Guide The Awakening

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Though it is never directly spelled out, Chopin uses language to convey the message that Edna has stepped over the line, and damned her marriage. He did not say good night until she had become supple to his gentle, seductive entreaties.

The Awakening (version 2)

It is appropriate that the most concentrated and artistically depicted symbol for desire comes, not in the form of a man, who may be viewed as a possessor, but in the sea, something which Edna herself, once afraid of swimming, conquers. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace. The true awakening in the novel, and in Edna Pontellier, is the awakening of self. Throughout the novel, she is on a transcendental journey of self-discovery.


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She is learning what it means to be an individual, a woman, and a mother. She realized that she had neglected her reading, and determined to start anew upon a course of improving studies, now that her time was completely her own to do with as she liked. But the awakening goes further still.

She also becomes aware, at the end, of her role as a woman and mother. Oh, think of the children! Remember them! Edna Pontellier journeys through life, awakening to the transcendental beliefs of individuality and connections with nature. She discovers sensual joy and power in the sea, beauty in art, and independence in sexuality. The novel ends in confusion and wonder, as it is told. Edna spends her life, since the awakening, questioning the world around her and within her, so why not remain questioning to the end?

The Awakening (Chopin novel) - Wikipedia

Chopin asks her reader to believe in an Edna, who is completely defeated by the loss of Robert, to believe in the paradox of a woman who has awakened to passional life and yet, quietly, almost thoughtlessly, chooses death. But Edna Pontellier is not defeated by Robert. She is the one making choices, as she has determined to do all along. Edna strips off her clothes and becomes one with the very source of nature that helped to awaken her to her own power and individualism in the first place. Each decision that Edna Pontellier makes throughout the novel is done quietly, suddenly.

Chopin is affirming that, even in death, perhaps only in death, one can become and remain truly awakened. Share Flipboard Email.

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Adam Burgess, Ph. I think you would know how to spend it. It is something to squander and throw to the four winds, for the fun of seeing the golden specks fly. His face flushed. Chopin, Kate. The Awakening, Dover Publications, Ringe, Donald A. Besides, drowning was a fear of mine, the remnants of myriad small childhood traumas collected at swim lessons and neighborhood pools. Yet, I knew her. I was certain Edna, too, had swallowed against that recurring hot lump of rage and sadness, her throat tender from the effort. I imagined her carrying around the same dull ache that thrummed in her solar plexus, pulsing with the want of something unnamed.

I devoured The Awakening that spring, and returned to it that summer after I ended my relationship with Chris. Later, as my marriage began to show its own stress fractures, the green cover once more made its way to my nightstand, where I again sought out Edna to moor me.

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As we drove home, I told Pete I would never be like her: the mother who gave up her weekends to cheer at soccer games; the mother who had unwittingly assigned her self-worth to a decades-old sport jacket. Pete reached for my hand and squeezed it gently.

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After my marriage ended, I moved to New York, where I became a mentor to Katherine, a sixteen-year-old girl who also loved to read and write. Two years into our mentoring relationship, over a Christmas dinner of burgers and french fries, Katherine reached into her fraying backpack and pulled out a gift. I ran my finger down the seam of Scotch tape, pulling back the red paper to reveal its contents. In this corner diner on the Upper East Side where we would meet weekly to write and talk, I had my own awakening.

The Awakening

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