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The Awakening (1899)

av Kate Chopin

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MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
7,993153775 (3.61)494
Edna Pontellier, a Victorian-era wife and mother, is awakened to the full force of her desire for love and freedom when she becomes enamored with Robert LeBrun, a young man she meets while on vacation.
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A Book With Bad Reviews

I can only imagine that Kate Chopin's The Awakening received bad reviews due to its divergence from the morality of the era it was published in, because it is a well-written story which only hints at the indelicate thoughts and actions of its protagonist, Edna Pontellier. As a character she reminds me of Clarissa Dalloway or Mother from Doctorow's Ragtime, a dreamy woman who finds herself stifled by a romance-less marriage to a man who, typical of his age, possesses her as he does his house or furniture.

The Awakening is a short, straight-forward tale, whose power comes from the anticipation and suspense Chopin builds in portraying Edna's budding realization that there is something missing in her life. The interplay between Edna and her two gentleman callers is a slow, entrancing waltz. Both men make love to Edna in the old-fashioned sense of the phrase - verbally, rather than physically - in sensuous (a favorite word of Chopin) flirtations that push the boundaries of acceptable behavior between a married woman and unattached men. Even the ending, easily foreseen, fits perfectly into the narrative.

To enjoy this novel you must read it with a 19th century mentality. While readers of the time found it shocking and offensive, there is nothing even mildly titillating in it*. There are several scenes where Edna is alone with one of her paramours; these are so well written that you find yourself believing a tryst occurred but realize, upon a closer reading, that nothing more than kisses were exchanged. There is also a scene in which Edna visits a pregnant friend and stays for the birth, yet there is only the mildest of indications of what transpired.

I could have assigned this as A Book You Can Read In A Day on my themed reading list; regardless, it is well worth including on your own list.

* - My Dover Thrift Edition comes with a laughable warning to "[s]ensitive readers" who might be offended that Chopin uses the word darky (or perhaps black or mulatto - after reading the book I can't imagine what they're referring to) on several occasions in the novel. I expected the n-word, at a minimum, to merit such a silly forewarning. And in a version published in 1993, no less. ( )
  skavlanj | Dec 9, 2020 |
It's hard to believe this was published in 1899, because it reads modern. Beautifully written, it is the very sad story of a glass-smashing, frustrated woman who is sick and tired of social constraints. At age 28, she suffers an existential crisis akin to one in midlife and tries to captain her own destiny. She works on her art, reads the Transcendentalists, wins big at the racetrack, finds a bit of financial freedom and has an affair. The problem is she arrives at the party about 100 years too soon. It did remind me in many ways of Where the Crawdads Sing, in the lyricism of the writing and in the naturalism/Darwinism of the protagonists. The endings are nothing alike, so no spoiler alert here for either text, but I dare say Delia Owens was influenced by Kate Chopin whether she knew it or not during the writing process. It's a short read and a good one. ( )
  MMKY | Jul 3, 2020 |
Meh. I have a friend who highly recommended the book, and I feel like I went into this novel with every expectation I'd like it. But instead of finding a main character who's struggling to break free of the social shackles that bound her, I encountered a character who seems to be rebelling against nothing at all. Her husband isn't some cruel monster. He indulges her whims throughout the book, and his wealth lets her enjoy a certain amount of freedom. She had children, but ships them off to her mother in law fairly early in the book and seem like an afterthought the few times they are mentioned later in the work. Perhaps it's classist of me, but my real dislike for the character comes when she decides to leave her husband's mansion and move into a smaller house on her own, leaving behind her staff of and taking with her only ONE servant to cook, clean, etc. Oh, the sacrifice! One servant! What a martyr to her art!

Sorry. The book does have occasional flashes of insight into what's required to be an artist, and I do think the book draws some interesting characters. For the most part the prose is lovely. I just couldn't relate or sympathize with the main character (whose name I can't remember two months later, and who I don't care enough about even to look up). ( )
  James_Maxey | Jun 29, 2020 |
Looking at these two works now, one is so struck by the similarities, it is remarkable to consider their differing fates at the time of their appearance. As it happens I finished reading The Awakening the same day as I went to see Strange Interlude, so the points of comparison stood out. Both are American, experimental in form, controversial in content.

Both feature female characters who are constrained by the society in which they live - or perceive themselves as being thus constrained. Edna and Nina are adored by a variety of men and exploit that as suits them. They are both unusual characters who question the social conventions around them.

Edna, in The Awakening, is never a 'good' mother or wife, increasingly dissatisfied with the expectations of society, she begins to take steps to live her own life. She more or less abandons her children, she moves out of her house once she has developed a capacity to earn money via her art, she takes lovers - all this whilst her husband attempts to keep up appearances, hoping as a doctor has advised him, that Edna's behaviour is an aberration that will correct itself.

