Form and Content (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
The Awakening deals with the sexual awakening of a woman who has led the conventional life of an upper-middle-class wife and mother until the age of twenty-eight, then finds herself feeling so frustrated and suffocated that she is willing to defy the conventions of Louisiana Creole society to gain spiritual independence. She gradually abandons housekeeping, social visits, entertaining at home, and all the duties of a woman of her station. Defiantly, she begins to lead a bohemian lifestyle and to exercise freedom of choice in matters of sex.
The novel is divided into thirty-nine short chapters, each consisting of a single significant scene. Most of the story is told through the viewpoint of Edna Pontellier, an exceptionally sensitive and observant woman who can see into the characters of other people. The scenes not only present the various characters’ personalities but also paint a picture of homes, furnishings, clothing, servants, entertainment, and other aspects of life in the late nineteenth century.
The first scenes take place at a summer resort on Grand Isle near New Orleans. City dwellers come to escape the city heat, but even on the island the subtropical heat and humidity are oppressive. The women and children remain on Grand Isle throughout the summer, while most of the men come over only on weekends and return to the city to conduct business.
A few younger men have no pressing business matters to which to...
(The entire section is 727 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Grand Isle. Island resort in the Gulf of Mexico about fifty miles south of New Orleans, Louisiana, where Léonce Pontellier’s family stays in a summer cottage. Léonce goes to his office in Carondelet Street in the financial quarter of New Orleans during the week, returning to the island on weekends.
The Pontelliers do not have a happy marriage. Like most characters in the novel, Léonce is a Creole descendant of New Orleans’s original French and Spanish settlers, and he is quite content with his life. His wife, Edna, however, was raised in a Presbyterian home in Kentucky, and is restless under the restrictions of Louisiana’s patriarchal Roman Catholic society. At Grand Isle, she displays the first signs of independence and begins to become her own person—to “awaken.” She befriends Mademoiselle Reisz, whose creativity she admires, and carries on a summer flirtation with Robert Lebrun, a son of the property owner. She also spends time at the beach with Robert and her children, learns to swim, and even swims out far from the shore alone. Her resistance to Léonce has begun; she is, Kate Chopin writes, “like one who awakens gradually out of a dream.” Grand Isle thus represents her first feelings of freedom.
At the end of the novel, Edna returns to Grand Isle in the off season and, feeling no further possibilities in her life, removes all her clothes, swims far out into the sea, and drowns....
(The entire section is 725 words.)
Context (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Kate Chopin’s The Awakening has become one of the classics of feminist literature because of its theme of sexual awakening and a woman’s right to freedom of choice in matters of love. Feminists believe that the sexual repression of women, which is still common throughout the world, is a necessary precondition of the political repression and economic exploitation of women that are also still found on every continent of the globe. Feminists believe that until women have control of their own bodies, they cannot hope to have control of their own lives.
Chopin was ahead of her time. Her novel The Awakening met with critical abuse and public denunciation. A reviewer writing for the magazine Public Opinion in 1899 stated that he was “well satisfied” with Edna’s suicide because she deserved to die for her immoral behavior. Chopin never wrote another novel and gradually gave up writing altogether. During the early part of the twentieth century, she had become virtually forgotten. Then the very qualities that had caused her to be condemned as an evil influence brought her to the attention of a few critics who saw that Chopin had created a minor masterpiece of feminist literature.
Currently, The Awakening is enjoying great popularity and is available in many different editions. The rediscovery of this novel has revived interest in Chopin’s other writings. Several biographies have been published, along with...
(The entire section is 315 words.)
Kate Chopin lived in, and generally wrote about, life in the South. In The Awakening, she wrote specifically about Creole society in northern Louisiana. Creoles saw themselves as different from Anglo-Americans and maintained cultural traditions passed down from their French and Spanish ancestors. They enjoyed gambling, entertainment, and social gatherings and spent a great deal of time in these activities. The Creoles seldom accepted outsiders to their social circles and felt that newcomers should live by their rules. Men dominated the households and expected their women to provide them with well-kept homes and many children to carry on the family name. Women responded by bearing children and refining their social talents. While the Creole men caroused, their women kept well-run houses and perfected their accomplishments in music, art, and conversation. Such refined women enhanced their husbands' social status.
The Beginnings of the Women's Movement
The 1800s saw a change in the status of women. Chopin's character, Edna Pontellier, illustrates the independent nature that women began recognizing in themselves. Edna felt that there was more to life than living in her husband's shadow and stifling her own desires and dreams. Women of the time felt the same way. As early as 1848, women gathered in New York State to begin addressing issues of equality. ©2000-2004 eNotes. This first convention...
(The entire section is 606 words.)
Chopin lived in, and generally wrote about, life in the South. In The Awakening, she wrote specifically about Creole society in Louisiana. Creoles saw themselves as different from Anglo-Americans and maintained cultural traditions passed down from their French and Spanish ancestors. They enjoyed gambling, entertainment, and social gatherings and spent a great deal of time in these activities. The Creoles seldom accepted outsiders to their social circles and felt that newcomers should live by their rules. Men dominated the households and expected their women to provide them with well-kept homes and many children to carry on the family name. Women responded by bearing children and refining their social talents. While the Creole men caroused, their women kept well-run houses and perfected their accomplishments in music, art, and conversation. Such refined women enhanced their husbands' social status.
The setting contributes to Edna's conflict in The Awakening. The events in the novel take place in the late 1800s, and most of the action is set in the heart of New Orleans society. The city bustles with social gatherings, business meetings, and the impersonal pace of busy people. However, it is Grand Isle, a resort near New Orleans, that has the most influence on Edna. The Grand Isle in the Gulf of Mexico offers an intimate and relaxed atmosphere for walks along the beach, leisurely swimming, and moonlit conversations. Edna falls in love on the...
(The entire section is 249 words.)
Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
1. What kind of bird is hung in the cage?
2. Why does Leonce return to his own cottage?
3. What are the Farival twins doing at the main house?
4. Who is Edna bathing with?
5. How does Leonce look at Edna when she returns?
6. What does Leonce give to Edna upon her return?
7. What are Edna and Robert laughing about?
8. Where is Leonce going to spend the evening?
9. Why doesn’t Robert go with him?
10. Does Leonce keep his promise to the children?
1. A green and yellow parrot is hung in the cage.
2. Leonce returns to his own cottage because the bird’s talking was making it difficult for him to read his newspaper.
3. They are playing a duet from Zampa on the piano.
4. Edna is bathing with Robert Lebrun.
5. Leonce looks at Edna as if she were a valuable piece of personal property that had suffered some damage.
6. He gives Edna back her wedding rings, which she had taken off prior to bathing.
7. They are laughing about an adventure they had in the water.
8. He is going to spend the evening at the Klein’s Hotel.
9. Robert prefers to stay with Edna.
10. No. He forgets the bonbons and peanuts.
(The entire section is 200 words.)
Chapter 2 Questions and Answers
1. How does Edna look at objects?
2. How does Edna’s appearance differ from other women?
3. What about Robert’s appearance makes him seem immature?
4. Why does Robert smoke cigarettes?
5. How do we see the intimacy between Robert and Edna at this point?
6. Why does Robert want to go to Mexico?
7. Why does Madame Lebrun take in guests?
8. How is Edna’s background different from the other guests at Grand Isle?
9. What is Edna’s sister doing in the East?
10. Why does Robert assume Leonce wouldn’t be coming home for dinner?
1. She looks at them as if she were lost in contemplation or thought.
2. Edna is handsome rather than pretty.
3. He is clean shaven and has no shadow of care.
4. He smokes cigarettes because he can’t afford cigars.
5. They both chat incessantly and each is interested in what the other has to say.
6. He wants to make his fortune there.
7. She needs to so she can keep up her easy, comfortable lifestyle.
8. She is truly American, and any French has been lost in dilution. The other guests are all French Creole.
9. She is engaged to be married.
10. He assumes that because there were a good many New Orleans clubmen over at Klein’s.
(The entire section is 207 words.)
