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Essay on A Futile Awakening

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Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening, transcends societal structures and expectations. It deals with the day-to-day realities that a woman must face if she is to progress to full maturation and become at peace with herself and the world. Set in turn-of-the-century Creole New Orleans, it addresses the relentless strength and courage required for a woman to remain true to her convictions. Most studies of The Awakening focus on Edna Pontellier's newly emerged awareness and struggle against the societal forces that repress her. However, they ignore the weaknesses in Edna that prevented her from achieving the personal autonomy that she glimpsed during her periods of "awakening." The character of Edna Pontellier, therefore, is also an insightful study of the weaknesses that prevent a woman of any era from progressing toward self actualization.

Chopin herself had traveled this road and acquired certain insights during her "pursuit of solitude, independence and an identity apart from her children and apart from the men who always admired her." She acknowledged that in her writing she "drew on real life for most of her inspiration" (Toth 114).

The author's personal experiences and astute observations are reflected in the themes of The Awakening. Kate Chopin was not only a well adjusted woman, but also a very independent one. Having been raised in an all female household, Chopin acquired a strong sense of female independence during her youth. She overcame much sadness in her early life, having lost her father in a train accident when she was six and all four siblings before she turned twenty one. She had a happy marriage with Oscar Chopin, and was the mother of six children. During her residence in Cloutierville...


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...ticism. Ed. Margo Culley. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1994.

Dawson, Hugh J. "Kate Chopin's The Awakening: A Dissenting Opinion." American Literary Realism 26.2 (1994):1 18.

Gordon, Michael. The American Family in Social Historical Perspective. N.Y.: St. Martin's, 1973.

Leder, Priscilla. "An American Dilemma: Cultural Conflicts in Kate Chopin's The Awakening." Southern Studies 22.1 (1983) : 97 104.

Roscher, Marina L. "The Suicide of Edna Pontellier: An Ambiguous Ending?" Southern Studies 23.3 (1984) : 289 97.

Taylor, Helen. Gender, Race and Region in the Writings of Grace King, Ruth McEnery Stuart, and Kate Chopin. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989.

Toth, Emily. "A New Biographical Approach." The Awakening: An Authoritative Text Biographical and Historical Contexts Criticism. Ed. Margo Culley. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1994. 113 119.


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