Edna's Flight from Inertia- p.1-47
In the first chapters of Chopin's "The Awakening", the meaning behind the title becomes self-evident. Edna Pontellier, a reserved mother of 27, appears to be just another bland Victorian housewife, obedient, submissive and repressive of her own feelings. Edna could be described as unhappy. She feels "an indescribable oppression" as her husband condemns her "neglect of children" (Chopin 8,7). She rejects and denies the advances of Robert. She nostalgically remembers the infatuations of her youth which subsided once she decided to pragmatically marry Mr. Pontellier. One can derive from her personality that Edna is not really feeling anything. She is stuck in this limbo of repression and orthodoxy which cages her. She strives to break free and in the later chapters, she begins to do so. Once Mademoiselle Reisz starts playing a piano tune, Edna's awakening is initially triggered. She feels "the very passions themselves" erupting "within her soul" just "as the waves daily beat upon her splendid body" (Chopin 35). Furthermore, the "waves" evoke a body of water, exactly where her awakening will proceed. In the following chapter, Edna surprisingly becomes able to swim and a feeling of absolute freedom overcomes her. Her awakening, her liberation makes her want to swim "where no woman had swum before", a foreshadowing of her future clashes with Victorian society (Chopin 37). The products of this sudden awakening are immediate as Edna defies her husband and gets closer to a possible love interest, Robert. Edna's awakening is far from complete, but the larger repercussions of a broad sexual and existential freedom are sure to follow.
Some connections I found when reading the initial moments of Chopin’s text were between Oscar Wilde’s works and the sexist society Brazil enforces. Wilde’s works, specifically The Importance of Being Earnest, criticizes Victorian values and principles something Chopin also carries out. Chopin highlights the assumption that women should function as mothers, always caring and attentive while men need not worry with such things. This same “housewife assumption” is common in Brazil. Girls are commonly conditioned to seek a stable living through a wealthy husband instead of working their way to the top...
Some questions: Is Creole just a fancy name for black people? If so, why isn’t there more talk of racial boundaries and limitations which would have been relevant at the time? Does Edna have real feelings for Robert or is he just an object of her resurgent sexual urges? Is this a feminist book?
I agree that Edna's awakening started with the piano playing. I also think that the sea is a metaphor for her desires or sexual liberty or whatnot. All the Creoles are less reserved and constrained than she, so they are able to swim "in their desires", so to speak. She is only able to do that when she is freed. Unfortunately she will probably try to go too far, as you have said, and get too far away from all the others. That is, become aloof from society. She might also drown, as her moment of panic evidences.
I believe that Creoles are nobles that were born away from the mainland. That is, Englishmen who were born in the United States. Not sure though. I personally believe Edna does not love Robert. I also do not think this is a feminist book. To me, it seems that Chopin is simply satirizing everyone. But maybe I'm being unfair?
In response to Bernardo and Marcia, let's attempt to define what constitutes a so-called “feminist book." How might one measure the degree to which Chopin has composed one? What bearing might the label "feminist book" have the overall thematic message? Let's be careful not to be reductive with labels, but instead use them to open up new analytical avenues of thought.
Walking to the unknown ocean. Pgs. 1-47.
At the beginning of the book I have been questioning how can merely almost two opposite women, Mrs. Pontellier (Edna) and Madame Ratignoelle (Adele) can be friends? I answered myself that questions and maybe it because Edna pursuits the empty wish to be like Adele, who is a beautiful careful mother of her children that is devoted to her family; something that Edna isn’t. As it is said in the text “Their absence was a sort of relief, thought she did not admit this, even to herself. It seemed to free her of a responsibility which she had blindly assumed and for which Fate had not fitted her. (Chopin 25) this quote is about her children and it is basically mentioned that Edna had an empty life, in which fate hadn’t supplied her with her real destiny. Another quote that reinforces is about when she got married “She felt she would take her place with a certain dignity in the world of reality, closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and dreams”(Chopin 24) In this quote Edna reminds me to Pippa in the book “Rebel Angels”by Libba Bray. Pippa is a girl, who dreams with true love and romance but instead she is forced to marry an old rich guy, so that is why she decides to die so she could stay in the realms and create her own prince charming. I see Edna as the alternative version of Pippa, as the version that got married and until a certain point gave up to her dreams of love and freedom. Something curious I found out in this section of the book is when Edna stars remembering her past, and the day she walked without a destiny through the grass, when she was a child; to this memories the book calls it as “a first breath of freedom” (Chopin 25). In the quote “Edna had attempted all summer to learn to swim”(Chopin 36) I had to reflect about the true meaning of this phrase maybe Chopin referred to Edna’s attempt of pursuit freedom during that summer, when she was remembering her dreams. The whole part in the book where Edna swims for me it’s just a hidden metaphor for Edna’s beginning of awakening. In her awakening Edna still fears about society or others, this being represented in “A quick vision of death smote her soul, and for a second of time appalled and enfeebled her senses.” (Chopin 37) But Edna’s little utopia from reality vanishes when her husband says “You were not so very far, my dear; I was watching you”(Chopin 38) Edna then realizes she is still there just swimming freely but trapped there, but still she goes satisfied home refusing to go inside, what in my perception would trap her again taking away her feeling of freedom. To finalize I’m still confused how Edna’s husband haven’t seen anything suspicious between Edna and Robert. Another inside question is how can Edna live inside this society of Creoles? When she certainly demonstrates that she doesn’t follow the ideals of being family dedicated and submitted to her husband.
