The Awakening pdf by Kate Chopin is a novel first published in 1899. Set in New Orleans and on the Louisiana Gulf coast at the end of the 19th century, the plot centers on Edna Pontellier and her struggle between her increasingly unorthodox views on femininity and motherhood with the prevailing social attitudes of the turn-of-the-century American South. It is one of the earliest American novels that focuses on women’s issues without condescension. It is also widely seen as a landmark work of early feminism, generating a mixed reaction from contemporary readers and critics. The novel’s blend of realistic narrative, incisive social commentary, and psychological complexity makes The Awakening a precursor of American modernist literature; it prefigures the works of American novelists such as William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway and echoes the works of contemporaries such as Edith Wharton and Henry James. In this article, you will be able to download the awakening by Kate Chopin pdf as well as do the following:
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- Excerpt from the awakening by Kate Chopin
- Major characters in the book
- Themes in the awakening
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Summary of The Awakening pdf by Kate Chopin
Written in the late Victorian era The Awakening features a young woman who flings aside the norms of society and rejects her role as wife and mother. She abandons her family for a hedonistic and contrarian lifestyle before eventually committing suicide. The novel deals with the issues of interracial marriage and contains passages of overt sexuality, both of which contributed to the widespread outcry upon its original publication in 1899. Today it is seen as a portent of the future and admired for its direct and naturalistic style. The novel opens with the Pontellier family—Léonce, a New Orleans businessman of Louisiana Creole heritage; his wife Edna; and their two sons, Etienne and Raoul—vacationing on Grand Isle at a resort on the Gulf of Mexico managed by Madame Lebrun and her two sons, Robert and Victor.
Edna spends most of her time with her close friend Adèle Ratignolle, who cheerily and boisterously reminds Edna of her duties as a wife and mother. At Grand Isle, Edna eventually forms a connection with Robert Lebrun, a charming, earnest young man who actively seeks Edna’s attention and affections. When they fall in love, Robert senses the doomed nature of such a relationship and flees to Mexico under the guise of pursuing a nameless business venture. The narrative focus moves to Edna’s shifting emotions as she reconciles her maternal duties with her desire for social freedom and to be with Robert.
About the author- Kate Chopin
Kate Chopin, born Katherine O’Flaherty (1851–1904) was an American novelist and short-story writer and an advocate of New Orleans life and culture. After her husband died in 1882, she began to write about the people of the South. Her first novel was At Fault (1890), but she wrote over 100 short stories, including ‘Désirée’s Baby’ and ‘Madame Celestin’s Divorce’. Her preoccupation with the freedom of women laid the foundations for feminist literature of later generations. She was a mother of six by the age of twenty-eight and a widow at thirty-two, she turned to writing to support her young family. She is best known today for The Awakening (1899), a portrait of marriage and motherhood so controversial it fell out of print shortly after publication and was not rediscovered until the 1960s.
Information about the book (Amazon)
- Publisher : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 14, 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 108 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1978281676
- ISBN-13 : 978-1978281677
- Item Weight : 5.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.25 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #997,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #25,060 in Classic Literature & Fiction
- Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars 3,097 ratings
Excerpt from the awakening by Kate Chopin
© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over:
“Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That’s all right!”
He could speak a little Spanish, and also a language which nobody understood, unless it was the mockingbird that hung on the other side of the door, whistling his fluty notes out upon the breeze with maddening persistence. Mr. Pontellier, unable to read his newspaper with any degree of comfort, arose with an expression and an exclamation of disgust. He walked down the gallery and across the narrow “bridges” which connected the Lebrun cottages one with the other. He had been seated before the door of the main house. The parrot and the mockingbird were the property of Madame Lebrun, and they had the right to make all the noise they wished. Mr. Pontellier had the privilege of quitting their society when they ceased to be entertaining.
He stopped before the door of his own cottage, which was the fourth one from the main building and next to the last. Seating himself in a wicker rocker which was there, he once more applied himself to the task of reading the newspaper. The day was Sunday, the paper was a day old. The Sunday papers had not yet reached Grand Isle. He was already acquainted with the market reports, and he glanced restlessly over the editorials and bits of news which he had not had time to read before quitting New Orleans the day before. Mr. Pontellier wore eye-glasses. He was a man of forty, of medium height and rather slender build; he stooped a little. His hair was brown and straight, parted on one side. His beard was neatly and closely trimmed.
