LIT 4386 British and American Literature
Chopin, The Awakening (1011--1101)
Post #6 Group A
- To read through chapter 21 or page 1061
- To explore the use of third person narrator
- To discuss ways in which Edna awakens in this part of the novel
Notes and Discussion Questions:
1. Kate Chopin (1851-1904)
Chopin started writing at the age of 36 in 1889 -- had ten
years of fairly successful writing
She is most famous for The Awakening (1899) but also respected
as a leading writing in regionalism, "local color" -- an area
that women began to excel in late in the century.
The Awakening, unlike "The Yellow Wallpaper," does not
reflect the life of its author
Chopin was happily married by all accounts -- five children.
After husband died she lived with her family in St. Louis -- writing for therapy
She maintained an active socialite life in the elite circles.
2. The Awakening
This week we will discuss first half of the novel; read through chapter 21 or page 1061.
In this novel we have an extended look at the effects of marriage,
traditionally understood, on the awakening consciousness of the individual woman.
We also need to understand the historical context -- 1890s; the
cultural context --a wealthy, conservative white woman in a Creole
environment and in her urban roles.
Consider, once again, the common themes of confinement, law, submission,
silence -- this story allows us to explore what happens when a woman follows her desire.
We will consider some carry over themes from "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Jane Eyre:
the conflict between autonomy and duty and emotional stability, the theme of the
need for artistic expression, the themes of self-discovery and escape;
new themes of sexual awareness and desire.
Nina Baym does not see this book as particularly feminist in its message;
she commends Chopin's "use of a female protagonist to represent a
universal human dilemma" (xxxiv).
Further she says that "Kate Chopin does not provide a single interpretation
of Edna's story; she refuses to reduce it to one meaning" (xxxii).
I would like you to look at the story as the representation of
a woman's life -- in keeping with the other literature we have
read for the semester. This is slightly different, however.
What form is it?
Paying attention to the opening passage: How do we know where the
narrator's perspective is? Where does it stay? What are
the implications of the opening shift from Mr.
Pontellier to Edna? What are the implications
of staying with Edna but maintaining a distance from her identity?
How is this different from the first-person narrations we have read thus far?
Discuss the title of the story: What are the meanings of The Awakening?
p. 1022: read "A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly
within her, -- the light which, showing the way, forbids it . . . .
vouchsafe to a woman" (1022).
In what ways does Edna awakens in the novel?
Consider the following: Senses / Aesthetic appreciation / Desire - Romance /
Independence / Sex
Examine the following passages:
1024-5: her past
1027- 1032: music
1028- 1033: swim
1038 : boat
1042 : independence
1047: Rob/ infatuation
1049: passage on sacrifice for children
1052: wedding ring
1056: her painting
1061: visit Mlle. Reisz