Women of colorCount, 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)...

Women of color

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?

Expert Answers
lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.