Chapter 3 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Edna have trouble talking to Leonce when he comes home from Klein’s?
2. What does Leonce do after he tells Edna that Raoul has a fever?
3. What is Leonce’s opinion of raising children?
4. Why is Edna so upset after she checks on Raoul?
5. What does the sea sound like when Edna goes outside?
6. What is different about this particular argument with Leonce that causes Edna to cry?
7. What does Edna feel while she cries?
8. Is Edna upset about the fact that she is crying?
9. What does Leonce send to Edna while he is away?
10. Is Leonce considered a good husband?
1. Edna had been asleep when Leonce came in; he wakes her up.
2. He sits down to smoke a cigar.
3. He believes that it is solely the mother’s responsibility.
4. She feels bad because Leonce was right, and Raoul had a fever.
5. It sounds like a mournful lullaby.
6. Edna doesn’t know why she is crying, but something is changing inside her.
7. She feels an indescribable oppression and a vague anguish.
8. No. She is enjoying her solitary cry.
9. Leonce sends a box of delicacies from New Orleans.
10. Yes. All the ladies admire him and even Edna is forced to admit she knows of none better.
(The entire section is 210 words.)
Chapter 4 Questions and Answers
1. What is given as an example of Edna’s lack of mothering?
2. What is a “mother-woman”?
3. Who is considered a classic mother-woman?
4. What are three differences between Adele and Edna’s appearances?
5. When are Adele’s hands considered most beautiful?
6. Why did Edna cut a pattern for winter clothes for her children?
7. How do Edna and Robert know that Adele is pregnant again?
8. Why does Edna blush when Robert tells Adele it is safe to eat a bonbon?
9. Why doesn’t Edna feel entirely comfortable at Grand Isle?
10. According to Edna, what is the most distinguishing characteristic of the Creoles?
1. If one of the children falls while at play, he does not rush to his mother’s arms for comfort.
2. A mother-woman is a woman who idolizes her children, worships her husband, and considers it a privilege to lose her own identity.
3. Adele Ratignolle is considered a classic mother-woman.
4. (1) Edna’s features are subtle and have depth while there is nothing subtle or hidden about Adele’s beauty; (2) Edna’s body is lean and symmetrical while Adele’s is plump and (3) Edna is handsome rather than beautiful while Adele is like a bygone heroine of romance or the fair lady of our dreams.
5. They are most beautiful when they...
(The entire section is 265 words.)
Chapters 5 and 6 Questions and Answers
1. What is clear about Edna and Robert’s relationship?
2. Why is Robert allowed to spend so much time with married women at Grand Isle?
3. How does Edna feel about Adele’s beauty?
4. Why does Edna sketch?
5. Why does Edna repulse Robert’s head from her arm?
6. Why does Edna crumple up the picture of Adele?
7. How is the sea described here?
8. Why did Edna go bathing with Robert?
9. What is Edna beginning to realize?
10. Why is Edna’s realization potentially dangerous?
1. It is clear that they are very intimate.
2. He is considered safe because nobody ever takes him seriously.
3. She loves to gaze at Adele and wishes to sketch her.
4. Sketching gives her satisfaction that no other work does.
5. She does not think it is proper for Robert to touch her like that.
6. The picture does not look like Adele.
7. The sea is seductive, sensuous, embracing—like a lover.
8. She was following an impulse that she didn’t understand.
9. Edna is beginning to realize her position in the universe and her relation to the rest of the world.
10. It is a beginning, and all beginnings are chaotic and disturbing. Additionally, women are not usually graced with such realizations so there...
(The entire section is 207 words.)
Chapter 7 Questions and Answers
1. What is Edna’s attitude toward sharing confidences?
2. What is it about Adele that started to bring Edna out of her shell?
3. Why does Adele insist on bringing her needlework to the beach?
4. What is the difference in the way Edna and Adele dressed for the beach?
5. What is Edna gazing at when Adele begins questioning her thoughts?
6. What does Edna’s childhood meadow story tell her and us about her present state?
7. Why is Edna confused when Adele begins stroking her hand?
8. What is different about Edna’s relationship with Leonce and the other men she talks about?
9. How does Edna feel when she is away from her children?
10. How does Edna feel after sharing about herself with Adele?
1. She is not used to sharing confidences; she had always understood that she had a secret inner life.
2. Edna is drawn out first by Adele’s beauty and then by her complete candor.
3. As a mother-woman, Adele cannot be without some reminder of that role.
4. Edna wears a cool white and brown muslin dress that has a fairly severe line. Adele wears a pure white, frilly, ruffled dress. Edna’s dress has a more masculine tone, Adele’s a more feminine.
5. She is gazing at the sea.
6. It tells us that she currently feels aimless and...
(The entire section is 288 words.)
Chapter 8 Questions and Answers
1. What is different about Adele’s eyes when she talks to Robert?
2. What is Adele’s fear when she asks Robert to leave Edna alone?
3. How does Adele explain that fear to Robert?
4. Why is it important that nobody take Robert seriously?
5. What does Robert tell Adele about Alcee Arobin?
6. What is Robert’s thought about Edna?
7. How do the lovers walk?
8. Why does Madame Lebrun have someone else working the treadle of her sewing machine?
9. How does Madame Lebrun account for things going wrong in her life and the world?
10. What news does Madame Lebrun have for Robert?
1. They are filled with thoughtfulness and speculation.
2. She is afraid that Edna will take Robert’s attentions seriously.
3. She is afraid because Edna is not a Creole.
4. If Robert’s attentions to married women were taken seriously, he would be thought a scoundrel and no proper women would associate with him.
5. Robert tells Adele about Alcee’s affair with the consul’s wife.
6. He believes she would never take him seriously.
7. The lovers walk as if there were no ground beneath their feet.
8. Creole women don’t do anything that might imperil their health.
9. She blames it on the fact that her husband...
(The entire section is 228 words.)
Chapter 9 Questions and Answers
1. Why is the hall lit up and decorated?
2. Why are the Pontellier children exerting authority over the other children?
3. What songs do the Farival twins play?
4. Why does Adele keep up with her music?
5. What is Edna looking at when she sat on the windowsill?
6. What does Mademoiselle Reisz look like?
7. What does Edna think of when she hears the song Adele plays that she calls “Solitude”?
8. What is different about Edna as she hears Mademoiselle Reisz’s first chords on the piano?
9. What is Edna’s reaction to Mademoiselle Reisz’s music?
10. Why does Mademoiselle Reisz think Edna is the only one worth playing for?
1. It is Saturday night, and all the guests are gathered for an evening of entertainment.
2. Leonce had brought them colored sheets of the comic papers, and all the children want to see them.
3. They play the duet from Zampa and the overture from The Poet and the Peasant.
4. She and her husband considered it a means of brightening their home and making it attractive.
5. She is looking at the moon casting its light across the restless sea.
6. She is small and ugly, with a weazened face and body.
7. She thinks of a naked, lonely man standing on the seashore, looking at a distant bird with...
(The entire section is 264 words.)
