The Awakening Study Guide
The Awakening: Chapter Summaries
The Awakening: Themes
The Awakening: Characters
The Awakening: Analysis
The Awakening: Critical Essays
The Awakening: Multiple-Choice Quizzes
The Awakening: Questions & Answers
The Awakening: Introduction
The Awakening: Biography of Kate Chopin
Introduction to The Awakening
The influential feminist novel The Awakening, written by Kate Chopin, was published in 1899. The novel follows the identity crisis of Edna Pontellier, a Southern woman living in New Orleans just before the turn of the twentieth century, a period often referred to as the Gilded Age. Edna’s struggle with her identity and individuality captures the numbing and oppressive roles that women were placed in during that period.
Chopin captures Edna’s social and psychological struggles as Edna grapples with the expectations of her husband and her society. Edna is to be a devoted wife and mother, but these roles do not align with her natural inclinations and desires. These struggles are complicated when she meets and falls for Robert, a handsome but careless young man in her community. Edna undertakes a journey toward independence that illustrates the conflicts faced by individuals—particularly women—living within the limited boundaries of society.
A Brief Biography of Kate Chopin
Kate Chopin (1850–1904) was born to an Irish immigrant father and a French American mother. Though she was the third of five children, her older half-brothers died in their early twenties, and her younger sisters died in infancy. Her father died when she was four.
Kate Chopin’s life and work, considered together, show how difficult it is to define female identity in America. Chopin’s greatest works (The Awakening, “The Story of an Hour”) are defined by portraits of women becoming aware of their own desires, struggling to realize them, and dying. In her own life, it was Chopin’s loved ones who died and Chopin herself who lived to juggle artistic, social, and sexual desires while raising six children alone and dealing with her late husband’s debts. Her works repeatedly refuse to provide simple answers and instead draw readers into the complexities created by passion, racial bias, and the demands imposed by society.