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The Awakening


The Author
Brief Synopsis
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Themes - Rebirth
Themes - Birds
Themes - Victorian Women
Questions for Study  




Edna Pontellier, transforms herself from an obedient housewife to a person who is alive with strength of character and emotions which she no longer has to repress. This metamorphosis is shaped by her surroundings. Just as her behavior is more shocking and horrifying because of her position in society, it is that very position which causes her to feel restrained and makes her yearn to rebel.

Adele Ratignolle is Edna's close friend and confidante, but the two women are nothing alike. Adele is the perfect housewife and mother; she is the epitome of what a Creole woman and mother ought to be. She lives her life for her children, always being sure that they are properly cared for, clothed, and educated. Unlike Adele whose life is fulfilled through loving and caring for her children, Edna is "fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way" They are not enough to justify her life.

Adele could not understand how Edna could say that she "would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for anyone" Edna's being is taking on a new importance in her life. She is starting to realize just how important it is to be true to herself. She has never done that before. She went along with the way things were supposed to be, holding her socials and tending to her house until she became aware that she needed more from her life.

Edna's marriage to Leonce is safe, but there is no passion or excitement. "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". While this lack of emotion is enough to satisfy Edna for the majority of her marriage, after she begins to allow her true self to come forth, she feels trapped and seeks a way to escape. She realizes that she needs intrigue and flavor in her marriage, especially, in her life. Leonce cannot understand that she does not fit the mold of the typical Creole woman. Her lifestyle is suffocating her.

The person whom Edna truly admires is Mademoiselle Reiz, who is a brilliant pianist. Her talent is somewhat lost on the other people on the island. They cannot appreciate her artistry, as does Edna because Mademoiselle Reiz does not fit their idea of what a proper woman should be; she is eccentric and bold. Her music touches Edna to the very core of her being. Something inside her is stirred, and she feels alive like never before in her life.

Edna respects Mademoiselle Reiz because she has the courage to be different. It is Mademoiselle's music that starts to "awaken" Edna and allows her to see the beauty and passion in life.

An amazing transformation takes place in Edna throughout the course of a few months. The people with whom she interacts and the culture in which she is submersed play a significant role in her "awakening."

Edna continues to feel trapped in the restricted environment and ultimately commits suicide to leave the world that will not let her leave her traditional role. Romanticism is evident as the novel ends and Edna completely rejects the Victorian ways. With Chopin's ending, she creates an idea that her society cannot accept. Edna tried to maintain her role as long as she could, but it became too much for her, and she needed to do the best thing. In her mind, that meant killing herself in the water that had no boundaries and restrictions.

Edna is able to break away from the restraining world of Adele and Leonce in which she will never find her place. Stirred by the magic and intrigue of Mademoiselle Reiz's world, she finds the strength to reach for that, which is real for her, and she allows her true being to shine.



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