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The Awakening

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Overview

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.

An American classic of sexual expression that paved the way for the modern novel, The Awakening is both a remarkable novel in its own right and a startling reminder of how far women in this century have come. The story of a married woman who pursues love outside a stuffy, middle-class marriage, the novel portrays the mind of a woman seeking fulfillment of her essential nature.

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Editorial Reviews

Times
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
"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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452894331
  • Publisher: CreateSpace
  • Publication date: 5/26/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 122
  • Sales rank: 1,459,781
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.29 (d)

Meet the Author

A precursor of the 20th century's feminist authors, Kate Chopin (1850–1904) wrote short stories and novels for children and adults. The St. Louis native lived in New Orleans for a dozen years and set most of her tales amid Louisiana's Creole culture. Many of her stories were well ahead of their time, and she achieved widespread acclaim only after her death.

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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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Table of Contents

About the Series
About this Volume

PART I. THE AWAKENING: THE COMPLETE TEXT

Introduction: Biographical and Historical Contexts

The Complete Text [The 1969 Seyersted Edition]

New Cultural Documents
New Two Contemporary Reviews of The Awakening:
From "Recent Novels" (The Nation 69, 3 August 1899, 96)
From "Books of the Week" (Providence Sunday Journal, 4 June 1899, 15)
New Two Principles in Recent American Fiction, James Lane Allen (The Altantic Monthly, October 1897)
New Home Study for Young Ladies: Visiting Cards (from Collier's Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social Information and Treasury of Entertaining Knowledge, 1887)
New The Dressing-Table New Advertisements from Women's Magazines
Lablanche Face Powder (Ladies Home Journal, August 1899)
Braided Wire Bristles and Forms (Ladies Home Journal, May 1899)
Ferris's Good Sense Corset Waists: When Beauty Reigns (Harper's Magazine, January 1899)
The Whitely Exerciser (Ladies Home Journal, December 1896)
New Fashion Plates from Women's Magazines
Plate No. 7 (Godey's Magazine, January 1897)
Plate No. 6 (Godey's Magazine, March 1897)
Plate No. 7 (Godey's Magazine, August 1897)
New A People Who Live Amid Romance, Ruth McEnery Stuart, (Ladies Home Journal, December 1896)
New The Artist and Marriage (The Atlantic Monthly, January 1899)
New What It Means to Be a Wife, Helen Watterson Moody, (Ladies Home Journal, March 1899)
New The True Meaning of Motherhood,Helen Watterson Moody, (Ladies Home Journal, May 1899)
New What Women Find to Do all Day (Ladies Home Journal, April 1899)
New The Evolution of Woman in the South, Walter Gregory, (Godey's Magazine, October 1897)

PART II. THE AWAKENING: A CASE STUDY IN CONTEMPORARY CRITICISM

A Critical History of The Awakening

Feminist Criticism and The Awakening
What Is Feminist Criticism?
Feminist Criticism: A Selected Bibliography A Feminist Perspective:
Elaine Showalter, Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book

Gender Criticism and The Awakening
What Is Gender Criticism?
Gender Criticism: A Selected Bibliography A Gender Perspective:
New Elizabeth LeBlanc, The Metaphorical Lesbian: Edna Pontellier in The Awakening

New Historicism and The Awakening
What Is New Historicism?
New Historicism: A Selected Bibliography A New Historicist Perspective:
Margit Stange, Personal Property: Exchange Value and the Female Self in The Awakening

Deconstruction and The Awakening
What Is Deconstruction?
Deconstruction: A Selected Bibliography A Deconstructionist Perspective:
Patricia S. Yaeger, "A Language Which Nobody Understood": Emancipatory Strategies in The Awakening

Reader-Response and The Awakening
What Is Reader-Response Criticism?
Reader-Response Criticism: A Selected Bibliography A Reader-Response Perspective:
Paula A. Treichler, The Construction of Ambiguity in The Awakening: A Linguistic Analysis

New Combining Critical Perspectives:
Cynthia Griffin Wolff, Un-utterable Longing: The Discourse of Feminine Sexuality in Kate Chopin's The Awakening

Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms
About the Contributors

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First Chapter

Chapter 1

A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over:

"Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That's all right!"

