The Awakening by Kate Chopin

the awakeningFirst published in 1899, The Awakening by Kate Chopin is the story of Edna Pontellier’s journey to self-actualization. Edna is in her late 20s, married to a fairly wealthy man, with two children. Her life consist of tending to her husband and children, hosting champagne dinners, socializing and receiving calls from other women in her society and attending music soirees. That is, of course the social norms of the time.

During the family summer vacation, Edna has her “awakening” when she realizes she feels confined and oppressed with her current living circumstances. She feels that she does not want to be defined by her husband and children. She is willing to give anything for her children, but not sacrifice her soul. This also has to do with the fact that she befriended Robert, who opens her eyes to the fact that she is not in love with her husband. So she separates herself by moving out of her home and starts rebelling against social norms.

Edna’s discovery of independence at the time the novel was written was considered a feminist manifesto. Although I admire her strength and bravery to explore her individuality, Edna’s strive at independence came at a price – abandoning her children. What also becomes apparent is that Edna’s psychological state of mind is not sound and therefore the ending of the book is not a happy one.

All in all, The Awakening is a novel I would read again. Have you read it? What did you think?

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Disclaimer: I received this book from Penguin SA, for review consideration

  • Your blog design is so pretty! I read The Awakening a few months ago and while interesting because of the feminist overtones, it was hard to witness Edna spiraling into self-destruction. I also read Madame Bovary and there was a similar conclusion. It would be nice to read a book where a woman discovers her inner spirit without a man and doesn’t lose her mind as a result.

    • Thank you! I read that people compare it to Madame Bovary which I definitely want to read at some point in time. It’s not easy to read about her self destruction.

      I agree with your last sentence – wholeheartedly! Have you read The Italian Girl by Lucinda Riley? Similar idea – a woman rendering herself useless without the man she is in love with.

      PS: I loved how she spoke to Arobin in the book. Concise and straight to the point. Almost bitchy, in a way. Confusing being mean with strength.

      • I haven’t heard of the The Italian Girl, but I will look for it now. I’m sure there are more books out there with that kind of plot, I wish I could find them! Edna certainly wanted Arobin to know that she was the boss!

    • Do you think that abandoning her children had anything to do with the fact that she lost her mind in the end? In the case of Madame Bovary I don’t think it was for that reason, because I think she was a basket case before she had her child.

  • I’ve fallen asleep so many times trying to read this book, I’ve finally given up. #saddies

    • I’m sorry to hear that. I enjoyed reading it and sometimes even chuckled at Edna and Arobin’s conversations 🙂

  • Ciska van der Lans

    I did not read this book. Though it does sound interesting I am often disturbed by books where feminism seems to have a high voice and in the end the woman still ends up being a victim. Might have to read it to see if I can rant about it 😉

    • You should give it a go, considering it’s such a short novel! I don’t read a lot of books where feminism reigns supreme, but even so, it did annoy me that nothing came from all she did.

  • Love the Awakening! Read books by Elena Ferrante if you like this style!

  • Lisa Sheppard

    I’ve read it twice and I absolutely would read it again. Imagine that your only choice in gaining independence from marriage was to abandon your children; I couldn’t even think of it.

  • Nishita

    I read this book and liked it a lot. The ending was a bit hard on her I thought. I just hate these stories where the fallen woman faces a bad end.

  • Charlie (The Worm Hole)

    Loved it. I think with the ending it’s everything working against her – she can see no way out other than to do what she ends up doing, or to give in and go back to her old life. And the latter is something she doesn’t want to do. In many ways it’s a commentary so it may sound extreme, and the critics hated it at the time, but it gets you thinking.