Rating: 5 out of 5
BEWARE: SPOILER ALERT!
One of the books that I bought last week was Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, a novel published in 1899. Set in Louisiana at the end of the 19th century, the story follows Edna Pontellier, who lives a miserable life with her husband and two children. She has a couple affairs, and although they allow her to ‘awaken’ emotionally and sexually, they only end in heartbreak. Devastated by the thought of an oppressed existence as an unhappy wife and mother, she drowns herself in the Gulf of Mexico.
I read this novel in high school, and what amazed me is how polarizing this story is with women. Most of the other girls despised Edna for committing suicide, leaving her children without a mother. I, however, have more feminist tendencies and empathized with Edna, since I understood that death was the only true way she could experience freedom.
It’s hard enough for a woman today if she does anything considered socially unacceptable, whether it’s having an affair or deciding not to have children. So I can’t imagine how a woman could live with essentially no rights more than a century ago. Of course, Chopin herself suffered from writing such an unconventional novel; seen as immoral and smut-filled, it was heavily censored. Chopin never wrote another novel due to difficulties finding a publisher, spending the remainder of her life unaccepted and shunned by the literary world.
I highly recommend this novel, especially to the female population. Also, check out Chopin’s short stories, including “The Story of an Hour.” And if you’ve already read The Awakening, feel free to add your own reviews!