The Awakening

The Awakening

3.9 216
by Kate Chopin

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Novelist and short story writer Kate Chopin (1851-1904) was the first American woman to deal with women's roles as wives and mothers. The Awakening (1899), her most famous novel, concerns a woman, dissatisfied with her indifferent husband, who gives in to her desire for other men and commits adultery. This is a searing depiction of the religious and social…  See more details below


Novelist and short story writer Kate Chopin (1851-1904) was the first American woman to deal with women's roles as wives and mothers. The Awakening (1899), her most famous novel, concerns a woman, dissatisfied with her indifferent husband, who gives in to her desire for other men and commits adultery. This is a searing depiction of the religious and social pressures brought to bear on women who transgress restrictive Victorian codes of behavior.

Editorial Reviews

Kate Chopin is a pioneer in the treatment of sexuality in American literature… She does not speak only to women,but she speaks most powerfully about them.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Chopin's (1850-1904) The Awakening, whose heroine rejects her husband and children as she indulges in solitude and in an adulterous infatuation, was embraced by the women's movement 70 years after its publication. Although they pale in comparison to the novel, these stories, which comprise Chopin's third and last short-fiction collection, serve to flesh out the Chopin oeuvre and deserve a place on women's studies syllabi. As in The Awakening , the author's social critiques here demythologize women, marriage, religion and family. A women escapes ``the incessant chatter'' of other females at a party and retires to the male domain of the smoking room, where she puffs on hashish and dreams of a love affair torn asunder. The perverse Mrs. Mallard revels in her newfound freedom when informed that her husband is a casualty of a train accident and dies of a heart attack when he shows up alive. Her fiance is wasted by illness and reeks death, and a repulsed Dorothea bolts; elsewhere, a monk is lured by the voice of a woman, a former intimate. And in a twist on the plot of The Awakening , a husband, plagued by suspicions of his late wife's infidelity, casts himself in the river.
From the Publisher

"Incisive, brilliant and haunting."  —Maggie O'Farrell, author, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

"One of my life's important books. . .  I still marvel at Chopin's realism, her impatience with conventional trappings, her arresting honesty."  —Barbara Kingsolver, author, The Poisonwood Bible

Product Details

Prometheus Books
Publication date:
Literary Classics Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Upon the pleasant veranda of Pere Antoine's cottage, that adjoined the church, a young girl had long been seated, awaiting his return. It was the eve of Easter Sunday, and since early afternoon the priest had been engaged in hearing the confessions of those who wished to make their Easters the following day. The girl did not seem impatient at his delay; on the contrary, it was very restful to her to lie back in the big chair she had found there, and peep through the thick curtain of vines at the people who occasionally passed along the village street.

She was slender, with a frailness that indicated lack of wholesome and plentiful nourishment. A pathetic, uneasy look was in her gray eyes, and even faintly stamped her features, which were fine and delicate. In lieu of a hat, a barege veil covered her light brown and abundant hair. She wore a coarse white cotton 'josie,' and a blue calico skirt that only half concealed her tattered shoes.

As she sat there, she held carefully in her lap a parcel of eggs securely fastened in a red bandana handkerchief.

Twice already a handsome, stalwart young man in quest of the priest had entered the yard, and penetrated to where she sat. At first they had exchanged the uncompromising 'howdy' of strangers, and nothing more. The second time, finding the priest still absent, he hesitated to go at once. Instead, he stood upon the step, and narrowing his brown eyes, gazed beyond the river, off towards the west, where a murky streak of mist was spreading across the sun.

'It look like mo' rain,' he remarked, slowly and carelessly.

'We done had 'bout 'nough,' she replied, in much the same tone.

'It's no chance tothin out the cotton,' he went on.

'An' the Bon-Dieu,' she resumed, 'it's on'y to-day you can cross him on foot.'

'You live yonda on the Bon-Dieu, donc?' he asked, looking at her for the first time since he had spoken.

'Yas, by Nid Hibout, monsieur.'

Instinctive courtesy held him from questioning her further. But he seated himself on the step, evidently determined to wait there for the priest. He said no more, but sat scanning critically the steps, the porch, and pillar beside him, from which he occasionally tore away little pieces of detached wood, where it was beginning to rot at its base.

A click at the side gate that communicated with the churchyard soon announced Pere Antoine's return. He came hurriedly across the garden-path, between the tall, lusty rosebushes that lined either side of it, which were now fragrant with blossoms. His long, flapping cassock added something of height to his undersized, middle-aged figure, as did the skullcap which rested securely back on his head. He saw only the young man at first, who rose at his approach.

'Well, Azenor,' he called cheerily in French, extending his hand. 'How is this? I expected you all the week.'

