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Suggested Readings

Bloom, Harold, ed. Kate Chopin. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. A collection of ten critical essays on Chopin’s works, with considerable discussion of The Awakening. The editor’s introduction contains a thought-provoking comparison of The Awakening with the poetry of Walt Whitman.

Bonner, Thomas, Jr. The Kate Chopin Companion: With Chopin’s Translations from French Fiction. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988. An attractive and useful volume consisting mainly of a dictionary of characters, places, titles, terms, and people from the life and work of Chopin. Most of the translations are of stories by Guy de Maupassant, including “Solitude,” which is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand Chopin’s psychological outlook.

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Edited by Margaret Culley. New York: W. W. Norton, 1976. Contains fifteen essays or critical excerpts and ten 1899 reviews. Also contains background material on the situation of women in Chopin’s time.

Ewell, Barbara C. Kate Chopin. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1986. A biography of Chopin which surveys her writings in their entirety. Ewell emphasizes that The Awakening is Chopin’s best-known and most important creation but represents only a portion of her total achievement as a writer. This excellent study also contains a chronology, a bibliography, and comprehensive endnotes.

Fryer, Judith. The Faces of Eve: Women in the Nineteenth Century Novel. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. A chapter describes Edna Pontellier as the first woman in American fiction who is a fully developed character.

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981.

Keesey, Donald, Comp. Contexts for Criticism. 2d ed. Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield, 1994. Considers The Awakening from the perspectives of historical, formal, reader response, mimetic, intertextual, and poststructural criticism.

Martin, Wendy, ed. New Essays on “The Awakening.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1988. A collection of four essays about Chopin’s novel with a lengthy introduction by the editor, who provides an overview of Chopin’s life and work. Each essay offers a distinct point of view; together they are intended to represent the best contemporary ideas about The Awakening by the so-called New Critics.

Platizky, Roger. “Chopin’s The Awakening.” The Explicator 53, no. 2 (Winter, 1995): 99-103.

Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969. Reprint. New York: Octagon Books, 1980. An excellent biography by an authority on the author who served as editor of The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, published by Louisiana State University Press in 1970. Seyersted was influential in bringing Chopin back into the literary spotlight as a feminist writer of the first rank.

Toth, Emily. Kate Chopin. New York: William Morrow, 1990. An exhaustively researched book regarded by many critics as the definitive biography of Chopin. Toth identifies real-life models for Chopin’s literary characters. Many photographs are included.

Ziff, Larzer. The American 1890’s: Life and Times of a Lost Generation. New York: Viking Press, 1966. A social and literary history of the decade. Depicts Chopin as an artist and a pioneer in women’s rights.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Quotations of The Awakening are taken from the following editions:

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Avon Books, 1972.


Chopin, Kate. The Awakening, edited by Margo Culley, 2nd edition. Norton, 1994.

Dyer, Joyce. The Awakening: A Novel of Beginnings. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993.

Koloski, Bernard, ed. Approaches to Teaching Chopin’s The Awakening. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1988.

Martin, Wendy, ed. New Essays on The Awakening. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985.

Toth, Emily. Kate Chopin . New York:...

(This entire section contains 1038 words.)

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William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1990.

For Further Study

Review of The Awakening. In Public Opinion, Vol. 26, 1899, p. 794. This unfavorable review of The Awakening criticizes the immorality of the book, calling into doubt "the possibility of a woman of solid old Presbyterian Kentucky stock ever being at all like the heroine" and concluding that "we are well satisfied when she drowns herself."

Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Views: Kate Chopin. Chelsea House Publishers, New York, 1987. This compilation offers perspectives from such distinguished critics as Larzer Ziff, Cynthia Griffin Wolff, and Susan Rosowski. Their interpretations run from an analysis of the author's "Flaubertian detachment" to a feminist's evaluation.

Bogarad, Carley Rees. "'The Awakening': A Refusal to Compromise." In The University of Michigan Papers in Women's Studies, Vol. II, No. 3, 1997, pp. 15-31. Bogarad reviews the novel and classifies it as a "novel of development." The review offers the idea that Edna's awakening is a double one. Her first awakening occurs when Edna realizes that she wants autonomy as a human being and conceives of a life that would allow her to follow her dreams and still be connected to society. Her second awakening begins when she concedes that she can not reconcile her definition of self with society's definition. The reviewer provides detailed support for her view.

Bonner, Thomas, Jr. The Kate Chopin Companion. Greenwood, 1988. Bonner compiles an encyclopedic dictionary of all of Chopin's characters. This volume also includes several of Guy de Maussapant's short stories, which were translated from French into English by Chopin.