Tittle: "In accord with the 'Awakening Policies' "
Pages 1- 47 (chapters I-XII)
For those that are reading The Awakening, Kate Chopin has so far amazed me with her outstanding writing capabilities and feminist criticism. In my point of view, Kate Chopin is trying to present a woman ahead of her time. This woman is materialized in the figure of Edna Pontellier. According to Chopin, Edna is a twenty-eight year old mother of two sons that “ would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; or would forget about them” (25). She is seen as a woman that lived what could be viewed as an unhappy submissive creature that is suppose to fill her duty as a mother in the Creole Society, and fails miserably. In the book, Chopin explicitly states that there`s a system of cohesive understanding between men and women roles. Each one works as in a functioning organism, where the men spent most of their time working, gambling and fulfilling their duties to sustain their wives and children; while women have to be loving mothers that are correspondent and obedient towards their husbands. However, in the first chapters, Chopin describes Edna rather differently from those standards. Edna is a freethinking woman that is rather conservative. She doesn`t see herself in belonging entirely to the Creole society where “they all knew each other, and felt like one large family, among whom existed the most amicable relations” (Chopin 12).
She describes Edna as a women that doesn`t give much attention to her children; that is viewed as an object by her own husband, and she herself does not feel happy to be regarded as one. After all, she is a human being and deserves attention. She may be a woman, but she is a woman with feelings. Society views men as the “Humans” for being the source of economic stability, however this does not mean that Edna should be viewed as a reproductive object that should be judged by her looks and motherly traits (Madame Ratignolle) instead of her audacity and strong personality. Her strong personality can be described when Edna ignores her husband`s pleas, in chapter III, to listen to his gambling triumphs. Another example is when her husband looks at her as “a valuable piece of property which has suffered some damage”(Chopin 3); or when Mr. Potellier criticized his wife for her “habitual neglected of the children” (Chopin 7). Mr. Pontellier analyzes according to what is expected of women based on the 1800`s, that “if it was not a mother`s (Edna`s) place to look after children, whose on earth was it? He Himself had his hands full with his brokerage business”(Chopin 7).
Thus, during this miserable life that Edna carries, we can see that Edna refers a lot to the word “Fate” capitalized. As if stating that all her troubles and difficulties that led her to this life, are due to the “Fate” that all women have to face, since they don`t have a choice of option. Furthermore, I believe that “Fate”, is maybe a reference to the Greek Goddesses of fate. According to Mythology, the Goddesses of Fate are three sisters holding scissors that will decide what will be the next move in people`s lives. Thus, Edna may also blame her misery in this idea. The idea that she cannot change her fate because women are objects that don`t have a right to choice whom to marry or what to do with their lives. However, curiously, Edna seems only to believe in this theory after she is awakened. I could see that when Edna awakes from the musical piece played by the eccentric Mrs. Reisz`s, she sees that her emotions of “solitude, hope, longing and despair” can no longer be suppressed, and that`s when she seems to stop to refer of FATE capitalized and as to blame for her troubles (Chopin 35). After that, she sees herself happy and independent with the will to make her own decisions. This can be perceived when Mr. Pontellier, at the last chapter orders Edna to go to sleep with him, and Edna responds: “ Léonce, go to bed. I mean to stay out here. I don`t wish to go in, and I don`t intend to. Don`t speak to me like that again; I shall not answer you”(Chopin 42).
Moreover, the idea of women being regarded as objects reminds me a lot of Margaret Atwood`s, The Handmaid`s Tale. In her work, women start being objectivized. This happens due to the scarce reproduction as a consequence of toxic waste contamination, in a future where society has collapsed into becoming the oppressive Republic of Gilead. Women will come back to dress long outfits as they did during Edna`s time, and the handmaid`s will have to reproduce by having sexual relations with the wives of the Commanders. The Commanders are sort of Governors, whose wives are only social figures that no longer work and are expected to take care of the children that the handmaid`s will deliver. Thus, as it can be analyzed, this idealized society is not as different from Edna`s reality. Edna, as any Creole wom
Mrs. B and all, my text for some reason was cut down so I am posting the continuation of it here:
Edna, as any Creole women, is suppose to bear many children as we can see through talks between Edna and Madame Ratignolle, and are seen as inferior subjected, since like the Commanders, the men are the ones that provide security. Hence women can only follow orders or consequences will fall upon them. In the Republic of Gilead, the consequences would lead in the deaths of any people that would go against the government. In the case of the Handmaid`s, many would even anticipate their deaths by killing themselves for not standing to live according to the brutal system dogmas. Whereas, in Edna`s society, to be divergent meant to finish like Mademoiselle Reisz; a lonely, unmarried ugly woman, with a strong personality and hard temper that apparently seems to be shut off by society.
