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