Chapter 10 Questions and Answers
1. How does Edna feel when Robert is not around?
2. What is the odor Edna smells down by the sea?
3. Why had Edna not been able to learn to swim?
4. What is different about this night?
5. How does Edna feel when she starts swimming?
6. What is she looking for when she swims out?
7. What does Edna experience after she swims a certain distance?
8. How does Edna describe the night to Robert when he walks her home?
9. How does Robert describe it?
10. What happens in the silence when Edna is in the hammock and Robert is sitting by her?
1. She misses him and wonders why he is not with her.
2. She smells a tangle of the sea, weeds, damp, new-plowed earth and the heavy perfume of a field of white blossoms.
3. She feels an ungovernable dread in the water unless someone is nearby.
4. Edna is realizing her power.
5. She feels exulted, as if she had been given power finally over her body and soul. She wants to swim far out, where no woman has swum before.
6. She is looking for space and solitude, reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself.
7. She has a quick vision of death that makes her temporarily weak.
8. She feels as if it is a dream.
9. Robert tells Edna that there is a spirit...
(The entire section is 246 words.)
Chapter 11 Questions and Answers
1. Where does Leonce find Edna when he returns to the cottage?
2. What does Leonce say to her?
3. What would Edna normally have done in this situation?
4. What is different about this night?
5. How does Leonce respond to Edna’s refusal to obey him?
6. How long is Leonce preparing to stay outside.
7. How does Edna feel when she realizes Leonce is staying outside with her?
8. Why does Edna go back inside?
9. What does Leonce do after Edna goes inside?
10. Who is the winner in this battle between Edna and Leonce?
1. She is lying in the hammock on the front porch.
2. He demands that she come inside.
3. She would have given in to Leonce out of habit.
4. Edna’s will had blazed up, stubborn and resistant.
5. He put something on over his pajamas and went outside with a cigar and a glass of wine.
6. He is prepared to stay outside as long as Edna does.
7. She feels like she had awakened from a delicious dream to the ugly realities of her life.
8. The exultation she felt is gone, and she feels helpless and tired.
9. He stays outside to finish his cigar.
10. Leonce wins because Edna feels forced by her crushed spirit to finally go inside.
(The entire section is 206 words.)
Chapter 12 Questions and Answers
1. How does Edna sleep after finally going inside?
2. What is the something Edna feels is unattainable?
3. Was it usual for Edna to invite Robert to mass?
4. What does Robert note about Edna when they are drinking their coffee?
5. What does Mariequita look like?
6. What does Mariequita ask Robert?
7. Does Robert deny it?
8. What does Mariequita think of the fact that Edna is married?
9. Why is it understood that the lovers aren’t married?
10. What do Robert and Edna talk about on the boat?
1. She sleeps badly, disturbed by dreams that leave her with a sense of something unattainable.
2. She feels that her freedom is unattainable.
3. No. She had never done it before, although neither one of them realize how unusual it was.
4. He says that she often lacks forethought.
5. She has a round face and pretty black eyes, but her feet are broad and coarse.
6. She asks if he and Edna are lovers.
7. No. He only answers that Edna is married and has children.
8. Mariequita knows that fact would not stop two lovers from being together and tells a story to Robert about a man and a married woman who ran off together in a boat.
9. People think that marriage and romance don’t go together.
(The entire section is 218 words.)
Chapter 13 Questions and Answers
1. What happens to Edna during the mass?
2. What is the only sound Edna hears after she leaves the mass?
3. Where does Robert take Edna to rest?
4. What does Edna do when she is alone in the bedroom?
5. How does Edna feel laying in the bed?
6. How does Edna feel when she awakes?
7. How does Edna turn their trip into a romantic fairy tale?
8. What is Robert’s response?
9. What does Robert do for Edna after she awakes?
10. How is the fairy tale quality continued when Robert and Edna leave?
1. She is overcome with a feeling of oppression and drowsiness, and her head begins to ache.
2. She hears the voice of the sea whispering through the reeds.
3. He takes her to Madame Antoine’s house at the far end of the village.
4. After she bathes her face, neck, and arms, she takes off her shoes and stockings and stretches herself out on the bed.
5. She feels luxurious and sensuous, enjoying the way her body feels in the bed.
6. As if she had been asleep a very long time. Additionally, she is very hungry.
7. She asks Robert how many years she has been asleep and if they are the only two people left on earth.
8. Robert plays along, saying she was asleep for 100 years, and he had been guarding her sleep....
(The entire section is 251 words.)
Chapter 14 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Etienne still up when Edna returns?
2. How does Edna act with Etienne when she returns home?
3. Why is Edna so loving toward Etienne at this time?
4. Why is Adele staying with the children?
5. Why does Adele leave immediately after Edna returned?
6. How does Robert show his feelings as he says goodnight to Edna?
7. What does Robert do after he left Edna?
8. What does Edna realize about this summer at Grand Isle?
9. How does Edna feel about Robert’s leaving?
10. What does Edna do while waiting for Leonce to return?
1. He had refused to go to bed and had made a scene.
2. She coddles and caresses him and is very loving and tender.
3. She is feeling good about herself.
4. Leonce left to go to Klein’s for the evening.
5. Monsieur Ratignolle hates to be alone.
6. He presses her hand.
7. He goes for a solitary walk by the sea.
8. She realizes that she is somehow different than she had been in previous years.
9. She regrets that he left; it has become natural to have him around.
10. She sings the song that Robert sang to her on the boat.
(The entire section is 191 words.)
Chapter 15 Questions and Answers
1. How does Edna learn that Robert is going to Mexico?
2. What does Edna do with her feeling of bewilderment?
3. How does Robert look when he sees Edna’s face?
4. How does Robert explain his sudden departure?
5. How does this news affect Edna’s appetite?
6. What does Adele warn Robert about?
7. What does Edna do when she goes back to her room?
8. Why does Edna refuse to go to the Lebruns?
9. What does Robert make clear to Edna before he leaves?
10. What does Edna realize after Robert leaves?
1. Several people tell her at once when she enters the dining room late for dinner one afternoon.
2. She lets it show on her face.
3. He looks embarrassed and uneasy.
4. He was meeting his mother’s friend in Vera Cruz, and he needed to get to New Orleans to pack in time to make the ship that would take him there by the appointed day.
5. She forces herself to finish her soup but can’t eat her stew.
6. She tells him that Mexicans are not to be trusted.
7. She busies herself with little odds and ends and helps put the boys to bed.
8. She claims she is tired, but the truth is she can’t bear to watch Robert go.
9. He is leaving because of his strong feelings for Edna.
(The entire section is 225 words.)
Chapter 16 Questions and Answers
1. What does Edna consider to be the only pleasurable moments she has?
2. How does Edna keep close to Robert after he leaves?
3. How does Leonce feel about Edna’s missing Robert?
4. Why is Edna jealous when she read’s Robert’s letter?
5. What does Edna tell Adele about her children?
6. Why can’t Adele understand what Edna is talking about?
7. What does Edna mean when she says she wouldn’t sacrifice herself for her children?
8. What do Edna and Mademoiselle Reisz talk about as they walk to the beach?
9. Why does Edna spend time with Mademoiselle Reisz if the woman’s meanness depresses her?
10. How does Edna swim now?
1. She feels pleasure only when she is swimming.
2. She keeps close to him by talking about him to everyone who knows him and by looking at Madame Lebrun’s family photographs.
3. He doesn’t give it a second thought; it would never occur to a Creole man that his wife could be unfaithful.
4. He wrote to his mother and not to her.
5. She said that she would die for her children, but she would not sacrifice herself.
6. Edna is becoming her own person and speaking a new language.
7. She won’t let her life be controlled by her responsibility to her children. She needs to be her own...
(The entire section is 269 words.)
