Title: The Awakening
Author: Kate Chopin
# of pages: 190
Release date: 1899
First published in 1899, this beautiful, brief novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banished for decades afterward. Now widely read and admired, The Awakening has been hailed as an early vision of woman’s emancipation. This sensuous book tells of a woman’s abandonment of her family, her seduction, and her awakening to desires and passions that threaten to consumer her. Originally entitled “A Solitary Soul,” this portrait of twenty-eight-year-old Edna Pontellier is a landmark in American fiction, rooted firmly in the romantic tradition of Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson. Here, a woman in search of self-discovery turns away from convention and society, and toward the primal, from convention and society, and toward the primal, irresistibly attracted to nature and the senses.
Many of you will recall that I have somewhat of a difficult time reading the classics. Very rarely do I actually enjoy one that I read – it’s more like I can sometimes appreciate their value to the world of literature, can understand their popularity – but I don’t normally LIKE reading them, per se. The Awakening, however, I liked. In fact, I’m fairly certain I’ll read it again someday.
I’m not totally sure what exactly about this novel worked for me – definitely the feminism deeply entrenched in the book has something to do with it. This is a book, written in 1899, that specifically defies the roles women were supposed to conform to in that time period. The novel is about, very simply, a woman having an emotional affair on her husband – an affair which causes her to examine her life more closely and realize she is not content being simply a wife and a mother… she wants more. This realization is, obviously, her awakening.
It is actually a very simple story, told in simple but elegant language that draws the reader in and makes it impossible not to care about Edna and what happens to her. At this point I’d just like to direct you to Cara’s review at The Curvature, which is a fantastic analysis of The Awakening, and a much better review than anything I could come up with. Suffice it to say, I liked the novel quite a bit and would absolutely recommend it as a relevant and readable classic.
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