Furthermore, another connection I could make to this novel was to Machado de Assis`s Dom Casmurro. This is a famous Realistic book highly regarded in Brazilian literature, where adultery is its main focus. Like in Chopin`s work, Assis`s describes his main character`s wife, as a beautiful woman, as Edna, that had a female`s mind and personality ahead of her time. However, due to her distance from her Husband (main Character), he starts to notice that suddenly, after losing three consecutive babies, her third son throughout the years, becomes more and more physically similar to his best Friend Escobar. Thus, he lives his life in a torturous doubt of the infidelity of this wife, from which he loved so much, with his best friend that later dies. Therefore, both these novels bring the adultery theme, where both regard the sexual arouse of women, coincidently close to their 30 years range. Moreover, both women are presented by their respected authors as independent and ahead of their time period, however in different cultural settings. Some questions I have are: Is Chopin a writer from the Realistic literary movement like Assis? Why do you think Chopin choose to focus upon the idea that Edna wasn`t fit for a respectable woman based on her recklessness toward her children? Do you really think that Edna has no regards for her children? Why do you believe Chopin capitalized the word “Fate” continuously? What is its significance to the plot of the story?
Bothersome Dissatisfaction vs Sensuous Laziness
Pages 1-47 (chapter I - XII)
Bothersome dissatisfaction. Sensuous laziness. These are the two “tones” (Since after grade 10 tones are now my expertise) conveyed to me from chapter I to chapter XII of The Awakening. They are two rather different tones and deserve different interpretations. Perhaps I flatter myself in thinking you shall read this long text at all, but I shall say this all the same: Only choose one of the tones listed and stick to it. Don’t bother reading the other one. You will be bored. I honestly don't know why I write so much. it's compulsive. This will be a problem in the future. Anyway, let me first speak of the tone of “bothersome dissatisfaction”.
The first few chapters describe a routine, the aweing and absolute normalcy of the actions. This rather purposely boring feeling is accentuated by the monotonous tone of the book. Being an avid reader of adventures and sappy romances, I am not used to this almost lack of interest from the author in describing the events in her book. Usually books seem to start with a protagonist who is either deliriously happy or despairingly miserable. The deliriously happy protagonist then has this amazing and astonishing thing that happens to them and they become miserable and have to embark on a perilous and arduous journey. The despairingly miserable protagonist must go on a perilous and arduous journey for a different reason- they must get out of their state of despairing misery. In these kinds of romances strong emotions such as ecstasy, anguish, and hate are common, so much so that they do seem to lose some of the impact the words originally carried. The Three Musqueteers by Alexandre Dumas starts off with a hopeful D’Artagnan chasing his dream. There are grand emotions and noble characters. In this book, however, the author seems to satirize all the characters in the book with their mundaneness.
In The Awakening Edna seems bored and unsatisfied, but even that “dissatisfaction” is not very amplified. It is true that dissatisfaction is a common emotion for a protagonist to have at the beginning of the book, but the author usually plays it so that the reader feels the same dissatisfaction. This monotonous, routine-like, dissatisfied-but-not-too-dissatisfied tone drives the reader mad, and starts making us feel incredibly dissatisfied as well. We are given no emotional reprieve, no outlet, but forced to dutifully receive these little discomforts from the story. Have you ever heard of the famous Chinese torture? They slowly, systematically, let drops of water hit the person’s forehead. It sounds ridiculous at first, but will make the person go mad. It is much more relieving to take a full on hard bucket of water in the face from time to time then to have the drops slowly, routinely hit your forehead.
Glimpses of “buckets of water” can be seen from The Awakening’s first chapters, but they are not lasting. For example, in the third chapter, when Edna seems to be crying, the author could easily use the situation to amplify the character’s sorrow and dissatisfaction, yet she seems to purposefully give her feelings little consequence. “An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish. It was like a shadow, like a mist passing across her soul’s summer day. It was strange and unfamiliar…” (Chopin 8). In this passage the author seems to finally allow us some emotional release, some soulaging of the unbearable tension and discomfort we are forced to sit through. Yet this “bucket of water” is soon converted back to a small Chinese torture drop with the next few lines; “She did not sit there inwardly upbraiding her husband, lamenting at Fate, which had directed her footsteps to the path which they had taken. She was just having a good cry all to herself. The mosquitoes made merry over her, biting her firm, round arms and pipping at her bare insteps” (Chopin 8). After going on about Edna’s feelings, Chopin then demeans them and labels them as “jus having a good cry”. The mosquitoes are also rather anticlimactic. They ruin the sad mood. It’s like having the noble hero who just lost his beloved have a fly buzzing in his ears in the midst of his sorrows. Kate Chopin teases the reader by showing a good bucket of emotion, yet when she splashes it on us we are frustrated to find out that only a few drops on the forehead came out.
The other tone is sensuous laziness. It is only after some reflection that it occurred to me that readers in the year of 1899 (When The Awakening was first published) are quite different compared to me, or any other readers of this day and age, really. Back then, books served as a pleasant pastime, sometimes an only pastime, and one of the only ac
Marcia raises a pertinent point regarding the exposition of this text that is worth consideration. To what degree is Kate Chopin mirroring Edna's boredom in the actual style of the narrative? Are we as readers meant to experience this same level of monotony so as to identify or even sympathize with protagonist? Do you find this effective as a narrative technique? Feel free to be honest here, and everywhere.