Chapter 17 Questions and Answers
1. How does Leonce feel about his house in New Orleans?
2. What do Tuesdays mean for Edna?
3. What is Leonce angry about on this particular Tuesday?
4. Why is it so important to Leonce that Edna be home for her receptions?
5. Who does Leonce blame for the poorly cooked meal?
6. How does Edna react to Leonce’s reprimand and departure for the club?
7. What does Edna seek in the garden that night?
8. What does Edna find in the garden?
9. How does Edna act out her anger?
10. How do we know that this rebellion ends in defeat as her first one did?
1. He likes to walk around admiring his possessions.
2. Tuesday is her traditional reception day, where other society women call on her during the afternoon.
3. Edna went out instead of being home to receive her guests.
4. It is important because it is the proper thing to do, and it would look bad for him if Edna didn’t go along; ultimately it might affect him financially.
5. He blames Edna for the poorly cooked meal. He feels it is her job to keep watch over the cook.
6. Instead of her usual reaction, Edna finishes her meal by herself and says nothing to the cook.
7. She is looking for herself and for signs of hope.
8. The voices she hears are mournful and...
(The entire section is 260 words.)
Chapter 18 Questions and Answers
1. How does Edna feel about her children the morning after her fight with Leonce?
2. Why does Edna always find fault with her sketches?
3. Why does Edna take her sketches to Adele’s?
4. What is Edna thinking about as she walks to Adele’s?
5. What is symbolic about Edna considering the Ratignolles’ life French and foreign?
6. What are Edna’s first thoughts about Adele when she sees her?
7. What is one example given of the “fusion” the Ratignolles have accomplished in their marriage?
8. Why does Edna pity Adele after witnessing this marital bliss?
9. What does Edna mean by “life’s delirium”?
10. Why is it important for Edna to feel both anguish and passion?
1. She considers her children part of “an alien world that has suddenly become antagonistic.”
2. She has no confidence in herself as an artist.
3. She needs validation and encouragement.
4. She is thinking about Robert and how much she misses him.
5. The concept of their domestic bliss, of any marriage, has become foreign to her.
6. Edna thinks that Adele looks more beautiful than ever, and she would like to paint her picture.
7. Adele listens attentively to everything her husband says, even putting down her fork to listen better....
(The entire section is 244 words.)
Chapter 19 Questions and Answers
1. Why is it more powerful for Edna to neglect her household than to have temper tantrums?
2. Why had Leonce always been a courteous husband?
3. How does Leonce’s anger contribute to Edna’s awakening?
4. How does Leonce feel about Edna’s painting?
5. Why is Adele’s piano playing different from Edna’s painting?
6. What can’t Leonce see about Edna when he says she’s “not herself”?
7. Why does Edna notice the housemaid’s back and shoulders?
8. How does Edna feels when she thinks of Robert?
9. When does Edna feel really happy?
10. What contributes to Edna’s days of unhappiness?
1. Neglecting her household will get more of a reaction from Leonce than a temper tantrum and also gives her more of a sense of freedom.
2. Edna had always been submissive.
3. Leonce’s anger makes her resolve never to take another step backward.
4. He thinks her time would be better spent working for the comfort of her family.
5. Adele plays piano for her family; Edna paints for herself.
6. He can’t see that she had no self before; it is only now that she is actually becoming her true self.
7. She is becoming more of an artist and is noticing beauty more.
8. She feels filled with desire.
(The entire section is 240 words.)
Chapter 20 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Edna want to visit Mademoiselle Reisz?
2. Why does Edna have such a hard time finding Mademoiselle Reisz?
3. Why does it make sense that Adele wouldn’t like Mademoiselle Reisz?
4. What does the Lebrun house remind Edna of?
5. Why is Victor fighting with the servant when he opens the door?
6. Why doesn’t Victor want to tell Edna about the time he had the evening before?
7. Why does Victor grow more daring in the telling of his story?
8. Why do Robert’s letters fill Edna with despondency?
9. What does Edna remember after she leaves Victor?
10. What does Victor perceive about Edna?
1. She wants to hear her play the piano; she wants to feel passion.
2. Mademoiselle Reisz moved, and since nobody liked her, nobody cared where she moved to.
3. Mademoiselle Reisz is the opposite of everything Adele believes in; she is unmarried, childless, and ugly.
4. It is like a prison because of the iron bars on the doors and lower windows.
5. The servant thought it was her job to open the door.
6. She is a woman and wouldn’t comprehend such things.
7. Edna is showing interest in his story.
8. There is no message for her.
9. She remembers that she was supposed to be dignified and...
(The entire section is 225 words.)
Chapter 21 Questions and Answers
1. What is the centerpiece of Mademoiselle Reisz’s apartment?
2. How is Mademoiselle Reisz described when Edna sees her?
3. Why did Mademoiselle Reisz think that Edna would never come to visit?
4. Why is Mademoiselle Reisz pleased when Edna admits that she’s not sure if she likes her?
5. What does Mademoiselle Reisz tell Edna about Robert’s letter?
6. How does Edna describe herself to Mademoiselle Reisz?
7. What does Mademoiselle Reisz tell Edna about being an artist?
8. What did Mademoiselle Reisz play for Edna while Edna was reading Robert’s letter?
9. What is Edna’s reaction to the letter and the music?
10. How does Chopin set the mood for Edna’s emotions?
1. She has a magnificent piano crowding everything else in the apartment.
2. She hasn’t changed; she is the “little musician,” still ugly, still wearing the same ugly dress.
3. Edna is a “society” woman, and those women generally have no use for artists such as Mademoiselle Reisz.
4. It is an honest answer and honesty takes courage.
5. The letter is all about Edna.
6. She says that she is becoming an artist.
7. She says that to be an artist one must have a courageous soul, a soul that dares and defies.
8. She starts with...
(The entire section is 240 words.)
Chapter 22 Questions and Answers
1. What kind of doctor is Dr. Mandelet?
2. Why does Leonce go to see Dr. Mandelet?
3. What is Edna’s problem as Leonce describes it?
4. How is this most affecting Leonce?
5. What are Dr. Mandelet’s first thoughts on Edna’s problem?
6. Why does he finally get concerned?
7. Why won’t Edna go to her sister’s upcoming wedding?
8. What does Dr. Mandelet attribute Edna’s problem to?
9. Why does Leonce invite Dr. Mandelet to dinner?
10. What is Dr. Mandelet’s fear about Edna?
1. He is a semi-retired physician, known more for wisdom than skill.
2. He is worried about Edna.
3. She is suddenly concerned with women’s rights and is therefore neglecting her family.
4. Edna has stopped sleeping with him.
5. He wonders if she has been associating with a certain group of pseudointellectual women who might be putting ideas in her head.
6. Leonce tells him that she has been isolating, giving up her social ties.
7. She says that weddings are “one of the most lamentable spectacles on earth.”
8. He says that women tend to get moody and whimsical and that this latest “mood” would probably pass.
9. He wants Dr. Mandelet to observe Edna firsthand.
10. He is afraid that there...
(The entire section is 208 words.)
Chapter 23 Questions and Answers
1. What is the nature of Edna’s relationship with her father?
2. Why is she glad he is visiting?
3. What does Edna’s father look like?
4. Why can’t Edna flirt like Adele?
5. Why does Leonce not attend the Ratignolles’ parties?
6. How does Edna respond to Adele’s suggestion that it would help the Pontelliers’ relationship if Leonce stayed home more?
