Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Published April 1899
Originally titled: A Solitary Soul
From The Awakening: "Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the inner life which questions."
I listened to the audio version of this book on our trip to South Carolina. I checked it out from the library and it was narrated by Shelly Frasier. Wonderful! I have this book in print too but I can't imagine reading it now that I've listened to Shelly Frasier reading it! Her accent and French were perfect and soothing. Made you feel like you were there. Listen to a sample here.
It is set in Louisiana. Starting off on Grand Isle, moving to New Orleans and finishing up back on Grand Isle. It is the story of Edna Pontellier, a wife of a successful Louisiana businessman. She has two small boys and everything she could possibly desire. But, there is no passion in her life. She went from being daddy's daughter to being Leonce's wife. She wants passion, wants to be her own woman in a time when there were strict moral and societal codes that kept woman behind a facade of the proper wife and mother. Edna thinks of doing things and flirts with feelings she would be frowned on for having but keeps this facade up, until... During a summer on Grand Isle she meets Robert LeBrun and that begins a transformation in Edna. There are many metaphors in this novel, such as the clothing. Edna slowly sheds restrictive clothing as the novel progresses until at the end she is naked. I was quite surprised by the ending.
Kate Chopin was the first woman writer in America to write about woman's sexuality and passion in a serious work of fiction. Going against tradition and authority, very daring for the day she wrote this! In the front of the printed novel I have of this book the forward states that it ruined her writing career. She only has one other novel, 'At Fault', and several short stories. Some of which were not printed until well after the authors death.
I read this novel out of curiosity, to see what would have been so controversial back then compared to now and ended up loving this book and the authors style of writing. I have already downloaded the ebook format of 'At Fault' to read too. These novels are availed free on Project Gutenberg
Quotes from the book:
“The stillest hour of the night had come, the hour before dawn, when the world seems to hold its breath. The moon hung low, and had turned from silver to copper in the sleeping sky. The old owl no longer hooted, and the water-oaks had ceased to moan as they bent their heads.”
“On rainy or melancholy days Edna went out and sought the society of the friends she had made at Grand Isle. Or else she stayed indoors and nursed a mood with which she was becoming too familiar for her own comfort and peace of mind. It was not despair; but it seemed to her as if life were passing by, leaving its promise broken and unfulfilled. Yet there were other days when she listened, was led on and deceived by fresh promises which her youth held out to her.”
“He stood close to her, and the effrontery in his eyes repelled the old, vanishing self in her, yet drew all her awakening sensuousness. He saw enough in her face to impel him to take her hand and hold it while he said his lingering good night.”
Have you read this? Did you like it? Could you identify with Edna? If not come back and let me know what you thought after you do read it!