He could speak a little Spanish, and also a language which nobody understood, unless it was the mockingbird that hung on the other side of the door, whistling his fluty notes out upon the breeze with maddening persistence.

Mr. Pontellier, unable to read his newspaper with any degree of comfort, arose with an expression and an exclamation of disgust. He walked down the gallery and across the narrow "bridges" which connected the Lebrun cottages one with the other. He had been seated before the door of the main house. The parrot and the mockingbird were the property of Madame Lebrun, and they had the right to make all the noise they wished. Mr. Pontellier had the privilege of quitting their society when they ceased to be entertaining.

He stopped before the door of his own cottage, which was the fourth one from the main building and next to the last. Seating himself in a wicker rocker which was there, he once more applied himself to the task of reading the newspaper. The day was Sunday, the paper was a day old. The Sunday papers had not yet reached Grand Isle. He was already acquainted with the market reports, and he glanced restlessly over the editorials and bits of news which he had not had time to read before quitting New Orleans the day before.

Mr. Pontellier wore eye-glasses. He was a man of forty, of medium height and rather slender build; he stooped a little. His hair was brown and straight, parted on one side. His beard was neatly and closely trimmed.

Once in a while he withdrew his gorch, facing each other, each leaning against a supporting post.

"What folly! to bathe at such an hour in such heat!" exclaimed Mr. Pontellier. He himself had taken a plunge at daylight. That was why the morning seemed long to him.

"You are burnt beyond recognition," he added, looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage. She held up her hands, strong, shapely hands, and surveyed them critically, drawing up her lawn' sleeves above the wrists. Looking at them reminded her of her rings, which she had given to her husband before leaving for the beach. She silently reached out to him, and he, understanding, took the rings from his vest pocket and dropped them into her open palm. She slipped them upon her fingers; then clasping her knees, she looked across at Robert and began to laugh. The rings sparkled upon her fingers. He sent back an answering smile.

"What is it?" asked Pontellier, looking lazily and amused from one to the other. It was some utter nonsense; some adventure out there in the water, and they both tried to relate it at once. It did not seem half so amusing when told. They realized this, and so did Mr. Pontellier. He yawned and stretched himself. Then he got up, saying he had half a mind to go over to Klein's hotel and play a game of billiards.

"Come go along, Lebrun," he proposed to Robert. But Robert admitted quite frankly that he preferred to stay where he was and talk to Mrs. Pontellier.

"Well, send him about his business when he bores you, Edna," instructed her husband as he prepared to leave.

"Here, take the umbrella," she exclaimed, holding it out to him. He accepted the sunshade, and lifting it over his head de scended the steps and walked away.

"Coming back to dinner?" his wife called after him. He halted a moment and shrugged his shoulders. He felt in his vest pocket; there was a ten-dollar bill there. He did not know; perhaps he would return for the early dinner and perhaps he would not. It all depended upon the company which he found over at Klein's and the size of "the game." He did not say this, but she understood it, and laughed, nodding good-by to him.

Both children wanted to follow their father when they saw him starting out. He kissed them and promised to bring them back bonbons and peanuts.

Copyright © 1998 by Simon & Schuster

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2013

    Kate Chopin explains the life of a woman struggling to define wh

    Kate Chopin explains the life of a woman struggling to define who she really is and what exactly she wants. With intense detail, Chopin gives the reader the ability to see this woman, Edna change into something she never thought possible. I personally feel this book gives great incite on what the social structures consisted of in the 1900's. Overall, I was entertained while reading this book simply because you were able to slowly see the main character changing so much.

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