7. Why do Edna and her father have such a good time at the racetrack?
8. What does Dr. Mandelet think of Edna when he comes to dinner?
9. Why is Edna’s story significant?
10. What does Dr. Mandelet think about Edna’s problem after observing her?
1. Edna is not warmly attached to her father, but they are companionable because they have certain tastes in common.
2. He provides a distraction and a new outlet for her emotions.
3. He is tall and thin, with silky white hair and moustache. He still has his military bearing and wears jackets that exaggerate the breadth of his chest.
4. Edna has been too repressed to play such games. She is also too masculine for such “girlish” games.
5. He would rather spend his time with the men at the club.
6. Edna would be very unhappy if Leonce were home more often. She says that they would have nothing to talk about.
(The entire section is 273 words.)
Chapter 24 Questions and Answers
1. What is Leonce’s position in Edna’s fight with her father over her sister’s wedding?
2. What is the Colonel’s advice to Leonce about Edna?
3. What is hinted at about the Colonel’s wife?
4. How does Edna feel right before Leonce leaves for a long trip to New York?
5. How does she actually feel after Leonce and the children have gone?
6. What does she do when she is finally alone?
7. What is Edna’s first meal alone like?
8. What does Edna do after dinner?
9. What does Edna plan to do now that she is on her own?
10. How does Edna feel as she snuggles in her bed at night?
1. Leonce, on Dr. Mandelet’s advice, stays out of it.
2. He says that authority and coercion are needed to manage a wife.
3. It is hinted that maybe she had committed suicide.
4. She feels almost affectionate and thinks that she will miss him.
5. A radiant peace settles over her, a feeling of relief.
6. She walks through the house as if it were the first time, enjoying everything as never before.
7. She enjoys a tasty meal with good wine and the comfort of being able to dine in a peignoir.
8. She reads in the library until she grows sleepy.
9. She wants to embark on a course of intellectual...
(The entire section is 233 words.)
Chapter 25 Questions and Answers
1. Why can’t Edna work when it’s dark and cloudy?
2. How does Edna feel on her melancholy days?
3. What does Alcee look like?
4. Why does Edna enjoy the racetrack so much?
5. How does Edna feel while she is at the track?
6. How does Edna feel after Alcee takes her home?
7. What happens between Edna and Alcee at the track?
8. Why does Edna touch Alcee’s hand?
9. What happens when Alcee looks into Edna’s eyes?
10. What is Edna’s reaction to Alcee after he has gone?
1. She needs the sun to mellow her mood.
2. She feels as if her life is passing her by, leaving her with broken and unfulfilled promises.
3. He has a good body, a pleasant face not burdened with any depth of thought or feeling, a perpetual smile in his eyes, and he dresses in the height of fashion.
4. It reminds her of happy times in her childhood stables. Also, she wins a lot of money.
5. She feels intoxicated.
6. She wanted something exciting to happen and regretted that she had not asked him to stay a while.
7. They develop a certain intimacy.
8. He is showing her a scar on his wrist.
9. He draws out all her latent sensuality.
10. She stares at her hand where he kissed her goodnight and feels like she...
(The entire section is 223 words.)
Chapter 26 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Edna deliberate over how to answer Alcee’s apology?
2. Why is it so easy for Alcee to become intimate with Edna?
3. Why does Edna visit Mademoiselle Reisz?
4. Why do you think Mademoiselle Reisz is always eating or drinking chocolate?
5. What reason does Edna give for moving out of her house?
6. How does Edna have the money to be on her own?
7. What is Edna’s big resolve?
8. Why does Edna sigh after announcing her farewell dinner party?
9. What good news does Edna find out from Mademoiselle Reisz?
10. Why does Edna send a box of candy to her children?
1. Edna doesn’t want to give it undue importance, and she doesn’t want him to think she took it seriously.
2. He appeals to the sexual self that is awakening inside her.
3. Mademoiselle Reisz, through her music, touches Edna’s spirit and makes her feel free and hopeful.
4. Her life is bitter and alone, and chocolate is sweet.
5. She wants a place that is her own, not provided for by her husband.
6. She has been winning a lot of money at the track and selling some of her paintings. Additionally, she has a small inheritance from her mother.
7. She vows that she will never again belong to another person.
8. It is clear to her that...
(The entire section is 248 words.)
Chapters 27 and 28 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Edna say she is a wicked woman?
2. Why does she think at the same time that she is not?
3. What is Alcee’s response to Edna’s question?
4. What is significant about Alcee’s response?
5. What does Mademoiselle Reisz tell Edna about courage?
6. How does Edna feel after kissing Alcee?
7. What is the significance of the reproach Edna imagines from Robert?
8. What does Edna understand about life after being with Alcee?
9. What specifically does Edna not feel?
10. Why does Edna feel a pang of regret?
1. Edna knows she would be perceived as wicked because of her move toward independence and because of the sexual feelings she has.
2. She is following her true nature.
3. He says she shouldn’t bother thinking about it because he can tell her what kind of woman she is.
4. He is acting just like any other man, presuming to know better than she does, not letting her be independent.
5. She says that Edna must have a lot of strength and courage if she is going to defy convention and prejudice.
6. It is the first kiss of her life that truly arouses her.
7. It is because she is giving herself for less than true love.
8. She realizes that there is a difference between lust and love.
(The entire section is 236 words.)
Chapter 29 Questions and Answers
1. How does Edna go about her preparations to move?
2. What is causing Edna to be in such a rush?
3. What does Edna mean when she says the old house seems like a forbidden temple?
4. What does Edna take from the old house to the new?
5. How does Alcee enter the house?
6. How does Alcee expect to find Edna after their night together?
7. What is Edna doing when Alcee walks in the house?
8. How is Edna described when she is up on the stepladder?
9. What is significant about this description of Edna?
10. Why does Alcee call Edna’s dinner a coup d’état?
1. She moves feverishly, with no deliberation before action.
2. Her night with Alcee increases her desire to be on her own.
3. It is someplace where she is an intruder and no longer has a right to be.
4. She takes only what belongs solely to her, not bought by Leonce.
5. He rings but then walks right in.
6. He expects her to be either angry or sentimental, not indifferent.
7. She is on a stepladder unhooking a picture from the wall.
8. She never appeared more handsome.
9. It can be taken to mean she never looked more masculine, in the sense of what she is doing rather than how she actually looks.
10. He means that it is her...
(The entire section is 234 words.)
Chapter 30 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Adele unable to attend Edna’s dinner party?
2. Describe the splendor of the dinner table.
3. How does Edna appear, sitting at the head of the table?
4. Why is the occasion doubly special for Edna?
5. Despite all the glamour, how does Edna feel?
6. Why is Alcee’s name on the letterhead of a law firm?
7. What does Mrs. Highcamp do to Victor, and what does she want?
8. What song does Victor sing at the table?
9. What is Edna’s reaction?
10. What does Edna have to do to get Victor to stop singing?
1. She is close to giving birth and in a lot of pain.
2. The tablecloth is pale yellow satin under strips of lace. There are candles in brass candelabra, fresh roses, silver, gold, and crystal.
3. With her dress of satin and lace and her diamond tiara, she appears regal, in control, alone.
4. It is her twenty-ninth birthday.
5. She feels tired and hopeless, thinking about Robert with longing.
6. He finds it necessary to “assume the virtue of an occupation” to satisfy other people’s inquiries.
7. She weaves a garland of roses and places it on his head, then drapes his shoulders with a white silk scarf. She is trying to seduce him.
8. He sings the song that Robert sang to Edna on the...
(The entire section is 247 words.)