"It's a little bit funny, this feeling inside."
Along with the motifs priorly presented to us in the questions (sleeping, birds and sea), another motif which I identified was a common reference to the human body. For nearly every character introduced, there is a long, and well developed physical description of them. However, I observed that the author possessed a tendency to change her descriptions of the character. As in the first couple of pages, the description tends to worship the facial and angelical characteristics of the person being depicted such the first physical description of Edna Pontellier as being "eyes were quick and brought; they were a yellowish brown, about the colour of her hair. She has a way of turning them swiftly upon an object contemplation of thought. Her eyebrows were a shake darker than her hair. They were thick and almost horizontal, emphasising the depth of her eyes. She was rather handsome then beautiful." (Chopin 4) Eyes are commonly stated to be the "windows to the soul" being why there is an extra attention to them. Through the description of eyes, the author can establish and foreshadow the characters personality and intentions. The description by Kate Chopin depicts Edna as delicate and caring, however also seductive and hypnotical. In sequence, Chopin chooses to describe Edna's eyebrows, which are so intimately involved in the facial expression, and can also foreshadow about the character.
Later however, the author shifts her manner to describe the character, leading to a more carnal and sexually intended description. The author begins to describe Edna with a "physique stole insensibly upon you. The lines of her body were long, clean and symmetrical; it was a body which occasionally fell into splendid poses; there was no suggestion of the trim, stereotyped fashion-plate about it." And "... The noble noble beauty of its (her body) modelling and the graceful severity of poise and movement, which made Edna Pontellier different from the crowd. The authors shift to describing the body renders the way that Edna interacts with the space around her. This description unconsciously establishes Edna as courageous, defiant and intriguing for the people around her. He could seem intimadating as well being that she is described as "different from the crowd." The long clean and symmetrical lines of her body insinuate a gracefulness and elegance to her.
Did anyone else notice this shift in the description? What do you think the authors intentions where?
"The Great Awakening”
I’m really impressed that I hadn’t noticed the purpose in shift of Edna’s physical descriptions. Even though I agree with you about that aspect, I also think that the main character, Mrs. Pontellier, already demonstrated some rebellious actions and thoughts, even before listening to Mademoiselle Reisz playing the piano and awakening her sensual and defiant side. For instance, when she realized that she did not love her husband any more. “She grew fond of her husband, realizing with some unaccountable satisfaction that no trace of passion or excessive and fictitious warmth colored her affection, thereby threatening its dissolution (Chopin 25).” At that time, this type of thought was unacceptable in society. If a woman married a man she was to be satisfied and admire him for the rest of her life. Another intolerable thought Mrs. Pontellier had was the relief she felt when she was not with her children. “She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way…their absence was a sort of relief, though she did not admit this, even to herself (Chopin 25).” What kind of woman would think about its children like that? Again, during that Century, this type of cogitation was improper due to the fact that her only job was to stay home and take care of her kids, while her husband was working hard to have enough money to raise their family. After reading one forth of the book, I could assimilate Edna to one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book character, Daisy Buchanan. In fact, Mrs. Buchanan was barely present in her daughter’s life. She did not give that much attention to Pammy, instead she would leave her with some nurse for most of the time. Daisy considered her daughter more of a showoff object; the first moment her daughter appeared in the story was when Daisy wanted to show Gatsby how Pammy and her were alike. “She doesn’t look like her father,” explained Daisy. ‘She looks like me. She’s got my hair and shape of face,’ Daisy sat back upon the couch (Fitzgerald 118).” Another similarity Daisy and Edna had was their marriage. Daisy was never pleased with her husband, Tom. In fact, Daisy had an affair with Gatsby, as Edna is interested in Robert, and I do believe that in the future they will have some kind of affair. So, due to Edna’s rebellious thoughts, I believe that later on, she will do something extremely precarious. Does anyone else think that this can actually be a foreshadowing?
Giulia's connection to the way Daisy Buchanan treats her daughter is a unique one. I’d encourage you all to take it a step further, however. Obviously Edna and Daisy’s behavior is unacceptable by Victorian standards, but what about by contemporary standards? To what extent would such behavior be condoned today? Do Edna or Daisy have excuses for the ways they treat their husbands and children?
The awakening of own experiences
I'm totally impressed with the type of comparison and deep understanding you had about the text. Something that I would like to point out in which I think its really important and as I was reading the first chapters of the book, I questioned myself many times is WHY the author first described the character with many objective characteristics such as: “She was rather handsome than beautiful” or “Her manner was engaging” (Chopin 4) and as we were reading the book, instead of the author going back to the characteristics pointed before, he tried to present the personality of each character by showing the way they act. For example, the author first presented Mrs. Pontellier with like Heather said before “a long, and well developed physical description of them” but as the story passes, the author presented the way she acts in such a descriptive way that the readers start to catch the message that he is trying to pass right away. And because of that, I questioned myself about the style that the author wrote the book, in which the readers are always surprised about what is happening with each character. Following the style of Kate Chopin, I completely agree with the foreshadowing that Giu presented. I also believe that as the story passes, Mrs. Pontellier will do something extremely precarious that will surprise the readers.