Nina, having lost her juvenile love in WWI, becomes a nurse of wounded soldiers and starts sleeping with them - maybe that will make them feel better. That nothing is going to assuage the guilt she carries for the death of her beloved, is the rationale for all her actions. She then marries a well meaning dullard she doesn't love, so that he can provide the children she needs in her life as a sensible substitute to look after - doubtless even she can see that sex with every injured US soldier isn't going to be possible. Deliberately marrying other than for love, she then finds out that her husband's family has hereditary madness, this after falling pregnant. Her husband is in blissful ignorance of both these things and she continues with scheming to keep it that way. Abortion is no problem, and then taking a secret lover in order to provide a baby with better odds of being born sane. Science in this period raises such moral issues as eugenics.

Chopin writes in the 1890s, O'Neill in the 1920s, so some thirty years later, but nonetheless, both are writing of scandalous, controversial topics. Both writers were known. Yet Chopin's novel was generally critically reviled and forgotten until it received a feminist stimulus in the second half of the twentieth century. Interestingly, from that special interest beginning - 'it is good because....' - it has become considerably elevated to more like - 'it is good' fullstop. O'Neill's play was as long as Chopin's novel was to the point, six hours or so, it was very difficult technically due to his experimention with asides to the audience, a substantial aspect of the play. Undoubtedly he was better known to his audiences, having already won two Pulitzers. Still, although it too received censorial treatment here and there, including banning, it was nonetheless a huge hit.

It is impossible not to wonder about the different immediate fates of these works. Yes, O'Neill was more famous than Chopin, but this does not strike me as sufficient explanation by any means. Male fares better than female? Maybe, but the US by then had lots of hugely popular female writers. Perhaps it is relevant that the 1920s in the US was in general a freer period than before and after.

I wonder, however, if the ways in which these stories end has something to do with it. Nina is a morally ambiguous character. She claims always to be acting to further the happiness of others (at the expense of the happiness of others, we might observe), but even if this claim were true, it means she is doing so through methods that we can scarcely feel happy about. Lying to her husband, a secret abortion, a lover who she keeps even after she no longer needs him for his original purpose. And one can also question if it is true that she is acting in a noble way to further the happiness of others. She is a person who wishes to suffer, this is established right at the start of the play. She never wavers from that, maybe even keeping her lover is to exacerbate her pain. Even after her husband dies and her son, guessing the situation, gives his approval of her marrying her lover, she does no such thing, but instead marries the man who has been her substitute father and a figure to be gently mocked and used over the decades. No straightforward bliss for Nina.

Edna has a husband who is willing to put up with her bad behaviour to an extent we can admire from a distance. She has two lovers, one of which is also a love. Having established her independence, now living on her own, earning enough to support both her and the woman she has to do the 'work', having foisted her children on her own mother, and two lovers at the begging, she suddenly decides to kill herself. Frankly, if I could get Nina and Edna close enough, I'd knock their heads together, hope that brought them to their senses. The ending of The Awakening has no good explanation. I understand, from reading around, that it is due to an inability to otherwise be free of constraint. But there is no such thing as freedom from constraint and Chopin certainly doesn't think there is. How do we avoid the conclusion that this is not a strong woman, but a weak one, maybe even a mentally ill one? It is simply not sufficient to say she was the victim of her society. The author herself lived in an almost entirely female society as far as immediate family went and was not exactly conventional in her own dealings with men. Appreciating the reasons why The Awakening is so highly regarded, it has shortcomings that leave me in doubt overall about it. One must also have doubts about a writer who withdrew the moment her work was criticised. It was not only criticised for content, but also for style and I am sure if Chopin had listened to some of that criticism and acted upon it, she might have ended up an important writer beyond the current justifications for her canonisation. What we can conclude is that Chopin was no driven writer, if she so easily withdrew from it.

Of course, Strange Interlude is nothing if not six hours of shortcomings. The National Theatre's current production of it is cut down to a mere three and a half hours or so and one can only suppose that it has been pruned with an agenda. There is an imbalance between tragedy and comedy which I doubt exists in the original, the one that was so hugely popular when it first appeared. If The Awakening was reviled, Strange Interlude was both pilloried and parodied. Most famously in Animal Crackers, you can see the relevant segment here. And there is Spencer Tracy with Joan Bennett in My and My Gal here.


Continue here:

http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/the-awakening-by-kate-chop... ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Regarded as highly scandalous when it was published in 1898, this story of a young wife who is bored with her lie as a proper wife and mother in late 19th Century New Orleans and seeks out her own independent life, seems fairly run of the mill in the 21st Century. It is, however, well written and held my interest from beginning to end. ( )
  etxgardener | Feb 27, 2020 |
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» Lägg till fler författare (23 möjliga)

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Chopin, Kateprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Gilbert, Sandra M.Redaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Lammers, GeertjeÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Robinson, MarilynneInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Showalter, ElaineInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Williams, Deborah L.Illustratörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat

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Edna Pontellier, a Victorian-era wife and mother, is awakened to the full force of her desire for love and freedom when she becomes enamored with Robert LeBrun, a young man she meets while on vacation.

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