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Her husband is occasionally rude and out of temper, he sometimes spends his evening out with his friends and blames her unfairly for occurrences that are blown all out of proportion. But that's about it. He expects to everything at home reflect his success out of the home, including the dinner he eats which he seems to be more upset about on the basis that it does not suit his status than anything. When she deviates from her conventionally feminine choices, he assumes she may need medical treatment. Then of course, she has to decide what to do next. This is where a lot of the stories differ.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Thus, all she is supposed to have to offer is a life of selfless service to others that she is dependent on. Thus it makes sense for her to consider herself not only less than nothing, but actually actively evil for denying to further repay society what is seen as her only natural duty, given her lack of these highest blessings. All Passion Spent is another perhaps more mature parallel. In this iteration, Lady Slane actually has achieved the husband and children.

What is more, they are grown and successful, with children of their own. As Edna states clearly and expressively in The Awakening : "at a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life- that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions. Her Bartleby moment comes through in a meeting deciding her future, where her children have almost forgotten that she is a participant in the conversation.

She decides to live out her life, like Lolly, in a house of her own. A quirky, falling apart house with a sympathetic caretaker, becomes, bafflingly to her family, of greater interest to her than her children and grandchildren. The Enchanted April is a luxurious, loving and-all-too-temporary bath of the golden sunlight of the prime of this story.

The women involved take a house in Italy and spend charmed, perpetually-twilight-hour weeks of stillness, contemplation, repressed anger and joy escaping their obligations to their family, to their husbands or other men, their poses to the world and their need to repress their feelings. There is one woman, indeed, who sometimes barely seems to move at all, perpetually walking around with a suppressed, blissful smile on her face. There are men in the novel, but they enter what is clearly a world of women, enchanted indeed by their fantasies and repressed longings.

Some women place more boundaries and limitations on letting themselves go than others, but the trend is there, and it is the opposite of what is found on the outside. Even this brief moment of suspension and stillness restores some of the women enough to go on, some couples leave transformed, more or less, and we fade out with quiet, with sheer quiet still the ultimate dream of nirvana. Dalloway provides a different, more kaleidoscopic perspective on the same theme, perhaps even a slightly more optimistic and loving one in its own way. Clarissa Dalloway actually finds a kind of fulfillment in her duties as a housewife, in her every day errands and domestic creations.

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Clarissa Dalloway, like Edna, understands that split between the interior and exterior life and instinctively lives it out each day. She, like these other women, has desires beyond her household, but has found reasons not to fulfill them. She has found her own way of making her life her own- even with a husband that she seems to have not much connection to, with a former lover for whom she can still have strong feelings after all these years, and with an unsatisfying daughter who is decidedly not her double in any way. Her slightly more optimistic conclusion in its way about the business of fulfilling her role as a woman and what it can lead to, at its best, does not at all lessen the struggles and doubts and reflections that we see her go through.

She maintains her personhood throughout, which is triumph most of these ladies desire to achieve anyway. Anna Karenina has its own piece to share as well, of course, in its way. But these headlong, rush-to-the-head statements, these explosions of joy and rage are screams in the night, almost in a category by themselves, one separate from the whispers, the candlelight dreams and embedded-in-the-everyday transformations that are the rest of these books.

Those ladies seek to destroy, to smash, in a way, whereas these ladies seek to simply… exist in a different way. They want to find a way for themselves that is slightly different, not the expected, but not…publicly. These are still private individuals still interested in keeping their privacy and existing within most bounds. They are at most…. They are interested in delving into and acting on some specific and long cherished thoughts that are not necessarily radically out of the norm. I think the better predecessors are the more-or-less coded versions of the narrative that we find in Villette and Jane Eyre , and a wistful, painful statement of it through Dorothea in Middlemarch.

Villette, especially, offers its audience an ending that is, at best, deeply ambiguous as to whether it is marriage itself rather than the act of it that sets Lucy free or not. Her husband will never be any sort of ideal, and the way that he speaks to her has what would politely be called bracing honesty for a virtue. With Jane, of course, while she allows marriage to be more of an ideal achieved for her, the ideal is not achieved until they can meet as both financial and intellectual equals with something both material and spiritual to bring to the marriage, to assure anyone judging them that Jane has something worthwhile to contribute.

