I first read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening about 20 years ago, and have always referred to it as “my favorite book ever!” A few months ago I was sorting through old boxes and tubs and came across my copy of the novel I read so long ago, and decided I would read it again. I cannot express how glad I am that I read it again, now 20 years older, somewhat wiser, etc. The character of Edna Pontellier is so incredible and complex, and although this novel was written in 1899, I can still relate to so many things related to Edna. This novel describes and illustrates so many levels of discontent, frustration, and moments of clarity. The subject matter of this novel was considered very controversial, portraying a wife and mother left wanting more out of life, and not satisfied with society’s expectations of what she should or should not do. Throughout the plot of the novel, Edna slowly experiences several awakenings including falling in love, and exploring her sexuality. While slowly stepping further out of her proverbial box, her husband and her doctor decide that she has developed mental illness, never understanding that she just wanted new and different experiences and feelings. I do not want to include any spoilers, but the end of the novel and Edna’s choice is beautifully written and stirs a variety of emotions in the reader.
I have learned over time that if you ask 10 women their opinions on this novel, you will most certainly receive 10 different answers. Some women (and men) hate this book due its protagonist being unhappy with her role of wife and mother. Others love this book because they feel it’s a truthful look at wives and mothers, refusing to say that one must be happy and satisfied just because they have a husband and children.
Read it for yourself if you haven’t already and let me know what you think, or if you’ve already read it, let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading 🙂