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~The Awakening~

by Kate Chopin

      Heroine:  slender/average

     Edna Pontellier has reached a crisis point in her life.  Wife of a successful businessman and mother of two young children, she feels as though she is losing sight of herself and is suddenly possessed with a desperate desire to become her own woman. 

     Because of this, the annual summer family jaunt from New Orleans to Grande Isle takes a different turn from past years as Edna, yearning for something new and different, becomes attached to the resort owner's handsome young son.

      Lost and bewildered Edna cannot decide what to do; stay with the man she married, go with the man she loves, or make a new life for herself on her own.

What worked for me:

      I can see why this story is used in women's studies classes to get a better understanding of life in the middle and upper classes of Victorian society, as well as cultural differences as far as racial and religious background.  "The Awakening" vividly paints the Deep South's social structure during that era.

     Size-wise Edna sounded to be slim to average. Her very good friend Adele was quite plump though, and the author frequently lauded her soft beauty.  (However then as now there was still a sense that "big is beautiful" only extends so far, as was underscored by a particular passage with a very abundant woman being physically described in less-than-glowing terms.)

       What didn't work for me:

     Edna was the only character who seemed real to me; the rest were cardboard cut-outs.  However this may not be a lack of writing proficiency on Ms. Chopin's part, but rather a way to illustrate how cut off Edna was from others.  People who seemed unreal to the reader may have also seemed that way to Edna.

     Personally, I feel ambivalent about the ending.  From an artistic point of view it was quite valid, and perhaps it was socially valid in that day and age as well.  But I couldn't help but be frustrated with Edna for not finding another way to resolve her situation.

Overall:

     An interesting book for anyone who wants to better understand a well-heeled woman's place in Victorian society, but as a pleasure read this novella might be a bit dry and the ending somewhat unsatisfying.

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Good-bye, Mom.

I love you and will miss you forever.

 

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