Another thing that I thought was really impressive was how the Mrs. Pontellier showed that she actually was becoming independent during a time in which taking care of your own children was a act of pleasure for the woman, but for Pontellier, it was way different than that: “She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heat, she would sometimes forget them.” (Chopin 25)
I would actually compare the beggining of the book to real life in which I’ve seen the same situation happening many times. However, something I think that its really curious about it, is that when there is a dissatisfaction in a marriage, those type of rebellious actions comes from men and not women. Since mothers are known as the ones that really cares about their children. However, I would like to complement the comparison of Giulia with Daisy. Even though both characters seem to act the same, with same personality, you may notice the difference between them when Daisy have the option to leave her husband to live a better life along with the one that truly cares about her, but instead, she preferred to be with Tom and suffer for love. Mrs. Pontellier showed how she was strong and persistent, different from Daisy. For me, both have the same story of life, but Edna does not "watch" life passing by and she preferred to live her own life and to be independent, when Daisy "threw away" the chance of being happy.
“A Life-long Nap Comes to a Closure”
These chapters provide a brilliant introduction to Edna Pontellier’s lifestyle, as well as to her relationship with those around her, and place the story in a clear context of what society’s expectations were for a woman at the time. Two important men are introduced as well: Mr. Pontellier, the caring husband, and Robert Lebrun, the inconvenient and attractive young gentleman. I, when reading these pages, pitied the former and grew fond of the latter. Edna’s story with Mr.Pontellier is rather contemptible; “Her marriage to Léonce Pontellier was purely an accident […] He fell in love, as men are in the habit of doing […] his absolute devotion flattered her. She fancied there was a sympathy of thought and taste between them, in which fancy she was mistaken.” (Chopin 24) The book goes as far as to referring to him as a ‘tragedian’, although that would infer that he was the cause of tragedy in their marriage. He, in my opinion, wasn’t to blame, but neither was her, for you can’t force love. Although, on the other hand, maybe one should fall in love first and THEN get married, but times were greatly different then. What do you think? Is stating their relationship is a ‘tragedy’ this early in the story an overstatement? Although I felt pity for her husband, for the sake of a good plot, I rooted for Robert and Edna to be together from the start, even before she confesses that she might desire him. Did anybody else here want them to be romantically involved?
Now, I must connect the text to anything external, and as much as this may seem like a silly connection, I will relate these pages to Katy Perry’s song “Wide Awake”. Some of the lyrics are the following:
“I wish I knew then
What I know now
Wouldn't dive in
Wouldn't bow down”
The song speaks of a girl whose heart was broken by a love story gone wrong. However, this excerpt could also be used to describe Edna’s thoughts as she herself becomes ‘Wide Awake’. She regrets her ‘accidental’ marriage, and she eventually regrets allowing herself to be tied down by society’s norms.
After reading the first couple chapters of “The Awakening”, Kate Chopin’s style is noticeable. She uses many unknown words to me, but I am not sure if they are high level words or just words that are no longer commonly used. In addition, the text is highly descriptive and there are many similes and imagery, and my favorite one was: “She missed him the days when some pretext served to take him away from her, just as one misses the sun on a cloudy day without having thought much about the sun when it was shining” (Chopin 36). As to regards the story, in the beginning of the book, Edna is introduced as an woman that feels a certain agony, inexplicable sadness and internal conflict of externalizing emotions. Then, after listening to an artist play the piano, this turmoiled woman subtly finds herself as if in another being, as if she ruptured from her old self. “Perhaps it was the first time she was ready, perhaps the first time her being was tempered to take an impress of the abiding truth” (Chopin 34). From that point on, Edna’s metamorphosis is exemplified several times as on page 42, “Edna began to feel like one who awakens gradually out of a dream, a delicious, grotesque, impossible dream, to feel again the realities pressing into her soul” (Chopin 42). Until page 47, there are other explicit passages like this, making the meaning of the title of the book more than clear.
However, not everything becomes comprehensible after these pages. For instance, I couldn’t properly understand what type of relationship Robert has with Edna and had with Adele Ratignolle. Superficially they are only friends, but from the narration of their glances and thoughts it is evident that there is more and that there is something romantic or sexual going on between them. Additionally, whenever the word fate appears in the text, the ‘f’ is capitalized as in page 31. Does that make it have a special meaning? Also, when Edna was swimming and almost died, she probably had a psychological disturbance and couldn’t control her mind. Is this incident foreshadowing another loss of control that Edna will face?
When Madame Ratignolle and Edna are talking, Madame Ratignolle asks what Edna is thinking about and then says, “I will let you off this time. It is really too hot to think, especially to think about thinking” (Chopin 21). This metacognitive process, thinking about your thinking, reminded me of Mr. Wisniewski’s class, in which we always had to reflect on our thoughts. Another part of the book that I connected to was on chapter IX. In that chapter, several characters play the piano, which is the only instrument I can play. All the people present in the scene seem to appreciate music, and that reminded me that whenever there is an event in my house, I play the piano and people enjoy the music. Also, some few times, I play with a lot of feeling and passion as if with my soul, like Mademoiselle Reisz, and these moments make me believe in the power of music. In the book, the chord of the piano made Edna tremble, choke, cry and the power of music evoked her awakening.
