In high school I was required to read The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I didn’t really get it then, and I certainly didn’t like it. I mean, what kind of idiot goes and drowns herself because of a lost love? I remember the class discussions and not participating because I certainly did not see what my teacher said I should see in it.
Well a couple of weeks ago I decided to give it another try so I found a copy at my local library. I finished yesterday. I guess I still don’t get it, and I still don’t like it. I think Edna is an idiot, coming and going.
Let me clarify this just a little. I get that Edna was finally freeing herself from the constraints of society and expectations in her quest of really becoming herself. I understand that Robert is more than a man to love; he’s really the embodiment of an idea, a catalyst for growth and personal awareness. I also know that Kate Chopin was decidedly before her time.
I can sympathize with Edna in her lonely and at times intensely unhappy marriage. No one likes to be criticized and Leonce seems to do a lot of that. He also seems to leave her alone a lot and yet expects her to be at his beck and call, happy to do his bidding. I’ve never yet met a wife who is happy in such a situation. Being married doesn’t mean that the courting has to stop, and Edna is never really courted by her husband. He’d rather go to the club.
With that said, it comes as no surprise that Edna becomes infatuated with Robert, who courts her day after day. It is not really a surprise that she allows herself to be seduced by Arobin after he courts her much more skillfully than the now absent Robert. She’s lonely and finally intensely aware that she can act and feel for herself. Allowing Arobin’s overtly sexual advances demonstrated this part of her life. She seems pretty adept at getting rid of him when she wants to, so I’m inclined to believe that she wanted a physical relationship.
So Edna awakens … blah, blah, blah. What I don’t like is the complete abandonment of morals and responsibilities. She’s selfish and that is the bottom line for me. She gets unhappy in her marriage so she quits. She is not really involved as a mother so she quits when she wants freedom. She quits when she can’t have Robert. She just quits!
What good is awakening to your true self if you quit? It’s all so futile that I would like to just shake her and scream at her. After more or less gaining her much sought after independence she goes and drowns herself over a man! What an idiot….
I do not know much about Kate Chopin’s life, other than this book more or less ended her career as a writer. It make me wonder what she was really like and how much she identified with her character and the emphasis given to the sensual language and images in this novel.
I’m not a fan. I don’t care for this book overly much. I’m impatient with Edna, and with Kate Chopin for making her so futile.