The development of independence and sensuality in the awakening by kate chopin

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The development of independence and sensuality in the awakening by kate chopin

At the time of its publication, critics condemned the novel for its heroine's unrepentant drive for independence and emotional, sexual, and spiritual awakening.

Although contrary to legend it was never a banned book, the novel fell into obscurity for 70 years. Read in the radical context of the s, The Awakening was received enthusiastically as a valid work; the scandal that destroyed its chance of success at the time of its publication seemed absurd.

A scandal usually secures a book's success, particularly when a book is accused not only of describing immorality but also of promoting it — typically in such a situation, everyone wants to find out what they're not supposed to hear or know.

This phenomenon did not occur with The Awakening, however, possibly because Edna's story was just too depressing: She is not a character made two dimensional by excessive virtue or vice; rather, she achieves a certain realism in her character's mixture of flaws and features.

She's too real, and readers found it too sad that she must kill herself to finally elude society's demand that she be a mother first and a human being second.

Female readers in did not find an easy escape out of their own lives when they picked up The Awakening — entering Edna's life, they were forced to understand her choices and lack of them, and re-encounter the same limitations that marked their own lives.

Many male reviewers condemned The Awakening primarily out of fear of the very real shifting in the social order.

Women were still required by society to live and uphold the mother-woman role, but at the same time, they were increasingly choosing to work outside the home.


The suffrage movement was in full swing, threatening the masculine grip on the realms of politics and economics. While Edna is no suffragette, evidencing no interest in any cause other than her own intensely personal agenda, her rejection of the mother-woman role, exploration of her sexuality with men other than her husband, and indifference to the opinions of mainstream society make her threatening indeed to those readers who wished women would remain at home.

The suffragettes were not the only force making waves for the mainstream. Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote the groundbreaking Women and Economics, published inwhich viewed marriage with an economic perspective: A wife pays for her room and board in her husband's house by bearing his children, rendering sexual reproduction an economic function and the American family nothing more than a system of barter.

Edna attempts to exit this system by funding her own little household but still cannot escape its grip — hardly good news for those women who agreed with Gilman's analysis. Edna's status as a trophy wife — a woman whose life of leisure is a testament to her husband's financial success — is essential to her development, however.

Because she has servants to attend to necessary household tasks and take care of her children, she can devote time to art, solitary reflection, and the influential relationships. Reviewers from the s until the present note that the servants in Edna's household are rarely heard to speak, and frequently their names are not given.

The lack of attention in the novel to the servant women's perspectives tells a great deal in the omission — if Edna could not free herself from the role society cast her in, how much more difficult must it have been for those women trapped in Louisiana's elaborate racial caste system.

Only a few short decades after the Civil War, Louisiana retained its intensely bigoted environment and practices. In addition, the sexism associated with the antebellum South was alive and well for Chopin and Edna.

In highly conservative Louisiana, women were expected to behave as stereotypical Southern belles, pure of heart and chaste in action.

The development of independence and sensuality in the awakening by kate chopin

Such a role symbolically prohibited an active place in public life. Literal constraints were in place, as well, such as the law that declared married women, along with children and the mentally ill, incompetent to initiate or complete legal contracts. As an independent-minded woman and native of St.

Louis, Chopin drew on her own experiences as an outsider in Louisiana to flesh out Edna's portrait as a scandalously independent woman. Like Edna, Chopin sought to create her own life, such as instituting a literary salon to replace all the other social visits society expected her to pay.

However, unlike Edna, Chopin was very much at home in her independence. Literary Limitations Part of the scandal surrounding the novel was Chopin's bold choice of female self-discovery and self-reliance.

Women writers, throughout the United States but particularly in the South, were expected to stick with ladylike subjects; a portrayal of female sexuality or intense dissatisfaction with their married lives was not on that list.

Further, because Chopin used Louisiana so frequently in her stories, she was marginalized as a regional writer, a term used for writers who vividly describe the local color but don't necessarily produce great literature.

Kate Chopin

When male writers, such as Mark Twain, drew heavily on their surroundings for character or theme, their work was understood to be literature that made use of certain regional characteristics to great effect, rather than simply a description of those characteristics, as is the case with regional writers.

As a woman, Chopin's status as a writer was severely limited by the expectations of an intensely chauvinistic public. When she shattered all expectations by producing a work that clearly transcended not only regionalism but also the established list of sentimental subjects thought suitable for women, the furor was intense.

In Edna Pontellier's America, female sexuality was an utterly taboo subject. For women, sex was supposed to be a means to one specific end: Part of the reason Edna's behavior seemed so scandalous at the time was that her sexuality neither began nor ended with her husband as the times dictated it ought; she discovered it with other men after she was already married.

Further, Edna advances not only in knowledge of her sexuality but also in awareness of her spirituality: Upon moving into the pigeon house, she has a sense "of having descended in the social scale, with a corresponding sense of having risen in the spiritual.

Edna's sexual awakening is doubtless a reflection of the sexuality glorified in Walt Whitman's landmark poetry of self-celebration, Leaves of Grass, the imagery or influence of which is frequently found in The Awakening.The development of strong personal aesthetics, and the realization of her own artistic abilities, obviously shaped Chopin’s trajectory.

There is a clear connection in her fiction, as well—in The Awakening, especially—between the heroine’s emerging appreciation of the beauty around her and her growing sense that she is an active.

During the development of The Awakening, Chopin wrote the novel in third-person, omniscient narrator. Green argues that Chopin intended this point-of-view for greater measures.

Green argues that Chopin intended this point-of-view for greater measures. The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin is a publication of the Pennsylvania State University. This Portable Document File is furnished free and.

The Awakening By Kate Chopin Words | 7 Pages. 1. Title of text (underline novels/plays) & author’s name The Awakening by Kate Chopin 2. Characterization & Character Development (a) Pontellier- Edna is the main character of the novel who is married to a businessman.

The Awakening explores one woman's desire to find and live fully within her true self. Her devotion to that purpose causes friction with her friends and family, and also conflicts with the dominant values of her time. Edna Pontellier's story takes place in s Louisiana, within the upper-class.

Language Arts Cumulative study guide by Madelyn_Smith99 includes questions covering vocabulary, terms and more.

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The development of independence and sensuality in the awakening by kate chopin

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