The Awakening: Recent Criticism
Date of Submission
The Awakening: Recent Criticism
I am a tough sell when it comes to classic literature. I prefer current literature without a doubt because I like better current language and narrative techniques. It is apparent that nearly all classics value too highly with he actual power being in basic storyline and themes and not the actual storytelling. I also not found it easy to get past on the misogyny and racism and racism in quite a number of classics regardless of how representative of the time might be.
Thus I was pleasingly surprised when I became engrossed in The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I precisely picked it because I have heard of its supposedly feminist themes though I was highly cynical of it actually living up (Chopin, 76). What I found was a convincing story and constant consciousness and criticism of the gendered responsibilities and power-relationships among the characters.
According to Chopin (83), The Awakening is the story of a married woman in the late 1800 called Edna Pontellier. Edna starts to question her life as a married woman, how she is treated by her husband and the place of a woman in society at large through her friendship with a single male called Robert Lebrun. In the book, the “Awakening” is both a sexual awakening, and an awakening to the restrictiveness of her place within society.
However, the feminism of the book is very clear at the beginning. There are explanations of her husband viewing her as a piece of property and Edna does not feel an all-consuming commitment towards her children as was expected at that time and the way is still usually expected currently even though she loves her children. Her initial example of rebellion when she realizes first that she is capable of swimming and she grew daring and irresponsible, overestimate her power.
This moment of freedom, self-realization and empowerment is a mechanism for developing assertiveness and independence of Edna. In fact, she refuses openly to obey wishes of her husband for the first time following this moment. Usually, she would have acquiesced to his desire through habit without any sense of obedience or submission to his convincing wishes but without thinking as we walk, sit, move or stand. In short, Edna started to recognize that she had assumed automatically a responsibility of inferiority towards her husband when she didn’t essentially have to (Buhle, 350). These results to huge and good things- pursuing her aptitude as an artist- rising up domestic responsibilities and social expectations, moving about freely, moving out of the home of her husband with freedom and obtaining the courage of lastly express her love for Robert.
From a storyline point of view, it is frustrating that her affair with Robert is never truly accomplished. As a matter of facts, they didn’t share more than a few hugs and kisses. Nevertheless, it gives room for a lot more individual development on part of Edna. It is a story of self-realization and empowerment instead of this turning into some bullshit story regarding a woman fascinated in miserable marriage only to be saved by a better man. Edna didn’t need Robert at the end so as to find out her sensuality and she did not require him to enforce changes in her life.
Buhle (367) asserts that he turns out to be her disgrace. He rejects her in the end paternalistically and foolishly for her own good. He denies her agency effectively, declines her capability to make a competent choice and turns out not to be much better when compared to her husband. They both treat her as highly unreasonable and not aware of what is best for her life after all.
The ending is of course part of the book that is talked much about. To start with, I would like to say that I like the moment where she strips undressed on the beach and stands in the sun (Culley, 99). She sees image in her head earlier in the book while listening to especially inspirational music, of undressed man standing on the beach in front of the water. He seems free, peaceful, and Edna unreservedly envies him. Therefore, the picture of her stripping naked is a straight reference to that initial vision, with the radical variation of her sex. I viewed it as an increasingly feminist moment where Edna became conscious that she can be in fact whatever she dreamed to be. I gaze that the initial subject of her vision was male due because she was not yet aware of how to imagine differently. I view her substitute of that man as the peak of her transformation.
Miserably, her suicide by drowning follows this moment directly. I am genuinely shocked by this turn of events. I gaze that one of the most understandable interpretations would be that Edna permitted her love of undeserving man to get the best of her and sacrificed herself foolishly for him.
However, I didn’t view suicide of Edna as a result of sorrow over loosing Robert, but as sorrow over loss of the optimism that she could be herself truly (Culley, 112). There is the statement shortly prior to her drowning that she now understands clearly what she had implied long ago when she told Adele Ratignolle that she would give up the dispensable although she would never sacrifice herself for her children. It is therefore my understanding that Edna felt like she would have to sacrifice herself so as to continue living in such a patriarchal world, where she not never have control whatever takes place to her. Treatment of Robert towards her commended strongly the fact in her mind.
As a matter of fact, I would contrast it to the ending of Thelma and Louise or the murder of the Lisbon girls in The Virgin Suicides a book by Jeffrey Eugenides. All these characters felt devastating society’s constraint because they were not males (Koloski, 20). All of them felt fascinated and were unjustly subjected to societal forces further than their control. All these women chose to die other than to live in the world of man that was handed to them even though it is far away from the perfect resolution and not one that I would support in real life. They chose suicide following realization after tremendous struggle and pressure that they could not in fact, beat the patriarchy. No life and a death on their own terms for them was a torture of a lot better when compared to a life out of their control. And I would say as a literary device that it is increasingly effective, attractive fucking badass and also quite a feminist.
Buhle, Mari. Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920. Urbana: U of Illinois, 1981, 342-687.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: H. S. Stone & Company, 1899, 78-243
Culley, Margaret. The Awakening: An Authoritative Text Context Criticism. New York: Norton, 1976, 77-132
Koloski, Bernard, ed. Preface. Approaches to Teaching Chopin's The Awakening. By Koloski. New York: MLA, 1988, 14-76.