'Yes, monsieur; but I knew well what you wanted with me, and I was finishing the doors for Gros-Leon's new house' saying which, he drew back, and indicated by a motion and look that some one was present who had a prior claim upon Pere Antoine's attention.

'Ah, Lalie!' the priest exclaimed, when he had mounted to the porch, and saw her there behind the vines. 'Have you been waiting here since you confessed? Surely an hour ago!'

'Yes, monsieur.'

'You should rather have made some visits in the village, child.'

'I am not acquainted with any one in the village,' she returned.

The priest, as he spoke, had drawn a chair, and seated himself beside her, with his hands comfortably clasping his knees. He wanted to know how things were out on the bayou.

'And how is the grandmother?' he asked. 'As cross and crabbed as ever? And with that'—he added reflectively—'good for ten years yet! I said only yesterday to Butrand—you know Butrand, he works on Le Blot's Bon-Dieu place—'And that Madame Zidore: how is it with her, Butrand? I believe God has forgotten her here on earth.''It isn't that, your reverence,' said Butrand, 'but it's neither God nor the Devil that wants her!'' And Pere Antoine laughed with a jovial frankness that took all sting of ill-nature from his very pointed remarks.

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From the Publisher
"Shelly Frasier's reading is thick with languor and sensuality as she creates an Edna who feels all but physically present."—-AudioFile

