Thursday, October 16, 2014

October 16th: The Awakening



I first read Kate Chopin's The Awakening in the summer of 1997 after my Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition training in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I had never heard of Chopin before, so when my teacher-classmates all said, "Oh, you MUST read this," I listened.

Chopin was a woman ahead of her time. This book was first published in 1899, but was not really popular again until the latter 20th century. It is now often taught in high school and college, and not necessarily just in a feminist lit course.

I was 27 when I read the novel, and Edna Pontellier ("one who bridges") is 28. Right away I felt a kinship, a sisterhood, with this woman. I read about her disenchantment with her life and her desire for more. The imagery and characters resonated with me on a very deep level.


Was I unhappy? No. I had my dream job, a beautiful baby girl who was the delight of all, a loving husband, a supportive extended family. This book forced me to ask myself some tough questions. Was I unhappy in my marriage? No. Was I unhappy with being a mother? Again no, but I was scared to death I would not be a good mother to my baby girl. I was teaching full-time during this season of my life, but during this particular summer I was also at home full-time with my child. It was like the job that defined me was on hiatus, and I wasn't sure what to do.

Edna's choice at the end of the novel devastates and is beautiful and pathetic and symbolic. It serves, I believe, as a wake-up call to seek joy and contentment rather than despair and discontent. I found solace in my faith and in the realization that I was, in fact, not Edna.

Interestingly, author Leeana Tankersley mentions this novel on her blog.You can read her post about the novel here.

To read more of this #31DaysofBooks series, visit the introduction post.

2 comments:

Kathleen Scott said...

I loved this book as well! You have a great list going, I'm glad I found you!

Leann Richardson said...

another one on my shelf that mocks me.... I love that you put it here. It is one of those books I have been afraid to read but know I should. You have convinced me I need to. <3