In The Awakening, how does the author's choice of words or language reflect the time period in which the novel was written?Can you give any examples?

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kristenfusaro | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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The diction, which is the author's word choice, is a great way to understand setting, which is the time and place in which a text occurs.

Some examples of diction include all of the French language that is dispersed throughout (no need to cite specific examples, just look through nearly every page in the text). Because the setting is in Louisiana (New Orleans) at the turn of the 20th century, the Creole influence is extremely strong. Remember, the United States purchased Louisiana (Louisiana Purchase) from France in 1803, so the French culture would still very much be prevalent.

Women, like the state of Louisiana, were very much socially and matrimonially the property of their husbands. As Edna becomes more and more "awakened," she becomes a disobedient wife, which Leonce naturally assumes is an illness that she is developing. Chopin delicately and intricately wear satirical statements that mock Leonce's general indignation:

"He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself..."

Chopin emphasizes the contrast between Edna developing a sense of self through individualism and Leonce's comprehension that Edna is diseased through her individualism.

Chopin also acutely criticizes the male/female relationship by demonstrating that superficial love is one that suffocates, while true love is one that seeks honor. Leonce immediately turns to the Doctor when Edna shows signs of seemingly capricious individuality, Alcee persists on an immoral relationship with Edna even while he senses her ennui; however, Robert, who truly loves Edna and vice versa states:

"I love you. Good-by--because I love you."

Robert is the only to be truly concerned about Edna's social well-being for her own sake; the other men are concerned for selfish reasons - Leonce wants to maintain appearances, while Alcee wants to have physical relations. These bold statements about men and relationships are actually contrary to the time period, but are pivotal to understanding that a feminism was beginning to boil beneath the surface.

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