Chapter 31 Questions and Answers
1. Where does Edna go after her party?
2. How does Alcee act around Edna now?
3. What does Edna mean when Alcee offers her a spray of jessamine, and she says she doesn’t want anything?
4. What does Edna notice as she and Alcee walk to the new house?
5. What is the surprise waiting for Edna at her new house?
6. How does the parlor in the new house look when they enter?
7. How does Alcee’s touch on Edna’s hair feel?
8. Why does Edna say the party was stupid?
9. What does Alcee notice when he touches Edna’s shoulder?
10. How does the evening end for Edna and Alcee?
1. She goes over to her new house.
2. He acts like a husband.
3. All she wants is Robert, and nothing else is really important.
4. She notices the way his leg moves so close to her and how the black of his pants looks against the yellow of her gown.
5. Alcee has filled the house with fresh flowers.
6. It looks homey and hospitable.
7. It is magnetic, and it draws her in.
8. She now thinks it was stupid because it didn’t make her happy like she thought it would.
9. Alcee notices that her body is responding sexually.
10. They spend the night together.
(The entire section is 210 words.)
Chapter 32 Questions and Answers
1. What is Leonce’s main concern with Edna’s moving out of the house?
2. What specifically is Leonce not concerned about?
3. How does Leonce handle Edna’s move?
4. How does Edna feel about her new home?
5. What does Edna’s “spiritual awakening” feel like to her?
6. How does Edna feel when she goes to visit her children?
7. What does Edna give to her children?
8. How does Edna respond to the children’s concerns about their place in the new house?
9. How does Edna feel when she leaves the children?
10. How does she feel when she returns home?
1. He is afraid people would think the Pontelliers’ finances had taken a turn for the worse, and this could hurt him financially.
2. He is not concerned about scandal. It never occurs to him that Edna might have another man.
3. He takes care of it in a businesslike manner, hiring an architect to remodel his home so that it would look like Edna had no choice but to move out for a while. He also puts a notice in the paper to that effect.
4. She is very happy there and feels that although she may have descended on the social scale, she has clearly risen on the spiritual scale.
5. She begins to see things with her own eyes, and to have a deeper understanding of life.
(The entire section is 309 words.)
Chapter 33 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Edna want to visit Mademoiselle Reisz?
2. What does Adele make Edna promise before she leaves her?
3. What does Adele warn Edna about?
4. Why is Edna caught off guard when Robert tells her he has been home for two days?
5. What reason does Robert give for coming home?
6. What does Edna see when she looks into Robert’s eyes?
7. Why is Edna glad that Robert never knew her in her former home?
8. What does Robert mean when he said he’s been “seeing the waves and the white beach of Grand Isle”?
9. Why does Edna mimic Robert’s answer?
10. Why does Robert say that Edna is cruel?
1. She wants to rest and talk about Robert.
2. Adele makes Edna promise that she would go to her when she goes into labor, no matter what time of the day or night.
3. She warns her that Alcee has a bad reputation and that people might start talking about the two of them.
4. Edna expected that Robert would seek her out immediately after returning home.
5. He was having trouble with the Mexicans, and he was not making the money he thought he would.
6. She sees that he still loves her.
7. Edna doesn’t like the person she was when she lived with Leonce.
8. He means that he has been thinking about Edna....
(The entire section is 251 words.)
Chapter 34 Questions and Answers
1. What happens when Robert and Edna sit down to eat dinner?
2. Why does Celestine spend time talking to Robert?
3. Why does Robert go out during dinner?
4. Why is Robert looking to leave when he says perhaps he shouldn’t have come back?
5. What does Robert say in response to Edna’s remembrance of all the time they spent together at Grand Isle?
6. Why does Edna pick up Robert’s tobacco pouch?
7. How does Alcee’s appearance affect the evening?
8. Why does Edna send Alcee away to mail a letter?
9. How does Edna feel after Alcee leaves?
10. How does Edna feel about Robert being home?
1. A degree of ceremony settles in during dinner, and they make small talk that has nothing to do with their feelings for each other.
2. Celestine knew Robert when he was a child, and besides, she is very interested in what is going on.
3. He goes out to get cigarette papers.
4. Robert is uncomfortable because of his feelings for Edna and feels safer when he is not with her.
5. He says that he has forgotten nothing about Grand Isle.
6. She picks up his tobacco pouch because it is new, and she is jealous of whomever gave it to him.
7. Robert leaves after Alcee arrives.
8. Edna wants to be alone with her thoughts of...
(The entire section is 245 words.)
Chapter 35 Questions and Answers
1. How does Edna feel when she wakes up?
2. How does she plan to melt Robert’s reserve?
3. What does she daydream about?
4. From whom does Edna receive letters that morning?
5. How does Edna answer Leonce’s letter?
6. What does Edna do with Alcee’s letter?
7. How does Edna’s next few days pass?
8. What does Edna do to try to see Robert?
9. Why does Edna enjoy the fastness of her ride with Alcee?
10. How do Edna’s feelings change after not seeing Robert for a few days?
1. The morning is filled with sunlight and hope, and she imagines having everything she wants come true.
2. She believes that her passion will win him over.
3. She imagines Robert’s day, from his walk to work, to the evening when he would come to see her.
4. She receives letters from Roaul, Leonce, and Alcee.
5. She answers it evasively because she is living in her fantasy world now and feels she is being driven along by Fate. Therefore she can’t answer any of Leonce’s questions about the future.
6. She doesn’t respond to Alcee’s letter.
7. She wakes up hopeful about seeing Robert and goes to sleep despondent over not having seen him.
8. She does nothing and in fact avoids places where she might run into him...
(The entire section is 251 words.)
Chapter 36 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Robert call Edna “Mrs. Pontellier”?
2. Why is Edna being selfish when she calls Robert selfish?
3. Why is walking so important to Edna?
4. In what way does Robert show himself to be just like Leonce and Alcee?
5. What makes Robert finally tell Edna that he loves her?
6. Why was Robert fighting against his feelings?
7. What does Edna tell Robert about the state of her marriage?
8. Why does Robert turn white when he hears Edna’s statement?
9. Why does Robert plead with Edna not to go to Adele’s?
10. How do we know that Edna is living in her fantasy world?
1. He is trying to keep some distance between them.
2. All Edna thinks about anymore is her own pleasure and her own desires; she never stops to think of the turmoil Robert must feel being in love with a married woman.
3. Walking gives Edna a sense of independence and allows her to explore parts of life she would not ordinarily see.
4. Robert tells Edna the end of the book she is reading so she won’t have to bother herself with finishing it; it’s a very paternalistic attitude.
5. Edna kisses him and then moves away, and Robert follows her, takes her in his arms, and kisses her again. Then he finally has to tell her the truth.
6. Robert wanted Edna...
(The entire section is 361 words.)
Chapter 37 Questions and Answers
1. What is Monsieur Ratignolle doing when Edna enters the drugstore?
2. How are the pains of childbirth first described as Edna sees Adele?
3. Why isn’t Dr. Mandelet upset at Adele’s “upraidings”?
4. What is the vague dread Edna began to feel?
5. Why do Edna’s childbirths seem unreal and far away?
6. How would Edna explain the need for chloroform?
7. Why doesn’t Edna leave when she wants to?
8. Why does Edna revolt against nature?
9. What are Adele’s final words to Edna?
10. Does Edna think of her children that night?
1. He is mixing a painkiller for Adele.
2. Adele’s face is drawn and pinched, and her eyes are haggard and unnatural.
3. Dr. Mandelet is used to women being hysterical right before they give birth.
4. Possibly, it was a foreshadowing of how this childbirth would affect her life.
5. Her children were born to her in her old life when she was a different woman; the woman she is today would not have children.
