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The Awakening (1899)

by Kate Chopin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,136154768 (3.61)498
Edna Pontellier, a Victorian-era wife and mother, is awakened to the full force of her desire for love and freedom when she becomes enamored with Robert LeBrun, a young man she meets while on vacation.
  1. 130
    The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories {Oxford World's Classics} by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Trifolia)
    Trifolia: Both published in 1899, both deal with the freedom of the wife. Interesting to compare the situation, actions and reactions of the main characters.
  2. 120
    Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Yells, StarryNightElf)
    StarryNightElf: This is the American version of Madame Bovary - set in turn of the century Louisiana.
  3. 70
    A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf (roulette.russe)
  4. 50
    A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: A woman realizes she has a responsibility to herself that comes before that to her husband, children and societal expectations.
  5. 51
    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (rosylibrarian)
  6. 20
    Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (Yells)
  7. 10
    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Strong female protagonist causes a stir in a male-dominated society by going after the things she wants.
  8. 00
    Ann Veronica by H. G. Wells (debbiereads)
  9. 00
    July's People by Nadine Gordimer (TheLittlePhrase)
  10. 00
    Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz (potenza)
    potenza: Man Booker Intl finalist. Woman on the edge. Brutally feminist.
  11. 00
    Anna Karenina [Norton Critical Edition, 1st ed.] by L.N. Tolstoy (gypsysmom)
  12. 00
    The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Both deal with the position of women in relation to the wider world.
  13. 00
    Summer by Edith Wharton (collsers)
  14. 00
    Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Both books deal with protagonists (one a wife and one a husband) who find themselves unable to live up to the expectations of conventional married life.
  15. 01
    My Ántonia by Willa Cather (chrisharpe)
  16. 01
    The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (aliklein)
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English (149)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (154)
Showing 1-5 of 149 (next | show all)
I was mad throughout most of this book. The way women are treated is just awful. I know that this is for some but not for me. ( )
  Emmybird01 | Jan 26, 2021 |
Beautiful.
i love this book. ( )
  mjhunt | Jan 22, 2021 |
A Book With Bad Reviews

I can only imagine that Kate Chopin's The Awakening received bad reviews due to its divergence from the morality of the era it was published in, because it is a well-written story which only hints at the indelicate thoughts and actions of its protagonist, Edna Pontellier. As a character she reminds me of Clarissa Dalloway or Mother from Doctorow's Ragtime, a dreamy woman who finds herself stifled by a romance-less marriage to a man who, typical of his age, possesses her as he does his house or furniture.

The Awakening is a short, straight-forward tale, whose power comes from the anticipation and suspense Chopin builds in portraying Edna's budding realization that there is something missing in her life. The interplay between Edna and her two gentleman callers is a slow, entrancing waltz. Both men make love to Edna in the old-fashioned sense of the phrase - verbally, rather than physically - in sensuous (a favorite word of Chopin) flirtations that push the boundaries of acceptable behavior between a married woman and unattached men. Even the ending, easily foreseen, fits perfectly into the narrative.

To enjoy this novel you must read it with a 19th century mentality. While readers of the time found it shocking and offensive, there is nothing even mildly titillating in it*. There are several scenes where Edna is alone with one of her paramours; these are so well written that you find yourself believing a tryst occurred but realize, upon a closer reading, that nothing more than kisses were exchanged. There is also a scene in which Edna visits a pregnant friend and stays for the birth, yet there is only the mildest of indications of what transpired.

I could have assigned this as A Book You Can Read In A Day on my themed reading list; regardless, it is well worth including on your own list.

* - My Dover Thrift Edition comes with a laughable warning to "[s]ensitive readers" who might be offended that Chopin uses the word darky (or perhaps black or mulatto - after reading the book I can't imagine what they're referring to) on several occasions in the novel. I expected the n-word, at a minimum, to merit such a silly forewarning. And in a version published in 1993, no less. ( )
  skavlanj | Dec 9, 2020 |
It's hard to believe this was published in 1899, because it reads modern. Beautifully written, it is the very sad story of a glass-smashing, frustrated woman who is sick and tired of social constraints. At age 28, she suffers an existential crisis akin to one in midlife and tries to captain her own destiny. She works on her art, reads the Transcendentalists, wins big at the racetrack, finds a bit of financial freedom and has an affair. The problem is she arrives at the party about 100 years too soon. It did remind me in many ways of Where the Crawdads Sing, in the lyricism of the writing and in the naturalism/Darwinism of the protagonists. The endings are nothing alike, so no spoiler alert here for either text, but I dare say Delia Owens was influenced by Kate Chopin whether she knew it or not during the writing process. It's a short read and a good one. ( )
  MMKY | Jul 3, 2020 |
Meh. I have a friend who highly recommended the book, and I feel like I went into this novel with every expectation I'd like it. But instead of finding a main character who's struggling to break free of the social shackles that bound her, I encountered a character who seems to be rebelling against nothing at all. Her husband isn't some cruel monster. He indulges her whims throughout the book, and his wealth lets her enjoy a certain amount of freedom. She had children, but ships them off to her mother in law fairly early in the book and seem like an afterthought the few times they are mentioned later in the work. Perhaps it's classist of me, but my real dislike for the character comes when she decides to leave her husband's mansion and move into a smaller house on her own, leaving behind her staff of and taking with her only ONE servant to cook, clean, etc. Oh, the sacrifice! One servant! What a martyr to her art!

Sorry. The book does have occasional flashes of insight into what's required to be an artist, and I do think the book draws some interesting characters. For the most part the prose is lovely. I just couldn't relate or sympathize with the main character (whose name I can't remember two months later, and who I don't care enough about even to look up). ( )
  James_Maxey | Jun 29, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 149 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chopin, Kateprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, Sandra M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lammers, GeertjeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robinson, MarilynneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Showalter, ElaineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, Deborah L.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside, kept repeating over and over:
"Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That's all right!"
Quotations
The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.
She missed him the days when some pretext served to take him away from her, just as one misses the sun on a cloudy day without having thought much about the sun when it was shining.
The years that are gone seem like dreams – if one might go on sleeping and dreaming – but to wake up and find – oh! Well! Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.
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Edna Pontellier, a Victorian-era wife and mother, is awakened to the full force of her desire for love and freedom when she becomes enamored with Robert LeBrun, a young man she meets while on vacation.

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Book description
First published in 1899, this beautiful, brief novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banished for decades afterward. Now widely read and admired, The Awakening has been hailed as an early vision of woman's emancipation. This sensuous book tells of a woman's abandonment of her family, her seduction, and her awakening to desires and passions that threaten to consume her. Originally entitled A Solitary Soul, this portrait of twenty-eight-year-old Edna Pontellier is a landmark in American fiction, rooted firmly in the Romantic tradition of Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson. Here a woman engaged in self-discovery turns away from convention and society and toward the primal, irresistibly attracted to nature and the senses. The Awakening, Kate Chopin's last novel, has been praised by Edmund Wilson as "beautifully written." And Willa Cather described its style as "exquisite," "sensitive," and "iridescent."
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Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400100313, 1400109078

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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