Once in a while he withdrew his glance from the newspaper and looked about him. There was more noise than ever over at the house. The main building was called “the house,” to distinguish it from the cottages. The chattering and whistling birds were still at it. Two young girls, the Farival twins, were playing a duet from “Zanipa” upon the piano. Madame Lebrun was bustling in and out, giving orders in a high key to a yard-boy whenever she got inside the house, and directions in an equally high voice to a dining-room servant whenever she got outside. She was a fresh, pretty woman, clad always in white with elbow sleeves. Her starched skirts crinkled as she came and went. Farther down, before one of the cottages, a lady in black was walking demurely up and down, telling her beads. A good many persons of the pension had gone over to the Chênière Caminada in Beaudelet’s lugger to hear mass. Some young people were out under the water-oaks playing croquet. Mr. Pontellier’s two children were there — sturdy little fellows of four and five. A quadroon nurse followed them about with a faraway, meditative air.
Mr. Pontellier finally fit a cigar and began to smoke, letting the paper drag idly from his hand. He fixed his gaze upon a white sunshade that was advancing at snail’s pace from the beach. He could see it plainly between the gaunt trunks of the water-oaks and across the stretch of yellow camomile. The gulf looked far away, melting hazily into the blue of the horizon. The sunshade continued to approach slowly. Beneath its pink-lined shelter were his wife, Mrs. Pontellier, and young Robert Lebrun. When they reached the cottage, the two seated themselves with some appearance of fatigue upon the upper step of the porch, facing each other, each leaning against a supporting post. “What folly! to bathe at such an hour in such heat!” exclaimed Mr. Pontellier. He himself had taken a plunge at daylight. That was why the morning seemed long to him.
“You are burnt beyond recognition,” he added, looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage. She held up her hands, strong, shapely hands, and surveyed them critically, drawing up her lawn’ sleeves above the wrists. Looking at them reminded her of her rings, which she had given to her husband before leaving for the beach. She silently reached out to him, and he, understanding, took the rings from his vest pocket and dropped them into her open palm. She slipped them upon her fingers; then clasping her knees, she looked across at Robert and began to laugh. The rings sparkled upon her fingers. He sent back an answering smile. What is it?” asked Pontellier, looking lazily and amused from one to the other. It was some utter nonsense; some adventure out there in the water, and they both tried to relate it at once. It did not seem half so amusing when told. They realized this, and so did Mr. Pontellier. He yawned and stretched himself. Then he got up, saying he had half a mind to go over to Klein’s hotel and play a game of billiards “Come go along, Lebrun,” he proposed to Robert. But Robert admitted quite frankly that he preferred to stay where he was and talk to Mrs. Pontellier.”Well, send him about his business when he bores you, Edna,” instructed her husband as he prepared to leave.
“Here, take the umbrella,” she exclaimed, holding it out to him. He accepted the sunshade, and lifting it over his head descended the steps and walked away. “Coming back to dinner?” his wife called after him. He halted a moment and shrugged his shoulders. He felt in his vest pocket; there was a ten-dollar bill there. He did not know; perhaps he would return for the early dinner and perhaps he would not. It all depended upon the company which he found over at Klein’s and the size of “the game.” He did not say this, but she understood it, and laughed, nodding good-by to him. Both children wanted to follow their father when they saw him starting out. He kissed them and promised to bring them back bonbons and peanuts.
Major characters in the awakening by Kate Chopin
Edna is the protagonist of the novel, and the “awakening” to which the title refers is hers. The twenty-eight-year-old wife of a New Orleans businessman, Edna suddenly finds herself dissatisfied with her marriage and the limited, conservative lifestyle that it allows. She emerges from her semi-conscious state of devoted wife and mother to a state of total awareness, in which she discovers her own identity and acts on her desires for emotional and sexual satisfaction. Through a series of experiences, or “awakenings,” Edna becomes a shockingly independent woman, who lives apart from her husband and children and is responsible only to her own urges and passions. Tragically, Edna’s awakenings isolate her from others and ultimately lead her to a state of total solitude.
