Summary of The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Banned for several years by critics after its initial publication in 1899 because of its unsettling content, “The Awakening” later became a most cherished account of a woman’s journey towards self-discovery and abandonment of her conventional society. Kester-Shelton) Within that story is where we meet Robert LeBrun, A young, flirtatious and confident womanizer with a reputation to match and it is within this paper, that we will analyze the influential character of Robert LeBrun who without control, falls in a forbidden love affair with the protagonist, Edna Pontellier. Robert, a younger man with immature tendencies, clean shaven face, yellowish-brown hair, and quick bright eyes maintains a reputation for floating in between different older women every summer. Eventually his affectionate nature catches the attention of Mrs.
Instead, her story excites the children, makes them more talkative and awake, and they are ultimately puzzled when Edna breaks off mid-sentence, gives a halfhearted promise to finish the next day, and leaves to fret about Robert’s imminent departure for Mexico. Later, Edna betrays her childishness again when she tells Raoul and Etienne about the new apartment she has bought near the Pontellier house. Raoul and Etienne ask sensible questions about whether there will be room for the whole family in this apartment, and Edna murmurs that “the fairies” will take care of all logistical problems. Edna’s willingness to deposit her children at Léonce’s mother’s house for indeterminate stretches of time suggests that she is more concerned with her own entertainment than with her maternal responsibilities. But in this brave and unnerving novel, Edna’s childish behavior is not unique. With the exception of the Ratignolles, Chopin’s parental characters consistently fail to show empathy toward their sons and daughters. Léonce, for example, spends most of his time conducting business far from his family and sends occasional boxes of bonbons as a reminder of his ostensible paternal love. Madame Lebrun complains about Victor’s aimlessness and bad manners when, as Chopin notes, the aging woman is at least partially to blame for having favored and spoiled Victor throughout his youth. The Colonel bickers with Edna instead of trying to elicit her reasons for skipping her sister’s wedding, then gives up and advises his son-in-law to hit and yell at Edna more frequently. Léonce’s mother ignores the obvious fault lines in the Pontellier marriage so she can have more time with her grandchildren. Throughout The Awakening, Chopin’s characters disappoint their sons and daughters. By hinting that Edna is not alone in her childishness, Chopin shows that her unlikable protagonist is not simply a villain. The novel frequently encourages us to condemn Edna, since many of the characters comment on her self-absorption and she herself displays this egoism in her conversations with Raoul and Etienne. However, by describing a network of similarly flawed mothers and fathers, Chopin suggests that Edna’s failings are universal. Indeed, the reason the novel unsettles so many readers may be that, in Chopin’s honest portrait of Edna Pontellier, we recognize our own features.
At the age if nineteen, Kate met and fell in love with Oscar Chopin, a Louisiana resident with whom she tied the knot on the 9th June 1870. Oscar’s business fell short in 1879 and he went back to Paris. Kate got familiar with the Creole community a significant focal point of her compositions. Oscar passed on in 1883 leaving behind six children. Kate’s mother died a year after. Kate was sentimentally exhausted and she needed to turn to composing as a way of squeezing out her anger and dissatisfaction in life (Booth and Mays 500). For over a decade Kate was considered a good writer and became a countrywide applauded writer. She composed many different compositions. Among Kate’s first works was Piano Polka a composition known as Lillian’s Polka. She produced two short stories in 1889 named Wiser than God and a point at issue. In 1890 she issued a novel ‘At fault’ which received unenthusiastic re-evaluation. Next was another novel Young Dr. Gross in 1890. This novel discarded by many publishers and in the end she annihilated the manuscript. This was followed by a short story Desiree baby in 1896 a narrative trails a tale of Desiree who is ditched as a baby and is taken and brought up by a loving family. She gets married and they have a baby with a dark complexion. The husband sends her away claiming that she is of black ancestry only to realize that he is the one of black ancestry. This story was published in a short story collection the following year (Booth and Mays 236). Another collection with twenty one stories, a night in Acadia, was issued in 1897. It gave a picture of her enhanced curiosity of excitement and sexuality. This collection also expressed her disquiet for the predicament of women in the Victorian Era. Then came another short story collection, a vocation and a voice. This collection was discarded. Kate created many short poems and gave in essays to several periodicals in St. Louis. Then she came up with another short story ‘The storm’ which traced the story of two lover’s unfaithfulness during a rainstorm and depicted her curiosity in infatuation and infidelity. This was followed by her masterwork, her novel ‘The awakening’. This narration follows the story of Edna Pontellier and her great effort to conquer her increasing unusual views on feminity and motherliness with the existing social attitudes of that century.
Additionally, Edna’s story culminates her suicide, as she believed her struggles were ineffectual, because change was slow in those around her. Some might argue that viewing oneself through the eyes of others, and allowing it to dictate one’s sense of self, is decidedly un-feminist. In some ways, the suicide undermines the theme of the novel. That said, the exploration that Chopin credits to Edna is a brave leap away from the Victorian culture of the time.
Booth, Alison and Mays, Kelly. The Norton Introduction to Literature. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010