Elen´s observations regarding Chopin’s style are both sensitive and astute. I encourage you all to push this analysis even further. For example, I also love the simile Elen cited as her favorite, but what draws us to such a simile? What makes such a comparison so pleasing? In IB, one of the criteria is “Appreciation of the Writer’s Choices,” which evaluates the degree to which you not only identify but explain the effect of literary devices such as similes. What effect does this one have, and why?
"Walking Blindly Towards the Dark"
Bibi, I am so glad you mentioned that moment where Edna came face-to-face with death, for I was thrilled to discuss about it! As I see it, this was definitely foreshadowing, possibly involving one of the most important points to the plot, in case my analysis is somewhat correct. You see, Edna was in a moment of complete flourish, ecstasy, and Chopin was able to transmit this sensation in such a manner causing even the readers to feel lost in this emotion. Then an abrupt change undergoes the character, and fear takes over her senses. In brief, this is probably indicating how Edna’s awakening might take her just too far away for her to be able to reach back. Basically, I believe she will be strong enough to begin this flourish, but not to finish it. Not to mention that, as Giulia stated in her post, this awakening was not something “out of nowhere” for Edna. She had already demonstrated through a few actions and comments her, so to say unruly, side. Her running away from prayer services and marrying a man, not because of love, but due to her family’s strong opposition against her marriage with a Catholic man, all indicate how she does take some pleasure in going against the grain. With that, the moment this rebellious woman that had been kept inside for so long finally burst, she will not want to hold it back. She will go all the way, and maybe she will push herself too far. Something I also noticed, slightly following Heather’s stream of thought, was how Chopin’s description of Edna’s physique were also established with a slim intention of indicating her differ against other women. “Her face was captivating by reason of a certain frankness of expression and a contradictory subtle play of features” (Chopin 4), notice how the term “frankness of expression” and the word “contradictory” can be related to her future actions.
Another point Bibi brought up had also made me wonder as I read. What was it about Mademoiselle Reisz music that was able to “awaken” Edna? Does it have something to do with the Reisz’s reputation for being this frank (too frank) and strongly opinioned woman?
I also wanted to comment on Marcia’s and Bernardo’s discussion about this being a feminist book. Well, given its content and especially the time it was written, the book is extremely radical and was harshly unaccepted. Additionally, it is said that Chopin was a slightly defiant woman to the standards of society, which could also feed to the idea of the book being feminist. Yet, it is also mentioned how Chopin was sensitive to criticism, which made her completely stop writing after the reviews and banning of her “The Awakening”. So I believe that this had no intention of being a feminist book, for if Chopin was seeking for approval, she would definitely not have gone (intentionally) to a path so unaccepted by the public. And this takes me to an interesting connection I made from the moment I opened the book and read the very first page. Given that I already had a notion of what was the main plot of the book, I couldn’t help but wonder if Edna is a sort of reflection of Chopin herself. As it was said that “[…] she dressed unconventionally, took long unchaperoned walks, and smoked cigarettes” I questioned if Edna could be like a part of Chopin that she didn’t have the courage to completely accept, like Edna did. They do, after all, share essential characteristics, such as their strong sense of independence.
Quiet Housewife vs Independent Woman
Chapters: I - XII
With all due honesty, before reading the book itself, I read the back, and was not too impressed, I was truly discouraged to read the piece, but being an avid reader, my curiosity prevailed. After the first 12 Chapters, I must say the book did not let me down. Even though the title already foreshadowed some sort of personality change, or "awakening" on behalf of the main character, I was nonetheless surprised and hooked into the book after this twist. The primary idea -and here I am referring to the old Edna - followed the status quo of the given time, but the story only truly begins, Edna only begins to find meaning in her life, after awakening. Now, Bernardo mentioned that the awakening began after Edna listened to Mademoiselle Reisz play the piano. I would have to disagree. For me, the seed of awakening begins much earlier on the book, firstly when she finds herself unhappy, crying, as stated "The tears came so fast to Mrs. Pontellier's eyes" and "Such experiences as the foregoing were not uncommon in her married life. They seemed never before to have weighed much" finally "An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish." (Chopin 8). Here Edna realizes that her life is not pleasing to her expectations, and more importantly; her crying and suffering was common, but this was the first time she took notice of such. Furthermore another slight hint of awakening comes up when said "That summer at Grand Isle she began to loosen a little the mantle of reserve that had always enveloped her." (Chopin 18) where again Edna begins to notice the changes on her monotonous, never altering, moods. The third foreshadowing to an awakening I could find previous to the piano, was when Edna found herself with Madame Ratignolle at the beach, and some sort of lesbian pleasure is found, which is uncommon to the time, and specially to her natural behavior, "The action was at first a little confusing to Edna, but she soon lent herself readily to the Creole's caress." (Chopin 22). The latter was probably the strongest awakening I could find, since it goes completely against her understanding of expected behaviors from women. A motif that leads her to it was the sea, the sea here, is clearly a motif, and one whom represents to her, sexual liberty, freedom of being. The so-called "spirit" mentioned by Robert, was introduced to her on the sea, when she broke the barrier she had.
