The Awakening Questions and Answers
by Kate Chopin

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Count, characterize, and analyze the numerous women of color in The Awakening. What does their presence and their treatment in the novel suggest about Edna’s (and Chopin’s) attitudes towards human development for nonwhite and poor women?

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Obviously, by the late 1800s, slavery has been outlawed, but we still see that most people of color discussed (or briefly described) in the novel are servants and are only defined, really, by their skin color. For example, the Pontellier boys have a sort of nanny, only referred to as "the quadroon"—this means that she has one black grandparent and is considered one-quarter black and three-quarters white. Further, at the New Orleans home the Pontelliers have a "light-colored mulatto boy" to admit callers who come on Edna's visiting day at home—"mulatto" was a term for a person who had one black parent and one white parent. The narrator does describe another "family of mulattoes" who rented rooms, including one to Mademoiselle Reisz . A young Spanish girl named Mariequita is also described by the narrator. Edna seems fascinated by the juxtaposition of the girl's "pretty black eyes" and "ugly feet." Later, Mademoiselle Reisz implies that Mariequita has had some kind of sexual...

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