6. It is necessary to deaden both the physical and emotional pain of such a traumatic experience.
7. Edna is loyal to Adele.
8. Nature forced women to become mothers, whether they were emotionally equipped or not.
9. She pleads with her to think of the...
(The entire section is 220 words.)
Chapter 38 Questions and Answers
1. Why doesn’t Edna want to go in Dr. Mandelet’s car?
2. How do we know Edna is thinking about Robert?
3. Why are Edna’s thoughts racing ahead of her?
4. Why does Dr. Mandelet think it was cruel of Adele to have had Edna there?
5. Why is Edna so confused?
6. How do we know that Dr. Mandelet has some understanding of Edna’s problem?
7. How does Edna feel about her awakening?
8. How does Edna state the crux of her dilemma?
9. What happens when Edna begins to think about Robert again?
10. Why does Robert leave?
1. She wants to be alone with her thoughts.
2. The language is romantic: “the air was mild and caressing, but cool with the breath of spring and the night.”
3. Edna is finally beginning to think about her children.
4. Dr. Mandelet believes that Edna is impressionable and not very stable, and he worries how she will be affected by what she saw and heard.
5. Edna had thought that even her c hildren shouldn’t affect what she wanted to do, but now she’s beginning to wonder about that.
6. Dr. Mandelet acknowledges that not every woman is meant to be a mother.
7. Edna believes that even though she doesn’t like what she discovered about life, it is still better to know the truth than to be...
(The entire section is 290 words.)
Chapter 39 Questions and Answers
1. What are Victor and Mariequita talking about when Edna shows up at Grand Isle?
2. Why, according to Mariequita, would it have been easy for her to run off with somebody’s husband?
3. Why do Victor and Mariequita think Edna is an apparition when she first appears?
4. How does Edna seem when she first arrives?
5. Why isn’t Edna thinking about anything as she walks down to the beach?
6. What has Edna concluded about her life?
7. What way has Edna devised to elude the slavery her children have planned for her?
8. What is the symbolism of the bird?
9. Why does Edna take her clothes off?
10. Why does Edna’s old terror sink as quickly as it rises?
1. Victor is telling Mariequita, in exaggerated detail, about Edna’s dinner party.
2. According to Mariequita it is the fashion to be in love with married people.
3. It is the middle of March, and there are never visitors to the island at that time.
4. She seems tired and indifferent. She doesn’t care what room she has, all she asks for is some food.
5. Edna has been up all night thinking about her situation and deciding what to do.
6. Edna realizes that if she stayed married, she would continue to have affairs. She doesn’t care about the scandal to herself or Leonce,...
(The entire section is 302 words.)
Point of View
An objective third person narrates the story of Edna Pontellier and her search for self in The Awakening. The narrator does not criticize or applaud characters for their traits or their actions. Most importantly, the narrator withholds judgement of Edna and the choices she makes.
The basic premise of The Awakening is conflict. Edna Pontellier discovers that she cannot be the person society expects her to be and seeks to resolve the problem by changing her life. Even as she recognizes the conflict within herself and begins to deal with it, the people with whom she associates present her with new challenges. Edna believes that she can be an artist and a lover and still be independent. Alcée and Robert prove her wrong. They reimpose the original conflict by proving to Edna that they can see her in only one way. While each has his separate view, both men reflect society's beliefs that women have certain functions in life. Edna is right back where she started.
The setting contributes to the conflict. The story takes place in the late 1800s. Most of the action is set in the heart of Creole society, New Orleans. The city bustles with social gatherings, business meetings, and the impersonal pace of busy people. However, it is Grand Isle, a resort near New Orleans, that has the most influence on Edna. The Grand Isle in the Gulf of Mexico...
(The entire section is 844 words.)
An objective third person narrates the story of Edna Pontellier and her search for self in The Awakening. The narrator does not criticize or applaud characters for their traits or their actions. Most important, the narrator withholds judgement of Edna and the choices she makes.
The basic premise of The Awakening is conflict. Edna Pontellier discovers that she cannot be the person society expects her to be and seeks to resolve the problem by changing her life. Even as she recognizes the conflict within herself and begins to deal with it, the people with whom she associates present her with new challenges. Edna believes that she can be an artist and a lover and still be independent. Alcee and Robert prove her wrong. They reimpose the original conflict by proving to Edna that they can see her in only one way. While each has his separate view, both men reflect society's beliefs that women have certain functions in life. Edna is right back where she started.
Imagery used in the story emphasizes the conflict with which Edna struggles. Edna realizes that she cannot tolerate being confined to marriage and motherhood, nor is she free to love and create. Society sees the two choices as complete opposites. Other opposing images emphasize the contradiction. New Orleans city life, with its stiff social rules, contrasts with the openness and ease of life on the Grand Isle. Birds fly freely on the Grand Isle, while they live in cages in the...
(The entire section is 1266 words.)
The Awakening has taken on a new significance since the advent of the women's movement. Literary debates have raged over the significance of Edna Pontellier's awakening, her suicide, and the conflict between motherhood and career for women in the nineteenth century. Many critics feel that Edna's suicide was an independent victory over society's limitations. Others feel that she killed herself because she felt defeated by society and did not want to disgrace her children.
Women's issues were still too new in the late 1800s for the book to have any impact at the time it was published. Feminists since the 1940s and 1950s, however, have recognized the book as an important contribution to the understanding of women's changing roles in an evolving society. Chopin was sensitive to women's issues and in a broader sense interested in universal human nature. Through her characters, she explored the relationship between self and society.
Particularly aware of the conflicts women face—due in part to her French background and her female perspective—Chopin shared with her readers a view of women in American society that differed from other writers of her day. Her characters often held unconventional attitudes toward themselves and society's rules. These characters tried to fit into society and, at the same time, remain true to themselves. Edna Pontellier is no exception. She represents women in society both past and present. She joins other of...
(The entire section is 684 words.)
Compare and Contrast
- 1890s: The women's movement begins to gain a foothold on American society. However, women still do not have the right to vote, and women's issues were not part of the political platform.
Today: Women have had the right to vote since the passage of the Twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution in 1920.
- 1890s: According to the law, a married woman's property belonged to her husband, even if she had inherited land before being wed. If she later divorced her husband, the land would still be legally his.
Today: Women have equal legal rights to property, and divorce cases usually conclude with at least half—if not more—of a couple's possessions going to the wife.
- 1890s: Advice columns for women had their beginning. With the advent of Dorothy Dix's column in 1895, advice columns appeared in newspapers and provided a forum for discussion of women's issues.
Today: Not only do publishing companies print women's columns in newspapers, but they also dedicate entire magazines to women's issues.
(The entire section is 164 words.)
Topics for Discussion
1. Research the Creole culture. Explain how Creoles have both Spanish and French ancestry and how that ancestry affects their lifestyle. Describe the culture through the customs and traditions honored by Creole descendants as well as through their routines of daily life.
2. Critics consider The Awakening a study in psychological realism. In an essay, address the following questions: How does Chopin use psychological realism to make her characters believable? Do her characters react in ways that you would expect? Explain.
3. Consider Leonce Pontellier, Robert Lebrun, and Alcee Arobin—the most prominent male characters in The Awakening. How do you see each man as representative of his culture and the times? What are each man's specific traits? Explain how and why you might relate to each man.
(The entire section is 125 words.)
Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. Compare and contrast New Orleans' Carondelet Street and New York's Wall Street in 1899. Does Carondelet Street still exist?
