The Awakening Questions and Answers
by Kate Chopin

The Awakening book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Why was The Awakening so controversial when it was first published?

Expert Answers info

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

This is a very good question, and I have included a link below to the historical context in which Chopin wrote this excellent novel to give you more information. Of course, it is very hard for us in our context to appreciate such a radically different historical context, but it is important to remember that women led very different lives back in Creole society in the...

(The entire section contains 201 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

pasquantonio | Student

This is a good question, and to understand it, you need a historical lesson, too.  Chopin wrote her sexually charged novel (hence the title) in 1899, on the cusp of repressive Victorianism.  In fact, it was so controversial that the literary community largely ignored its publication; it was her second, and last novel.

Part of the scandal is content.  Edna Pontillier, a wife and mother, commits every 'sin' of the age.  She has an affair, she dresses indecently, she lives on her own, fights convention and finally commits suicide (sorry for the spoiler if you haven't read it).  It's widely regarded as a piece of feminisit literature, well before its time.  But, I think a major part of its controversy is that Edna eschewed her duties as conventional wife and mother, choosing instead to live life on her own terms and disregard societal expectations.  A secondary explanation is Edna's experience of a physical and sexual awakening, a scandalous disclosure in the late 1800's.  Finally, her suicide.  Back then, religion played a major part in societal expectations, and suicide would have been regarded as a major taboo.

Hope that helps.