Mademoiselle Reisz may be the most influential character in Edna’s awakening. She is unmarried and childless, and she devotes her life to her passion: music. A talented pianist and somewhat of a recluse, she represents independence and freedom and serves as a sort of muse for Edna. When Edna begins actively to pursue personal independence, she seeks Mademoiselle Reisz’s companionship. Mademoiselle warns Edna that she must be brave if she wishes to be an artist—that an artist must have a courageous and defiant soul. Mademoiselle Reisz is the only character in the novel who knows of the love between Robert and Edna, and she, thus, serves as a true confidante for Edna despite their considerably different personalities. Mademoiselle Reisz is also a foil for Edna’s other close female friend, Adèle Ratignolle, who epitomizes the conventional and socially acceptable woman of the late nineteenth century.
Edna’s close friend, Adèle Ratignolle represents the Victorian feminine ideal. She idolizes her children and worships her husband, centering her life around caring for them and performing her domestic duties. While her lifestyle and attitude contrast with Edna’s increasing independence, Adèle unwittingly helps facilitate her friend’s transformation. Her free manner of discourse and expression, typical of Creole women of the time, acts as a catalyst for Edna’s abandonment of her former reserved and introverted nature. Adele is also a foil for Mademoiselle Reisz, whose independent and unconventional lifestyle inspires Edna’s transgressions.
Themes in The Awakening pdf by Kate Chopin
Convention and Individuality
A person in the middle or high society of 19th century New Orleans lived by intricate systems of social rules. These largely unspoken rules governed minute details of dress and expression, and prescribed certain behaviors for different social roles: mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, virgins and spinsters all measured against their respective Victorian ideals. Of course, every society in every period has created its own unwritten laws; but The Awakening takes place in a society whose rules were particularly stringent. As a young woman, Edna assumes that she must live and die according to these rules, like all the people who surround her.
From an early age, she learns to separate her murky, curious, disobedient inner life from the anonymous outer life—a quality other people perceive as reserve. But sometime during her marriage the inner life goes dark under the weight of convention, and Edna enters a sort of long sleep. Mademoiselle Reisz’s music, Robert’s love, and the strange beauty of the sea startle her awake. Thought, emotion, and will return to her all at once; she examines her various roles as wife, mother, and friend, and finds them all duplicitous and bizarre. Soon, she learns to ignore convention and to behave according to her idiosyncratic beliefs and impulses. But, as we know, this is much easier said than done. Edna abandons her entire worldview (which, borrowed though it was, had guided her every step) in exchange for—what? When the initial destructive thrill weakens and fades, she finds herself in an emotional wilderness. She is strong enough to denounce and reject a false code, but not quite strong enough to invent a true one. Without it, she is lost—she must live at the mercy of her emotions, which are violent with contradiction. In a way, Chopin’s novel is a cautionary tale: though individuality and inwardness must struggle against convention, one cannot live by inwardness alone.
Action and Reflection
Edna senses a gulf between action and thought, between “the outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions.” She feels more comfortable in the inner life, which she has rediscovered very recently. As she questions her habitual actions, her thoughts often seem separate from her body. Other women in the novel are represented by their hands, which are expressive, which do things. Edna’s central feature is her eyes, which are reflective. She is often looking and observing: her sight is a symptom of her new wakefulness. Action, on the other hand, is often related to artifice—the bustling mothers in the park, the dutiful but bored pianists and dancers at Madame Lebrun’s soirée. But as Edna becomes more confident in her new identity, her actions express her thoughts and beliefs more faithfully. She abandons many tasks that others expect her to perform, like visiting days and household chores, and spends her time painting and visiting real friends. Her love for Robert, especially, seems to connect the outer and the inner self, but the loss of that love divides them irremediably. After Robert leaves, her love becomes a more generalized desire, and the experience of physical desire without its emotional partner shifts her focus to surfaces once again. By the end of the novel she seems trapped in a strange middle space, a limbo between the inner and the outer life, without the resolve to reenter either.
