Out of all of the pieces of literature we have studied this year, The Awakening by Kate Chopin has to be the story that caught my attention the most. This book may not have been the most interesting to read – in fact I would even say that it was the least entertaining piece of literature we have read so far. I did not particularly enjoy the actual reading of this book, however there are other things that did strike me as interesting.
The main thing that I noticed when reading this was how controversial it was and still is. This book deals with adultery, feminism, lesbianism and suicide, which all stuck out to me for different reasons. Feminism and lesbianism are relatively accepted today. In the 19th century when this book was written, these ideas were not so accepted and I can see how they would be controversial. Not to mention that adultery and suicide are both topics that are still controversial today. Seeing these themes in this book was really quite a shock to me as I never would have expected to read a book like this that was written in the 19th century.
After the initial shock of realizing what type of book this was, I began to think of the story and the events taking place in a more analytical sense, and how these themes tie into the suggestions of the plot. One of the big things I noticed when doing this was that there is a very strong resemblance of A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen in this book. To start, feminism is a key concept in both works. There was a big connection of the issues raised by the main female lead realizing they don’t want to be with their husband, and want to be freed from the social standards put in place by society. I had this realization in the back of my mind while reading the book, but when I read the ending, I was even more certain of my ideas. Both books end with the main female character becoming “freed” from their husbands and the socials standards mentioned previously. That being said, not everyone may see it that way. Because Edna Pontellier in The Awakening commits suicide, it is probably brushed off by most as a sad ending. For me, it gives off mixed impressions. Edna was no longer happy being confined to the norms she was forced within by society, and more importantly by her husband and father. Because of this, her committing suicide in the end may not have been a sad ending after all. If Edna would really rather be dead than forced into the life she had, then this is just an act of her standing up for herself, making her even more empowered. The fact that she went against society and the “authoritative figures” (her father and husband) in her life proves that Edna stood up for herself in a way. This action is very similar to how Nora leaves her husband who treats her the same as her father did in A Doll’s House. Notice how both women feel confined mainly by two men: their husband and their father. Both women then seek to be freed from this, and ultimately do. This raises many questions about women’s role in society. Should women be allowed to leave their families and children? Why is it seen as the mother’s duty to care for her children? Due to the time period these texts were written in, I can image how they were both very controversial.
This wasn’t the only scene that really caught my eye in The Awakening, but it was the part that made me see the strongest connection between this book and A Doll’s House. Due to my personal response already being too long for people to want to read, I can’t share any of the other connections I noticed throughout the story. Although I didn’t really enjoy reading the book, I did enjoy the story overall and especially found it interesting to look at this text and previous texts and see the connection between them.