Literature / The Awakening

A 1899 novella by Kate Chopin about Edna Pontellier, a married Victorian mother who experiences an awakening of her sexuality and creativity while vacationing on an island with her husband.

This begins when she meets a young man named Robert and develops an affection for him that is well beyond any love she feels for her husband. As the vacation progresses she becomes more and more distant from her husband and children, doing things like sleeping in a hammock rather than in bed with him and spending all day painting. Even after the vacation ends, Edna is a changed woman and cannot let go of what she discovered. The revelations about herself and her marriage cause her to question Victorian gender roles and the life she feels like she has unquestioningly walked into.

Contains Examples Of:

  • Babies Make Everything Better: Believed by Adele. Questioned heavily by Edna.
  • The Casanova:
    • Robert is a sort of example, in that he tends to fraternize with widows and single women, but he rarely goes beyond flirting.
    • Alcee Arubin has a scandalous reputation with women.
  • Courtly Love: What Robert and Edna have, although Edna does seem to desire a physical relationship with Robert.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel??
  • Foil: Adele to Edna. Adele and Mlle. Reisz are also this to each other.
  • G-Rated Sex: The sexual scenes are so G-rated students tend to completely miss them. The great irony of this is that when it was written the book was so raunchy it almost wasn't published.
  • Hysterical Woman: Mr. Pontellier thinks Edna is this, but the psychiatrist he calls to examine her encourages him to leave her be.
  • Love Dodecahedron: A fairly mild case, though with tragic results. Edna is married to Mr. Pontellier, but she and Robert are in love, although she also has a lust-driven affair with Alcee as a sort of substitute while both Mr. Pontellier and Robert are away. Alcee is also flirty with other women, and Edna and Adele have some Homoerotic Subtext early on in the story.
  • Moment Killer: Celestine walking in on Edna and Robert cuddling to tell Edna that Adele is having her baby.
  • The Ophelia: Parallels can be drawn between Edna's drowning while swimming and the death of Ophelia.
  • Proper Lady: Adele Ratignolle'. Her submissiveness and devotion to her family and husband make her an ideal woman. Adele is extremely sweet, feminine, and fragile. However, Adele Ratignolle's open-minded Creole ways help Edna to unleash her self and her inner artist.
  • Rip Van Winkle: After Edna spends most of chapter XV sleeping, she and Robert quip about how it's been one hundred years and everyone else in the Grand Isle is long dead. She doesn't really sleep for a century, leaving it a Discussed Trope.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Edna's affair with Alcee is part of what finally makes her unwilling to continue the life she has.
  • Spoiled Brat: Victor Lebrun, Robert's little brother who wants Edna for himself, despite only being 19.
  • Suicide by Sea: The ending sees a character drown at sea. Edna swims far into the sea and lets herself be drowned. It's quite symbolic as learning to swim and bathing in the sea meant a lot for her and unleashed her desires and creativity.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Edna is the focus character and much attention is given to her boredom with Leonce and her connection with Robert.
  • True Blue Femininity: The Farival twins wear white and blue, said to be the "Virgin's Colors".
  • Woman in White: The Creole women Edna hangs with count as this trope, wearing white and often seen fulfilling a "Mother-Woman" role.