20/2/17

lunabee34: (are those men kissing? by animekittysama)
The AwakeningThe Awakening by Kate Chopin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I'd only read this book once a very long time ago as an undergraduate, and my memories of it were hazy before this reread. I hadn't remembered how candidly it treats Edna's infidelity, and I thought it had been written much later than the turn of the century.

I also didn't know anything about Kate Chopin until this reread. Apparently, publishing The Awakening ruined her career; the book was roundly condemned, and she lost her reputation and many friends as a result. She only lived four years after its publication, dying of a stroke or aneurysm. I think a lot about women writers who weren't appreciated in their time and what they would think of their place in the literary canon carved out by second wave feminists in the 60s and 70s. I hope Chopin would feel vindicated that classrooms of college students read her novel each semester and discuss Edna Pontellier's stifling marriage and the limited choices available to her.

I was especially struck on this read by her feelings for her children, how she loves them but doesn't want to be consumed by them, how she wants to follow her own desires but doesn't want her children to be hurt in the fall-out. I am so glad that I live in the 21st century in which I can find plenty of examples of women who have careers and families, who follow their own hearts and are good mothers, who pursue their ambitions and hold down the fort at home at the same time. I'm so glad we live in a time where people can be more open about how maddening motherhood is, how nobody enjoys parental sacrifices, and how being angry or depressed or frustrated is a natural part of being a parent. If I had to live surrounded by the "mother-women" Chopin describes, those women who are constantly sewing baby clothes and who cannot leave their husbands alone because the husbands need them, and who are defined solely by those relationships, I'd probably find myself in crisis, too.

This book is very sad but very beautifully written. Highly recommended.



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