Pg. 1 - 47
Its quite interesting how the cover page caught my attention. At first I thought to myself, whats was the meaning of the women standing at porch? I couldn't identify anything. So then, I decided to read the book. After getting to know some characters, I felt that something was wrong. What's Edna's story? How can she be so unhappy. Although, as I could read the following pages I could make some connections in order to understand the plot better. An unique connection, that I would like to illustrate, is towards The Great Gatsby. Looking in a different view, at some how both plots are quite the same. An unsatisfied women with its marriage (Edna and Daisy), the cause why they are unhappy which are their husband (Leoncé and Tom) and the lover (Robert and Gatsby). "An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish." (Chopin 8) Other connection that reminded me of something, is related to the The Grand Isle. It reminded me on the old days where all my family went to a village near Vilas, called Praia do Flamengo. We used to spent all our summer days in the beach. “He was spending his summer vacation, as he Always did, with his mother at Grand Isle.”(Chopin 5). For last, other connection that really grinds my gears was the symbolization that the sea had towards Edna. I can’t really know if thats even true, but some how I believe that it might be something related with her sexual desires. Also I strongly believe, that it can be also a foreshadowing at the end of the story. “Edna attempted all summer to learn to swim.”(Chopin 36). “A certain ungovernable dread hung about her when in the water, unless there was a hand near by that might reach out and reassure her.” (Chopin 37)
In what epoque was this book published?
Whats Edna’s feeling towards Robert?
Whats Chopin goal?
There is always more than what meets the eye
For those who read the back of the book and perhaps even the title the introduction of the main character came with no surprises. A young woman with a deceiving appearance. "A casual and indiscriminating observer, in passing, might not cast a second glance upon the figure. But with more feeling and discernment he would have recognized the noble beauty of its modeling, and the graceful severity of poise and movement, which made Edna Pontellier different from the crowd." (Chopin 19) There is always more than what meet the eye especially with the characters of this novel. Each character embodies a feeling or an aspect of Edna's life, some have already been revealed while others one is left to speculate what they foreshadow. The lovers that are so frequently mentioned are a glimpse of the realm of romance and dreams that Edna left behind her when she married Léonce Pontellier (Chopin 24). They represent the secret great passion she was living before getting engaged. The fervor and unconditional affection her own marriage is lacking. The black widow that is always wondering alone reflects how isolated Edna is from the society she lives in. The widows solitude resembles Edna's detachment from her own children, husband and even her own life. Robert is a fantasy that leaves no trace. A satisfaction that doesn't include commitment. A flattering summer romance that becomes a great memory but doesn't last forever. Adéle Ratignolle is a precise example of what Edna failed to become. She represents society and it's standards. Adéle is the ideal Victorian woman a selfless and devoted wife and mother. Mademoiselle Reisz, who played the melody to Edna's awakening, is a particular woman that has devoted her life to her music. She has a strong soul. Maybe she will encourage or inspire Edna to seek for her freedom. Léonce Pontellier is described as flawless. He is a loving dad as well as a hard working, polite and well educated man, but perfection isn't as appealing as people like to make it seem.
When thinking about connections the book The Giver came to mind. Disregarding the differences between the societies they lived in Jonas and Edna do not fit within the standards set by their respective societies. Both characters were oblivious to their status of imprisonment until one day they woke up and realized what was happening. I'm not sure what Edna is going to do but Jonas found his freedom. Did anyone else think about this? Will anybody guide Edna as the Giver guided Jonas?
Chapters 1-12 - Edna`s Awakening
In the beginning of “The Awakening”, Chopin introduces the main character, Edna Pontellier by giving the reader a glimpse of her day-to-day life. The first few chapters can be described as boring by their lack of events and the pace in which the author presents the facts. However, I believe Chopin purposely wanted to bore the reader to make us understand and feel on our own skin how unhappy Edna`s life really is. The reader soon realizes that Edna`s character is just an ordinary mother, very obedient and oppressed especially by her husband: “looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property” (Chopin 2). She barely leaves her house and when she does, it`s to meet with Madame Ratignolle near the premises of her house and spend some time chatting and painting. All this spare time influences her to think how her life could have been totally different had her married someone else: her marriage to Leonce Pontellier was truly an accident…closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and dreams” (Chopin 18). This is the point where the reader realizes that Edna is not satisfied with her life. The author tries to foreshadow at this part that some sort of change is going to be caused by her. Later on, Edna`s change or her “awakening” was sparked by Mademoiselle Reisz`s performance on a reunion of her family friends. The music caused the “very passions she longed for to arise within her soul…she trembled…and the tears blinded her” (Chopin 26). Short after this climax in her life, a personality change can already be noticed. On that same night, Edna refused to go to bed and for the first time, argued with her husband: Leonce go to bed…I don`t wish to go in and I don`t intend to” (Chopin 32). On the next day, she made plans by herself and left the house with Robert. It seems like Edna is starting to assume her husband`s role and personality: “Do I have to think of everything?–as Leonce says when he`s in a bad humor” (Chopin 33). This new woman that is taking control of Edna is very similar to the modern day woman: very independent and outgoing. Now the question is: will Edna continue to change and eventually become the modern day woman? Or will she step back once again and remain in control by her husband?
