I’m not quite sure what to think about this one. Kate Chopin’s novel, entitled The Awakening, is generally considered her magnum opus, as well as what incited the end of her writing career as a result of it’s “scandalous” message. Naturally, it should be fun to examine.
The thing that struck me with the most force and frequency was the writing style and structure. There’s a lot of description in this story, and as a result reading it can often feel like a chore. As a direct result of this, The Awakening is extremely slow paced. In addition, the story’s narrative structure is a little bit odd. The best adjective I can use to describe it is “meandering.” In the moment, very few events have a lasting impact on future events; the characters just jump from one location to the next, dialogue is said, people and things are described, Edna (the protagonist) reacts, moving on. Combined with the lack of rising action, falling action, or any real climactic event, the reading experience in general feels rather flat. The way I say this makes it sound like a detriment, but while it may have negatively affected my enjoyment of the story, it definitely serves a purpose. The Awakening is a story-driven character study, and choses to express its ideas through a slice of life format. Chopin is, through these largely disconnected events, showing us Edna’s gradual journey towards self-actualization. Each event doesn’t necessarily contribute to the story, but together, they create a well-developed character arc for the protagonist.
In class discussions, the topic of Edna’s morality was frequently brought up. These were discussions that I didn’t often participate in, as my own thoughts on this topic were not really fully formed, and as of right now, they still aren’t. My current interpretation is that Edna is written as a flawed, fallible character, with goals and desires that conflict with the world around her, rather than an objectively “bad” or “good” person. Weather this was an active decision on the author’s part, I’m not sure, but it certainly helps Edna feel like a real person, with real thoughts and emotions. The parts of the story in the middle and end when Edna began exercising her agency were easily the most enjoyable scenes in the entire book for that very reason.