What is the message Kate Chopin is conveying in her novel The Awakening?

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The meaning of The Awakening by Kate Chopin relates to Edna's inner change, as the dissatisfied mother and wife undergoes a realization of what may actually bring her happiness.

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In Kate Chopin's The Awakening, her protagonist, Edna, experiences an increasing awareness that she is not happy, although she is not certain why. When she finally does realize that she does not want to be a wife and mother and wants to explore what she wants as a woman, she must try to figure out how to do that. She has a series of awakenings, ultimately realizing that it would be very difficult--really impossible--to have the life she imagines for herself: an artist, free to roam and pursue whatever she would like, unencumbered. 

The message Chopin tries to convey is that women should explore and discover what they need as individuals to be happy--that they do not have to follow traditional paths, such as wife and mother, to be fulfilled. 

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What is the central idea of Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening?

The central idea of Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening can be identified in the title of the work. Edna Pointellier, the protagonist of the story, experiences both a psychological/emotional awakening and a sexual one, and the consequences of her personal development prove to be very dramatic for Edna and the members of her family and community.

The central idea of a literary work is also called its theme, and it often includes the notion of a lesson that can be learned from the literary work. From The Awakening, a reader might learn about the high cost of repressing one's own needs for those of others. Edna has given up herself for her family, and eventually, she wakes up and experiences a deep sense of agency, only to take her own life in an ironic gesture of self-actualization.

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What is the central idea of Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening?

The central theme of Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening is implied by the title itself. The book is very much about a variety of different kinds of “awakening” experienced by Edna Pontellier, the main character of the work. Interestingly enough, the title Chopin had originally planned for her text had been A Solitary Soul, a title that would have emphasized Edna’s alienation and isolation. Instead, the present title emphasizes her transformation and her growing consciousness and strength.

Edna awakens, in this work, in a number of ways, including the following:

  • She awakens to the fact that she is not happy in her marriage and that she finds her present life largely unfulfilling.
  • She awakens to a sense of her growing distance from her husband and from much of what he represents.
  • She awakens to the fact that she is not a “mother-woman” – in other words, not a woman whose mind and feelings are centered on her children.
  • She awakens to a growing romantic and even sexual attraction toward Robert Lebrun, who differs significantly from her husband.
  • She awakens to a growing sense of her own power and potential – a fact symbolized by her very first swim in the ocean.
  • She awakens to a growing sense of artistic skill and artistic ambition, both of which are symbolized by her increasing devotion to her painting.
  • She awakens to the idea that sex and love may not always go together; thus, she loves Robert, but she has sex with Alcee.
  • She awakens to the idea that she can live her own life and be her own woman, as is symbolized by her purchase of her own little house near the end of the novel.
  • Finally she awakens (if that is the right verb) to the idea that she may never achieve true freedom and true fulfillment and that the only option open to her may be the option of self-destruction.

Chopin describes various literal awakenings from sleep throughout the novel, and she also repeats variations of the word “awake” throughout the text. One of the most significant of these comes near the end of the book, when Edna finally sees Robert again:

She found in his eyes, when he looked at her for one silent moment, the same tender caress, with an added warmth and entreaty which had not been there before – the same glance which had penetrated to the sleeping places of her soul and awakened them.

This passage helps remind us that Robert was instrumental in helping to "awaken" Edna, but by this point in the novel she is so thoroughly awakened -- so completely liberated from traditional assumptions -- that she shocks even Robert and takes some delight in doing so. Edna is now awakened in ways that had never been the case before, which is why the final paragraphs of the book, which can be read either as a fuller awakening or as a resignation to the deepest sleep of all, have so often been debated.


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What is the meaning of The Awakening by Kate Chopin?

At the start of The Awakening, Edna is a dissatisfied woman, despite having everything women in her culture are supposed to desire: a husband, children, and a prominent social position. And yet, she is unhappy because it is not the life she really wants. Edna "awakens" to her true self over the course of the story, coming to realize she is unsuited for the usual Victorian roles of wife and mother. She is passionate, independent, and artistic. She moves into her own apartment, paints, and takes on a lover. She also "awakens" to the reality of her old life: she is only married and a mother because society expects her to be and because she adhered to those expectations, not because she ever wanted to take on those roles herself.

Unfortunately for Edna, society's reaction to her behavior scares her away from fully embracing nonconformity. When her lover Robert leaves her—upon seeing that Edna cannot be owned or kept—it becomes clear to her that she cannot go back to her old life, nor can she be accepted by those she has associated with her newfound freedom, and so she drowns herself. Thus, her awakening becomes double edged, since it does not necessarily grant her the mental fortitude to continue living as she wishes.

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What is Kate Chopin's The Awakening about?

"The Awakening" by Kate Chopin is about Edna Pontellier's personal awakening. She is a married woman who is unhappy with her husband, her children, and where her life is headed. Edna instead likes to paint. She is bored with the inane chatter around her and wants something more in her life. She has an affair, and decides to choose her own freedom. Rather than stay in her present life, she decides to commit suicide by swimming out into the ocean.

The main themes of the story include the social roles of women, and personal and sexual understanding of the self. Edna is a bright, vibrant, sensual woman. Her desertion of the rules of society reveal her independent and daring nature. 

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