Like Lolly, her dreams and thoughts of how to conceptualize these capacities inside of her are bounded by the perceptions and assumptions that are presented to her by society. Her disillusionment is both expected and painful to read about. What is interesting about her is that she actually is a person who wants obligations to fulfill and to provide the sort of self-sacrificial service that women are demanded to provide. But no one stated exactly what else that was in her power she ought rather to have done. Thus Edna Pontellier had many eloquent sisters saying, painting, singing, and subliminally messaging all the shades of this message for decades before The Awakening gained a wide, or almost any, audience.

But she was one of the ones who did it both first and openly remember again that the Brontes and George Eliot did it in more coded ways, and that Madame Bovary was, after all French and a scandal for decades. In , while not banned, the book was widely rejected and shunned by the reading public. Libraries refused to carry it. Of course I understand that in writing about women having any sort of sexual feeling or longing would have made this smut, automatically.

What I appreciate, and what I think other modern readers may appreciate about this particular iteration of the theme was how honest and free of…. There were minimal metaphors used to try to describe what she was trying to say, nor was the thing encased in the alternate, inner universe of thought. The first major stand-off starts from a desire that Edna has to sleep outside on a hammock on a warm evening, rather than come inside.

It is a small thing that increasingly becomes important the harder her husband pushes her on it. Eventually, he joins her outside to smoke his cigar and pretend to anyone watching that this was a communal desire.

The Awakening

Slowly, this crushes out any magic her rebellion has until she slowly slips inside. We see her little by little move from stand-offs to the simple refusal to do ever larger things, withdrawing herself by choice from her life, from every thing that does not matter in itself, but, when added up, constitutes the life that she has been living in its entire. I think that this method of doing it was quite powerful, since we get to see all the little things that prick her and needle her into, after years of repetition, making the huge change that she does. Which is of course, as we saw above, the real work of becoming a person on your own, rather than an accessory, or someone acting out a defined role for themselves that does not require them to think out their own feelings or desires.

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That, sexuality and all, one of the major essences of feminism is, as someone said, that women are people. All Edna is doing in this book is testing out her likes and dislikes, finding friends that she herself enjoys, finding an occupation that fulfills her, and rooting out those things from her life which she does not like or need. I mean, that sounds like college to me. High school, college, my twenties. Edna is twenty-eight and has had really, none of that experience except brief infatuations, conquered quickly. At that early period it served but to bewilder her. It moved her to dreams, to thoughtfulness, to the shadowy anguish which had overcome her the midnight when she had abandoned herself to tears.

In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her.


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This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight- perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually vouchsafed to any woman. But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such a beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult! View all 30 comments. Even though the entire plot of this novel can be summed up as, "woman sits around and does nothing while having feminine thoughts", there is a resounding beauty in its monotony.

The Awakening is a quick and affecting novel especially with that ending. While I do think that it may be slightly subject to over-hype, there is no contesting its importance as an early feminist work. And on that account, I would recommend it. View 1 comment. Nov 13, Houston rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: everyone.

He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world. My wife has been telling me about them.

Put your foot down good and hard; the only way to manage a wife. The book is her journey, inward and then outward as well, to finding who she is and how she wants to be. The Doctor even accuses the husband of being too lenient. At this time, and even now, women struggle to gain independence from the role of wife and mother. Trying to figure out where the self is within the confines of those roles, and how to manage the three successfully is still difficult.

This resolve is what leads her to her final decision, becoming absolutely her own person to the exclusion of any other role. The end is somewhat disturbing, though poetic.


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The struggle between Edna and her environment, her time and those around her—her inner struggles—all seem to lead her to that final point of no return. Jan 22, Lynne King rated it it was amazing Shelves: books-to-be-read , definitely-to-read. Part of the book is also based on their vacation in Grand Isle on the Gulf of Mexico. The scene is soon set as Edna is beginning to feel unsettled after six years of a rather bland marriage to an older man and feels that there is something lacking in her life. An incident then occurs that soon sets her on a course that cannot be changed.