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The Search for Language in The Awakening Essay

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The Search for Language in The Awakening   


   Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, tells the story of a late nineteenth century woman trying to break away from the male-dominated society to find an identity of her own.  Edna Pontellier is trying to find herself when only two personas are available to her: the ‘true woman,’ the classic wife and mother, or the ‘new woman,’ the radical women demanding equality with men.  Patricia S. Yaeger, in her essay “‘A Language Which Nobody Understood’: Emancipatory Strategies in The Awakening,” argues that what Edna is really searching for is a female language of her own.  Edna is prevented from finding her own language and ideal and therefore is trapped until she discovers that suicide is her only way out.  The ending of the novel has been considered Edna’s final step in her search for freedom from the restrictive society she lives in.  Elaine Showalter, in her essay “Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book,” and others say that it is Edna’s last move towards female liberation, but is it really?  Suicide hardly seems liberating.  Edna lives in a phallocentric world where women have no identities apart from their relationships with men.  Leslies W. Rabine, in her essay “No Lost Paradise: Social Gender and Symbolic Gender in the Writings of Maxine Hong Kingston,” says that “traditional male narratives” are based “on a linear and circular quest to return to a lost paradise” (Rabine 90), however, female narratives do not have this lost paradise.  The world in which Edna lives traps her so that the paradise she is seeking cannot exist.  The paradise Edna is looking for is nothing more than a situation in which she can be truly happy.  The fundamentally phallocentric...


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...Awakening.  1993: Bedford Books, New York.
Griggers, Cody.  “Next Stop – Paradise: An Analysis of Setting in The Awakening.” Domestic Goddess.  Editor, Kim Wells. August 23, 1999.  Online.  Internet.  5-10-00.  http://www.womenwriters.net/domesticgoddess/griggers.htm
Rabine, Leslie W.  “No Lost Paradise: Social and Symbolic Gender in the Writings of  Maxine Hong Kingston.”  As it appears     in: Wong, Sau-Ling Cynthia.  Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: A Casebook.  1999: Oxford University Press, New York.
Showalter, Elaine.  “Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awaking as a Solitary Book.”  As it appears in: Chopin, Kate.  The     Awakening.  1993: Bedford Books, New York.
Yaeger, Patricia S.  “‘A Language Which Nobody Understood’: Emancipatory Language in The Awakening.  As it appears in: Chopin, Kate.  The Awakening.  1993: Bedford Books, New York.


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