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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  



THE AWAKENING by Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin was an only child, born on February 8, 1850. Her father, Thomas O'Flaherty an Irish immigrant, was a successful St. Louis merchant and her mother, and Eliza Faris, was the daughter of one of the oldest and most aristocratic creole families. After her father died, Kate became very attached to her mother and grand mother. The three of them shared an extraordinary relationship.

Chopin was educated at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Louis. Her upbringing was mainly in the hands of women; the nuns at the school, and at home, her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, who were all widows. It was, therefore, quite a unique upbringing with a total lack of male role models. This was clearly to have an influence concerning her later works of literature, which dealt with the traditional roles of females in the Victorian era.

While in school she enjoyed music, reading and writing, and learned French and German becoming fluent in both languages. Later in life, Chopin furthered her education by studying biology and anthropology.

In 1870, Chopin married Oscar, a prosperous cotton factor. They enjoyed a 12'-year marriage and Chopin gave birth to 6 children. She dedicated her life to her family and took on a role of dutiful wife, although she was warned against this. Despite her increasing family, Kate still enjoyed an unconventional freedom, for she refused to be smothered by domesticity. She would often be seen walking alone smoking cigarettes.

Oscar's Cotton Brokerage business failed in 1879, and the family moved to Cloutierville, Louisiana, where his family owned some land. In this closer-knit community, Kate's behavior was regarded as eccentric. Here there were strict social guidelines for married women, who were expected to remain at home and bring up the children and do the domestic chores. Kate was the subject of much gossip, as she would walk out alone, or ride horseback through the town's main street. Although this brought condemnation from the womenfolk, some men admired her independence.

Her husband died in 1882 of swamp fever and Chopin was left to raise the family alone.

In 1888, partly out of want and partly out of need, Chopin began writing fiction. She wrote twenty pieces of fiction - three short stories and six novels, At Fault, Bayou Folk, A Night in Acadie, The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, A Kate Chopin Miscellany, and The Awakening. The one book that made the most impact was The Awakening.

The book was censured both locally and nationally for its "poisonous and positively unseemly" theme. The St. Louis literary refused to review the novel and the local library removed it from circulation. Chopin also suffered critical abuse and public denunciation as an immoralist and because of this novel, she was refused membership in the St. Louis Fine Arts Club.

The reaction to this novel almost caused Chopin to stop writing entirely.

Chopin was interested in innocence and experience, and both of these themes run within this book. It was this book, though after her death, that made her famous and made her loved.

Chopin gave a great deal of thought to important issues. She was involved in the idea of an independent woman and was encouraged not to become a "useless" wife. Chopin also questioned Catholicism's implicit authoritarianism, which encouraged women to be submissive to their husbands.

Kate Chopin died in August of 1904 of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was an incredible and talented writer. She wrote about real issues and real feelings. Unfortunately, like many others, Kate Chopin was never recognized for these talents until it was too late.


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