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The Awakening 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 216 reviews.
LVB4H8T More than 1 year ago
A fascinating glimpse into a world that is past -- a world that was on the brink of change. Even if this were not a gripping story in its own right (which, by all means, it is), "The Awakening" would be worth reading simply for this social-historical vision. This edition of The Awakening is a beautifully compiled work. I found it incredibly insightful as I used it for research papers in high school and college. The essays and criticism from Chopin's era are priceless. It was so helpful to have those along with the text, they really gave insight one could not find elsewhere. The Awakening continues to be my favorite book, this my favorite edition. If you are going to write a paper on this book or Chopin there is no other book that will help you more. This was a shocking novel in 1899 but today Pontellier's turmoil and dilemma would be neither unusual nor frightening and perhaps that is why modern man and woman usually succeed in handling these situations in a far better way than Pontellier.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is about a woman trying to find herself while bound by the constraints of society. Throughout the book she falls asleep and reawakens to realize something new about herself. I believe that the story of the book is very strong, but where it lacks is in the writing itself. I found the writing to be drawn out, and too wordy. Chopin was a turn of the century writer, and many of these writers used such a style. I believe Chopins other works such as her short story Deseree's Baby, were a little more exciting and were a bit easier to read because they were in short story form. The story of The Awakening could make a very good short story, but the novel form drags the story too much.
VMValadez More than 1 year ago
Kate Chopin's The Awakening was published on April 22, 1899 by Herbert S. Stone & Company in Chicago. Chopin wrote the feminist novel in the time period when husbands had expectations that the wife must accomplish. Caring for the kids and keeping the house intact were just a few expectations among others. Chopin writes from the perspective of a trapped woman who frees herself from the ropes her husband has tied. With much detail, Chopin describes every step taken by the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, as she advances and quickly becomes the woman she has dreamt to be. Her transition from obedient wife to independent soul takes Mrs. Pontellier through an unforgettable journey. The adventure, which Mrs. Pontellier embarks on, introduces her to liberation and independence. The Awakening would best fit readers who are willing to dig deeper into the novel. Readers should be willing to extract her action in order to completely understand her reasons. I would recommend this novel to high school students with moderate experience in challenging books. The pacing in this difficult novel is slow. The author wrote this story in a short time frame in order to give specific detail on her experiences with liberty. The protagonist developed her character early in the novel. As the novel began, readers could see signs of a woman taking the first steps of rebellion. Towards the end, it was evident that Mrs. Pontellier had completely transformed from a trapped soul to soaring dove, living her life to the fullest. She threw a party at her house while her husband was away to show her independence as a new woman.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rachel E: If I were to rate this book on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give it a 5, because it is the definition of mediocre.  I did not hate the book or find it too boring to read, but at no point did I find myself wishing to read more.  I felt that Mrs. Pontellier's suicide made for a perfect ending.  After discovering who she really was and rebelling against society, she could no longer handle the struggle.  I was originally sympathetic towards Mrs. Pontellier and tried imagining how difficult it must have been to belong to your husband and be treated as property.  However, Mrs. Pontellier admits she would not sacrifice herself for her own children, which caused me to view her as a selfish, unfit mother.  Although, Mr. Pontellier believes he owns his wife, I still felt he was a loving husband.  He behaves the way society has bred him too, at the same time still trying to respect his wife's wishes and avoiding upsetting her.  I did not particularly care for the excessive descriptions of the scenery or objects such as the women's evening gowns.  The title The Awakening, fits perfectly for Mrs. Pontellier realizes who she actually is and wakes up to the idea that she is an outsider to society.  Overall, I feel the book was well written and creative, but did not effectively hold the interest of the reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very slow and boring .
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Awakening was a book that was a slow read and was hard to follow. A woman named Edna is married the man named Leonce and begins to realize how limited her freedom is. In the book, Leonce often goes on long business trips and Edna is left alone. When Leonce sends Edna some bonbons while he is on his business trip, Edna¿s friends tell her how wonderful that he is and she unwillingly because of the fear she has of correcting them. This is the first time that we see that she is unhappy in her marriage and it becomes a recurring issue as the book goes on. Throughout the book, Edna talks to her friend Adels about this situation. Edna Edna and Adele begin somewhat the same, but as the book goes on, Edna becomes more independent and Adele tries to stop her from thriving. Adele tries to protect Edna¿s image and reputation and is the static character of the book. During Leonce¿s business trip, Edna becomes more and more involved with a man named Robert. Eventually she cannot take her mind off of him and she cannot go a day without thinking about him. When a woman named Mademoiselle Reisz reminds Robert that it will ruin his reputation if he hooks up with a married woman, he moves to Mexico. During this time, she flirted and had relations with another man named Alcee. When she ¿messed around¿ with him, she felt not like she betrayed her husband but that she betrayed her husband but that she betrayed Robert. She is very indecisive about which man she wants and always claims that Robert is the perfect man for her. The only problem is she cheats on him as often as possible. A romance is usually a book where people find out who they love, but she really never make up her mind. It seemed like each chapter got more and more boring because all she did was talk about how she wanted Robert and then she would cheat on him with Alcee. She did not even take into consideration of what her husband would think she pretty much just left him. She doesn¿t even talk to her husband after she leaves. It seems like he just disappears. All in all, this book was basically about a woman who didn¿t want her husband anymore, and it was very boring. This ending was also quite disappointing. If you like exciting romance novels, this is not the book for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for school. I usually like to read but this book was so bad I could barely stand it.
kristenr15 More than 1 year ago
The Awakening by Kate Chopin It was during 1899 that this book was published. Its key character was a lady, Edna, who had many sexual desires and ended up basically condemning herself. She goes through many things in life that woman would never wish to have happen to them. She basically lived for the sake of others but eventually found inner strength through self-image. During the time this book was written, woman were not exactly favored in society. Woman had barely any rights, and were normally left by their husbands for other woman. The major theme in this book is to have happiness. She let peer pressure get to her and that ended up keeping her from being free and happy. She spent her time searching for a life that was not exactly right for her, and her living in a creole society was no good match for her trying to improve her life. Self image was a key to this book as well. If it weren’t for how well she thought of herself and sold herself to men, her life would have been a lot different. What I liked about this book was the amount of description the book gave about characters, settings, and the plot. It gave very vivid descriptions as if I were in her shoes. What I did not like about the book was that it did not give a clear ending. Yes, it did give an ending to her and what happened to her, but it never gave reasons for what and why she did what she did at the end. I feel the author could have added more of an ending of all the characters or might have even ended the book in a different way. This book has a tendency to get kind of boring, but events happen and it becomes interesting again. Someone should read this book because it teaches many life lessons that you might not otherwise get from just living in our own bubbles. It gives real life examples of how choices woman make can lead to problems that can impact our entire lives without even realizing it until it is too late. Other recommended works are: At Fault by Kate Chopin is about a lady who is widowed at 32 and how she is left to basically start life over at her plantation in Louisiana and all the obstacles she faces. 
