Sunday, June 8, 2008

BOOK: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

decades challenge (1890s), novella challenge

Imagine life one hundred years ago for the well off woman. She would leave her father and be married, hopefully an advantageous marriage with good money prospects, and then produce children. She would preside over a home, with servants and maids, with no real task other than to be there. For the husband (keep the house nice, keep up proper appearances), for the children (who the nanny truly looked after, so maybe just a kiss goodnight) and for society (the rounds of visitations, the appearances above all else.) Who is she? How would she know when she spends her time in service of others? She may dabble in painting or singing, but it must not interfere with the family.

When Kate Chopin wrote this book in 1899, this would have been a scandalous event. She proposed that women were basically sleeping, not meeting their full potential. Edna Pontellier is the woman we follow as she begins to open her eyes, awaken as she discovers who she is. Southern Louisiana is the setting as Edna is living a very Victorian lifestyle. One summer at the shore, she meets Robert and all these emotions are woken up.

I liked this little classic. It was easily readable, one of my biggest complaints about some 'classics'. Obviously, life is very different now, but to see how women were subjugated and how far we have come in one hundred years was insightful. We still face that dilemma of learning who we are and what our role is, but now we have so many more options. Edna was very brave to continue on her journey, to stand up to her husband. I was surprised she wasn't just put into an insane asylum to deal with her revolt, but her options were so limited.

If you've read and reviewed this book, let me know in the comments. We can link up.


  1. I really enjoyed The Awakening, too, and had good luck teaching it to high school seniors. I haven't reviewed it, but I did create a "book club kit" (reading guide) for it on my site:

  2. I've had this one on my shelf for YEARS but haven't read it yet. It seems nice and short so I'm not sure why I haven't although your review makes me want to reconsider and moving it onto the TBR rather than languishing on the shelf.

  3. This is my necxt read so I'll come beck and link posts when I'm done

  4. I read this book this year too! I have seen several people read it also, which is interesting since it is an oldie. :) My review is here

  5. I read this one last summer (do have a link but don't have time to get it right now). I had a tough time with the ending, especially because I had just read Portrait of a Lady by James and wanted to scream at both--can't any woman be independent AND happy? Maybe I just need to think about them in different ways.

  6. I read this awhile ago and remember finding it heartbreaking. It was definitely insightful into that time, and it was nice to see how far we've come, but I felt like there was still relevance to the story, and it hurt.

    It hurt even more when I found out that Kate Chopin's career was basically ended after writing this..

  7. I have been meaning to read this book for a while now!

    btw, I can't believe how many reading challenges you have participated in. It's simply impressive. I am going to try and do a challenge myself sometime..


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