2. Trace the history of the women's rights movement beginning with the first political convention held in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York, and ending with the current decade. By way of a pictorial timeline, relate significant incidents to other historical events of the times.
3. The Grand Isle was destroyed by a storm in 1893. Investigate the storm that destroyed it. Develop a series of news items that might have appeared at the time that (a) predict the storm, (b) cover the news as it is happening, and (c) report the results of the storm.
(The entire section is 110 words.)
Topics for Further Study
- Trace the history of the women's rights movement beginning with the first political convention held in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York and ending with the current decade. By way of a pictonal timeline, relate significant incidents to other historical events of the times.
- Research the Creole culture. Explain how Creoles have both Spanish and French ancestry and how that ancestry affects their lifestyle. Describe the culture through the customs and traditions honored by Creole descendants as well as through their routines of daily life.
- Critics consider The Awakening a study in psychological realism. In an essay, address the following questions: How does Chopin use psychological realism to make her characters believable? Do her characters react in ways that you would expect? Explain.
- Compare and contrast New Orleans' Carondelet Street and New York's Wall Street in 1899. Does Carondelet Street still exist?
- Consider Léonce Pontellier, Robert Lebrun, and Alcée Arobin—the most prominent male characters in The Awakening. How do you see each man as representative of his culture and the times? What are each man's specific traits? Explain how and why you might relate to each man.
- The Grand Isle was destroyed by a storm in 1893. Investigate the storm that destroyed it. Develop a series of news items that might have appeared at the time that (a) predict the storm, (b) cover the news as...
(The entire section is 236 words.)
Bayou Folk is Chopin's 1894 collection of stories that present the people of Natchitoches Parish as they live and love in daily life. Chopin's skill as a local colorist as well as an adept storyteller is evident in her perfect rendering of people, places, and events of the area and time. She uses universal themes, such as prejudice and interracial relationships, that are not common in regional fiction. Another of Chopin's collections is A Night in Acadie, written in 1897. Critics recognize this collection, too, for Chopin's skill as a local colorist. The difference in this collection and Bayou Folk is that in A Night in Acadie, Chopin's characters express their individuality more and recognize and heed impulses that are socially unacceptable. Chopin emphasizes more sensuous themes, and reviewers voiced their concerns.
Chopin's third volume of works, A Vocation and a Voice, was not published in its entirety until 1991. Publishers prior to this time continued to question the appropriateness of Chopin's choice of themes. They failed to recognize the work for its outstanding treatment of such psychological elements as human consciousness and its relationship to circumstance, motivation, and action. The stories in this collection reflect less of Chopin's ability as a local colorist and more of her skill at understanding individual motives.
The White Dove is a 1986 novel written by Rosie Thomas. Set in Great...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
- The Awakening is the basis for the film, The End of August, released in 1982. Produced by Warren Jacobson and Sally Sharp under Quartet Production Company, the film features Sally Sharp as Edna and David Marshall Grant as Robert.
- The book is also available as a sound recording. Narrated by Alexandra O'Karma, the four tapes offer the unabridged version of the story. The taped volume is published by Charlotte Hall, MD: Recorded Books, 1987.
(The entire section is 72 words.)
What Do I Read Next?
- Bayou Folk is Chopin's 1894 collection of stories that present the people of Natchitoches Parish as they live and love in daily life. Chopin's skill as a local colorist as well as an adept storyteller is evident in her perfect rendering of people, places, and events of the area and time. She uses universal themes, such as prejudice and interracial relationships, that are not common in regional fiction.
- Another of Chopin's collections is A Night in Acadie, written in 1897. Critics recognize this collection, too, for Chopin's skill as a local colorist. The difference in this collection and Bayou Folk is that in A Night in Acadie, Chopin's characters express their individuality more and recognize and heed impulses that are socially unacceptable. Chopin emphasizes more sensuous themes, and reviewers voiced their concerns.
- Chopin's third volume of works, A Vocation and a Voice, was not published in its entirety until 1991. Publishers prior to this time continued to question the appropriateness of Chopin's choice of themes. They failed to recognize the work for its outstanding treatment of such psychological elements as human consciousness and its relationship to circumstance, motivation, and action. The stories in this collection reflect less of Chopin's ability as a local colorist and more of her skill at understanding individual motives.
- The White Dove is a...
(The entire section is 453 words.)
For Further Reference
Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Views: Kate Chopin. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. This compilation offers perspectives from such distinguished critics as Larzer Ziff, Cynthia Griffin Wolff, and Susan Rosowski. Their interpretations run from an analysis of the author's "Flaubertian detachment" to a feminist evaluation.
Bogarad, Carley Rees. "The Awakening: A Refusal to Compromise." The University of Michigan Papers in Women's Studies, Vol. II, No. 3 (1997): 15-31. Bogarad reviews the novel and classifies it as a "novel of development." The review offers the idea that Edna's awakening is a double one. Her first awakening occurs when she realizes that she wants autonomy as a human being and conceives of a life that would allow her to follow her dreams and still be connected to society. Her second awakening begins when she concedes that she cannot reconcile her definition of self with society's definition. The reviewer provides detailed support for her view.
Bonner, Thomas, Jr. The Kate Chopin Companion. Greenwood, 1988. Bonner compiles an encyclopedic dictionary of all of Chopin's characters. This volume also includes several of Guy de Maussapant's short stories, which were translated from French into English by Chopin.
Boren, Lynda S., and Davis, Sara deSaussure. Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou. Louisiana State University Press, 1992. This volume of essays offers multiple...
(The entire section is 930 words.)
Bibliography and Further Reading
Quotations of The Awakening are taken from the following editions:
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Avon Books, 1972.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening, edited by Margo Culley, 2nd edition. Norton, 1994.
Dyer, Joyce. The Awakening: A Novel of Beginnings. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993.
Koloski, Bernard, ed. Approaches to Teaching Chopin’s The Awakening. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1988.
Martin, Wendy, ed. New Essays on The Awakening. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985.
Toth, Emily. Kate Chopin. New York: William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1990.
For Further Study
Review of The Awakening. In Public Opinion, Vol. 26, 1899, p. 794. This unfavorable review of The Awakening criticizes the immorality of the book, calling into doubt "the possibility of a woman of solid old Presbyterian Kentucky stock ever being at all like the heroine" and concluding that "we are well satisfied when she drowns herself."
Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Views: Kate Chopin. Chelsea House Publishers, New York, 1987. This compilation offers perspectives from such distinguished critics as Larzer Ziff, Cynthia Griffin...
(The entire section is 1038 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. Kate Chopin. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. A collection of ten critical essays on Chopin’s works, with considerable discussion of The Awakening. The editor’s introduction contains a thought-provoking comparison of The Awakening with the poetry of Walt Whitman.
Bonner, Thomas, Jr. The Kate Chopin Companion: With Chopin’s Translations from French Fiction. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988. An attractive and useful volume consisting mainly of a dictionary of characters, places, titles, terms, and people from the life and work of Chopin. Most of the translations are of stories by Guy de Maupassant, including “Solitude,” which is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand Chopin’s psychological outlook.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Edited by Margaret Culley. New York: W. W. Norton, 1976. Contains fifteen essays or critical excerpts and ten 1899 reviews. Also contains background material on the situation of women in Chopin’s time.
Ewell, Barbara C. Kate Chopin. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1986. A biography of Chopin which surveys her writings in their entirety. Ewell emphasizes that The Awakening is Chopin’s best-known and most important creation but represents only a portion of her total achievement...
(The entire section is 503 words.)