Kim_Duppy More than 1 year ago
As a feminist I find it more than a little depressing that this book was so influential within the movement. Though I can sympathize with the protagonist's plight, I cannot sympathize with her. She's not terribly nice, and it's not clear that it's her circumstances that make her that way; she just seems like an incorrigible person (I could explain this further, but I'd have to give away the ending, and I don't think that's not allowed). It's no wonder she's so unhappy.
KaydenceCA More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't have read this book without needing to for my class, but I wasn't completely disappointed. As a book that is influential in the women's movement of the early 1900s, it's not the worst. I really like the short stories by Kate Chopin, but the novel just doesn't seem to go anywhere. The awakening that the main character goes through is not as entertaining as it could have been. Also, it was very controversial during the time that it was written because of the affair that the main character has, but for today's standards it's not as shocking and therefore not as interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i read a lot and i love to read but i had to read this book for mah AP english class and i literally had to force myself to read it. it is such a slow moving boring book.i wouldnt recommend it to anyone, in fact i recommend that you dont read it and spare yourself the pain.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found the book sad. The message of this book seems to be if you find that your life as taken you someplace you don't like - just give up. Not the message I want my daughters to get.
Anonymous 28 days ago
100% Beautiful and Stunning! Chopin brings to life an epic character that seems as life-like as any person. The story flows and is written with such elegance and beauty that it will leave the read in awe. Edna brings a new perspective of life for a women even though she is outcasted by many, including her own husband. Reading this book for my AP 12 English class opened my eyes to the life of a woman. Chopin delivers an outstanding piece of beauty that will consume the reader long after they finish the novel. Everything from the imagery to the real life meaning, Chopin conveys a woman's heart to the reader through her trails and tribulations of trying to find herself in a world that has already written her story. Again, "The Awakening" is an awe-inspiring novel that will make the reader obsessed with Edna's story. It's stunningly beautiful in every aspect.
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Linda2750 More than 1 year ago
The novel remains a masterpiece; however, the cover material is a disappointment. Yes, it is elegant and beautiful and the design compliments the somberness behind the story. Unfortunately, the material feels like thin cardboard. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although Chopin's story offers a unique perspective into a world too far gone from our own, nothing can save this book from its everlasting lull and its lack of understandable circumstances.  The passing of time has proven that the story of The Awakening is certainly not timeless. For myself, the main character seemed to have more inconsequential behaviors than what might have been accepted at Chopin's time. The few strengths of the book are the fact that there is a plot and that there are descriptive words to follow along. Aside from that, nothing caught much of my interest and few elements seemed entirely important to the progression of the characters.  Although it is a completely subjective matter as to if the plot elements and progression have any resounding effect on the reader, I urge any future readers to contemplate delving into this bland and drawn out soap opera.   -Jake L.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Awakening by Kate Chopin was an assigned reading book for my AP English class. Now that I have completed reading it, I find myself hopelessly indifferent on the novel: the plot, the characters, and the themes. While I did sympathize with Edna, I had trouble fully grasping the "awakening" she underwent. All in all, the story depicts a rather charmed life with a main character who has difficultly adjusting to being her husband's property. This story was neither thrilling nor poetic, and as the novel went by, I hoped for a deeper, clearer plot. To me, it all seemed like a "beginning" and there appeared to be no climax until the last three pages or so. That aspect in itself made the read a bit more of a struggle. On the more positive side, the characterization throughout the novel was vivid and rich words were used throughout, creating an active and growing vision of life during the 1890s in New Orleans. I believe that this book is a must read, not because I thoroughly enjoyed it, but because the book is very open to interpretation. I found myself drawn to certain characters and events that resonated with my own life, but I am sure others will find different aspects to mine. This classic piece of literature was not my style, however I have gained a great deal of knowledge and perspective through the reading process. -Kylie S
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I think Chopin is a talented writer, because she makes the reader despise the main character, simply because of the way she writes I don't believe The Awakening is a worthwhile read. The story lacked a climax, and the majority of the characters are very one dimensional. I think the ending is predictable, and doesn't evoke any emotion from the reader. Overall, The Awakening is probably one of the boring books I've ever read. I found it difficult to finish the story, because there were only a few parts that caught my attention. Even the tone of the story is bland and uninteresting. The is definitely a book I would not recommend. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At times I found The Awakening to be an ironic title, considering it often put me to sleep.  I can understand how at the time this novel was revolutionary in the women's right movement, but to a modern reader Edna seems selfish and careless.  I was shocked reading the final page, unaware of how desperate Edna was.  Overall I thought the writing was beautifully done, but I was not impressed with the plot.  I would not recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Awakening by Kate Chopin did not keep me on the edge of my seat. However, the book was not supposed to keep me wondering what would happen next.  The slow-moving tale of a woman's torturous and mundane life focuses on its ideas more than its plot.  IT moves slow because it needs this time to introduce philosophies from its main character, Edna Pontellier.  Personally, Edna's eternal conflict did not grasp my attention as well as I would have liked, but that doesn't mean the novel is not well written.  There were many instances in which I marveled at the sentences Chopin wrote.  Every scene is beautifully described allowing the reader to fully appreciate the setting.  However, one minor problem with her writing was her frequent use of French.  Although it is usually only spoken in passing, there are occasions when important plot points can be missed due to a lack of understanding of the language.  While the book failed to keep me captivated, I did appreciate the work that was clearly put into it.    If there had been a 2 1/2 star rating I would have used it.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading The Awakening, and I did not like it. It was very boring. I constantly found myself trying to stay awake while reading it. Although the plot isn't very exciting, I can see why it was considered controversial for the time period it was written. The only thing that kept me reading was my growing hate for the main character, Edna. The more I read the more I began to hate her. I couldn't wait to see what awful thing she'd do next. I do not recommend this book unless you want to read about an awful mother and wife who defys her role in society by putting herself first. I did not enjoy this book.