"Books of the Day." In The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. Chicago Times-Herald, Vol. 1, June, 1899, p. 9. Although the reviewer praises The Awakening for being "strong," the overall review is negative. The reviewer says of The Awakening that "it was not necessary for a writer of so great refinement and poetic grace to enter the overworked field of sex fiction. This is not a pleasant story, but the contrast between the heroine and another character who is utterly devoted to her husband and family saves it from utter gloom."

Boren, Lynda S., and Sara deSaussure Davis. Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou. Louisiana State University Press, 1992. This volume of essays offers multiple feminist readings of The Awakening and some of Chopin's short fiction.

Bryan, Violet Harrington. The Myth of New Orleans in Literature. University of Tennessee Press, 1993. Bryan discusses the influence of New Orleans culture on Chopin's fiction, focusing heavily on issues of gender and race.

Dyer, Joyce. The Awakening: A Novel of Beginnings. Twayne, 1993. Dyer analyzes the nature of female awakenings in Chopin's short fiction and in The Awakening, but since she sees Chopin as sensitive to male perspectives, she argues that Chopin's true subject is not limited to an examination of the female nature, but to human nature.

Elfenbein, Anna Shannon. Women on the Color Line: Evolving Stereotypes and the Writings of George Washington Cable, Grace King, Kate Chopin. University Press of Virginia, 1989. Elfenbein discusses the double-bind that many of Chopin's characters of mixed race find themselves in, and the ways m which they attempt to overcome the prejudices against them Although Elfenbem focuses on the short fiction, her book is useful for gaining a sense of Chopin's attitudes concerning racial equality.

Ewell, Barbara C. Kate Chopin. Ungar, 1986. Ewell analyzes The Awakening as a feminist novel. She also discusses biographical information and the short fiction.

Huf, Linda. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman. Ungar, 1983. Huf discussesThe Awakening as "a tale of a young woman who struggles to realize herself—and her artistic ability."

Louisiana Literature, Vol. 2.1, 1994. An entire section of this journal is devoted to essays presented at the Biannual Kate Chopin International Conference. The introductory essay by Emily Toth discusses new issues in Kate Chopin's work, and is especially useful for those unfamiliar with Chopin's work.

Manning, Carol S., ed. The Female Tradition in Southern Literature. University of Illinois Press, 1993. This volume of essays discusses, in passing, Chopin's contribution to the Southern Renaissance in literature.

Martin, Wendy, ed. New Essays on The Awakening. Cambridge University Press, 1988. Contains essays on the roles of the artist, of modernist thought, of Edna's dilemma and her potential solutions in The Awakening.

Perspectives on Kate Chopin: Proceedings of the Kate Chopin International Conference. Northwestern State University Press, 1990. Collected papers from the 1988 meeting of the Kate Chopin International Conference. This volume is very difficult to locate, but has some excellent essays on lesbianism, local color, and philosophical influences on Chopin. It also includes an essay on Chopin's relationship to her publishers.

Rowe, Anne. "Kate Chopin." In The History of Southern Literature. Louisiana State University Press, 1985. This essay offers a brief biographical sketch of Kate Chopin.

Seyersted, Per, ed. The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Louisiana State University Press, 1969. This volume contains all of Chopin's known fiction, including The Awakening, At Fault and over 100 short stories. It also includes essays, poetry, and a song. Although a few pieces of Chopin's work have been discovered since the Complete Works appeared, it is still a reasonably complete volume.

Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography. Louisiana State University Press, 1969. This biography gives information about Chopin's life, but also relies heavily on explication of her texts. Seyersted sets right some of the inaccuracies of Daniel Rankin's early, discredited biography.

Taylor, Helen. Gender, Race and Region in the Writings of Grace King, Ruth McEnery Stuart and Kate Chopin. Louisiana State University Press, 1989. Taylor argues that Chopin's fiction is inherently racist and illustrates with copious examples.

Toth, Emily. Kate Chopin: A Life of the Author of The Awakening. Morrow, 1990. This authoritative biography of Chopin's life was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Toth's style is very readable, and the book is chocked full of personal anecdotes from those who knew Chopin.

Media Adaptations

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The Awakening is the basis for the film, The End of August, released in 1982. Produced by Warren Jacobson and Sally Sharp under Quartet Production Company, the film features Sally Sharp as Edna and David Marshall Grant as Robert.

The book is also available as a sound recording. Narrated by Alexandra O'Karma, the four tapes offer the unabridged version of the story. The taped volume is published by Charlotte Hall, MD: Recorded Books, 1987.


Historical and Social Context