a review without spoilers. It's impossible to discuss this story without talking of the ending.

So if you have not read and do not want spoilers -- stop reading mt review now. I will however recommend this beauty of a book.


Why was everybody so angry at her?

Those were different times back then. Divorce was not an option. Anti-depressents were not an option because they did not exist. Women could not work. I felt she made an awful choice but I was not angry. I was a bit heartbroken.

This book reminded me of Virginia Wolfe, of The Hours, also of Ethan Frome (in the search for life's meaning and the burning love) and also of other stories. I also did want to shake her at times. But in no way did I dislike her.

She loved her children. But until someone experiences the lows of depression I do not think they can really grasp how empty it can make one feel. I felt this was a good woman who wanted to live in a way she was not allowed to. Perhaps she was born in the wrong time period.

When she spoke of giving her life for her kids but not herself, I think she was speaking about her very being -- her soul. She felt stifled and she could not and would not be held captive.

that doesn't mean she didn't make an idiotic choice! Suicide is always a poor choice.

I was also struck by the fact that very few reviews say much about the object of her affection -- Robert. I could not STAND him. Him I felt fury at. Not because he left her. He has that right. But the utterly cowardly route he took chilled me.

WHO does that to someone they say they love? He did not love her because he never really knew her. I found Robert very controlling in his way and infuriating.

The way he labels her cruel for merely asking about his feelings! The way he tries to get her not to go to her friend's or to go with her.

And then to leave at night like a thief. This is not a man who had any sense of what she wanted or needed but then again we cannot pick whom we fall for. If only we could.

The awakening itself was gloriusly described. The feminist messages in this book touched me and I
consider this to be one of the best reads so far of 2023.
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