Blog Entry #1: Chapters I-XII (1-12)
In the first chapters when we are first introduced to Edna, we find a married woman that feels in some ways unfulfilled. She is a woman who is has no material needs but is still unable to achieve happiness. Yet at the same time I do not believe that she is depressed or sad. Her problems are emotional and personal not material, to her the endless repetition and routine in her life is oppressing as is her society and marriage. She is looking for something more to her life which in the beginning of the book could be described as one monotone note while she wants music, and that is where we are introduced to Robert. At first she finds him annoying and refuses his advances but come back to him later. Towards the end of this block of pages Edna’s awakening is triggered by a piano piece and from there she undergoes an immediately noticeable change. When Edna says that she “felt as she were being borne away from some anchorage which had held her fast, whose chains had been loosening – had snapped the night before… leaving her free to drift whithersoever she chose to set her sails” (Chopin 35) it shows that she has acknowledged this transformation and is unwilling to let anything bring her back into her former state of captivity, seen when she defies her husband and the overcoming of hurdles such as her inability to swim. Her latter breakthrough represents the overcoming of fears that she and every other non-swimmer has fears that restricted her. Any life guard will tell you that the most important thing for anyone having trouble swimming, or having trouble in water in general, is to remain calm. That is exactly what she achieves; a calm of mind and heart through a new confidence that has somehow always been in her and was just awakened.
Edna could be compared to any women that took part in the women’s rights movements, women that wanted more for themselves, who had begun valuing themselves more than society valued them. She could also be compared to women that when up against the grain, for example someone like Amelia Earhart that chose a life of freedom led by her own desires, though to some lesser extent.
“A rose between the sunflorers”
Chapters I-XII (1-12)
At first, what interested me the most was the title of the book “The Awakening”. What could that mean? From the point of view of society, Edna has everything a woman could possibly “want”; she is married with a nice Creole that treats her well, has two children and lives in a peaceful community. Even the ladies that live close agree that she has the best husband in the world, and made Edna admit that “she knew of none better”(Chopin 7). But Edna is not like her female peers and thinks differently from the society. She doesn't take her mother-women job as the others, to the point where her husband was getting tired of “her habitual neglect of the children” (Chopin 5). To this point I started to dislike Edna for being so irresponsible, not forgetting the fact that she appreciated the fact that Robert courted her. This changed later when the book mentioned she did not choose to marry Léonce and I asked myself if her attitude was correct. Should you remain loyal to your husband even if you don’t love him? Would it be okay in her situation to let Robert court her? This situation reminds me of another character in another book that also lived a similar life. I’m referring to Daisy Buchanan. Although she married by choice, she didn't love her husband and enjoyed to be courted by Gatsby once again. She was a woman with different ideas from society, but could demonstrate them since people were more tolerant towards it. This mixture of conflicts in woman’s life brought my attention to the title once again. The contradictory feeling Edna has toward society is the fact that ignites the process of her awakening, where she will search for herself. The text brings us that feeling and uses her swimming adventure to show that as “she wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before” (Chopin 28) she also wanted to surpass the thought of this society that imprisoned her.
I apologize for my late posts, this is the first one. About the title, like Bernardo said very up above, the meaning is patently obvious even though it is every metaphorical and people use it a lot. What does Kate Chopin mean by “The Awakening”? When you wake up in the morning from a dream or a nightmare, you leave those thoughts and face your real life. On this novel it is the other way around, Mrs. Pontellier, which is the main character, is living a nightmare and after some time she will probably awake up, in other words, realize how much of life she is missing. Until now I can understand that Robert has a platonic love for Mrs. Pontellier who is married and has two boys. Throughout the first few chapters I might have to say that Mrs. Pontellier is also flirting with Robert, however she doesn’t know what she feels or what she wants (still too early). As a matter of fact I understood her coldness when it comes to her husband but neglecting her own children is not correct. A true mother is supposed to raise their kids with love and affection. Since the book is written in third person it is a bit challenging to understand fully the characters, what do they feel and what to they really think. If it was written by Mrs. Pontellier I think that we would be able to understand more her reasons and internal conflicts. Chopin described the characters very well, even though it’s in third person, because it is very detailed and descriptive. In my opinion the ocean represents her reality, as in how hard and treacherous can her life be, sleeping with a man that she does not love and being submitted to situations that she is not comfortable with. Maybe this consumes her, just like swimming for a long time does, when she felt like going up to high seas. My expectations throughout the book are that, first Edna is able to put her wills and desires in first place, and second is to understand the setting.
Estranged for her so-called "vulgar" and "morbid" work, Kate Chopin was a writer far ahead of her time. Click here to visit the Kate Chopin International Society.