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...

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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 relationship with either Victor and/or Robert Lebrun. She calls the girl "'a bad one.'" Whenever Mariequita shows up in the text, she is usually treated as a servant as well: she fetches shrimp, runs for towels, holds the nails for Victor, and so on.

In essence, then, the vast majority of women of color are unnamed, identified only by their skin-color and racial heritage, and almost all of them work, in some capacity, as servants. Chopin does not seem to overtly condone or condemn society's treatment of these women, and Edna seems only to just be gaining awareness of them via Mariequita, with whom she comes in such close contact with on the boat. Chopin and Edna are both so focused on Edna's own journey toward independence that neither really concerns themselves with the desire for freedom that these women of color might share. There are other texts where Chopin does seem to take a stance on the plight of people of color—"Desiree's Baby" comes to mind first—but this is not one of them.

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The black women in this novel are all servants in the households of the various main characters.  They are all unnamed.  These two facts alone answer much of your question.  The status of black women in the deep South at the turn of century was clearly inferior to whites -- they are part of the back ground of the novel.  For example, the Pontieller's nurse/nanny for the sons is referred to as the quadroon.  This isn't her name; this is the distinction of her heritage; she is one quarter black (quad) and three quarters white.  She might have even been able to pass for white (and therefore have more opportunities), but not in this place and in this time.  She has a very important place in the household, but she is only just a hired hand.  It is especially ironic with Edna's family because we assume that the quadroon spends a lot more time with boys than Edna and Leonce do!  She is probably, in a sense, more of a mother to them than Edna.  She travels with them to visit their grandparents and they spend most of their time with her.

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