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood
In the social world of New Orleans, femininity was controlled and defined with severity. At every stage of life, a young woman faced myriad rules and prescriptions; a little girl should be A, a teenage girl should be B, an engaged woman C, a young married woman D, a mother E, a widow F, and on and on and on. In 19th century America, when the women’s rights movement was still quite new, conservative states like Louisiana granted women very few rights. Women could not vote, hold property, or (in most cases) file for divorce. And, in addition, there was a social world of more intangible restrictions: women should not be too warm or too cold, should not expose themselves to sun or to wind, should fear dirt, physical exertion, violence, vice, confusion and darkness of every kind; women should desire marriage above all else, but they should merely tolerate sex; the list seems never-ending.
In the early chapters of the novel, it becomes apparent to Edna that society considers her a possession of her husband’s and a willing, even happy, slave to her children. As the ocean and her realization of her desires through her budding love for Robert grow within her, she rejects these roles. She begins to notice some of the more intangible rules, as well. She distinguishes between two models of femininity: externalized femininity, where nothing is hidden, which is characterized by perfection, delicacy, purity; and internalized femininity, which is thoughtful, strong, contradictory, and chaotic. The eccentric Mademoiselle Reisz is an outlier to this model, because in society’s eyes her spinsterhood strips her of her femininity. By the end of the novel Edna comes to doubt the harsh, moralizing oppositions of Victorian femininity. She is neither exposed nor hidden, neither shy nor outgoing, neither dirty nor clean, neither bad nor good; like Mademoiselle Reisz, she sees herself as existing outside the roles society has defined for her. And, as an outsider, she sees no role or world for herself.
Realism and Romanticism
Realism is a perspective that emphasizes facts, surfaces, and life’s practical aspects, and romanticism as a perspective that focuses on emotion, varieties of experience, and the inner life. In Chopin’s novel, realism emerges from a conventional worldview, and romanticism emerges from an individualistic worldview. Pontellier and Madame Ratignolle, who are preoccupied almost exclusively with surfaces—the appearance of a comfortable home, the appearance of a happy family—exemplify realism. Edna and Mademoiselle Reisz, who seek out emotional and spiritual experience, exemplify romanticism. Robert, Victor, Arobin and several other characters are more ambiguous, because they switch sometimes from one perspective to the other: Robert, for example, is interested in business and respectability, but he is also sensitive to the magic of a summer night.
Edna herself passes through several phases. Her memories of childhood are mostly image and emotion; but when she decides to marry Pontellier, “she felt she would take her place with a certain dignity in the world of reality, closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and dreams.” Her loveless, practical marriage carries her into realism – a period that coincides with what she remembers as a long sleep, a time when her feelings and thoughts lay dormant. As she awakens, she begins to see the world as through a misty lens. Romance occludes her ordinary vision and sharpens her inward vision. She shows a growing contempt of daily tasks and small pleasures, which she feels chase away some more thrilling and essential aspect of life (art and love are central to this other existence). Eventually, her sense of reality abandons her almost completely; when she can no longer see romance in the people and things that surround her, they become alien and irrelevant, and she withdraws totally into herself.
Freedom and Emptiness
Freedom, for Edna, is release from the binding rules and stereotypes of convention, which the narrator compares to an ill-fitting garment. Freedom, for her, is also disengagement from obligation of any kind, including obligations to her husband and children. This desire for radical freedom is what is behind her obsession with the sea, a place of complete solitude and emptiness. As she loses her desire for a connection to others, she gets the sense that the people around her are “uncanny, half-human beings” in “an alien world.” She feels loosed from her place in the world, as though she is free to be no longer human. Life itself, with its peculiar and humiliating processes, comes to seem like an obligation when she watches her friend give birth.
Over the course of the novel Edna longs more and more deeply for freedom from, a negative liberty, but she has no clear idea of the freedom to, the impulse to seek satisfaction and achievement – perhaps because her small world gives her so few opportunities. In this way, desire for negative freedom becomes a desire for emptiness, for nothingness. Early on in the novel, convention had seemed to Edna like an uncomfortable outer garment; by the end, emotion itself is such a garment. Even her soul is something that another can possess, and she wants to be possessed in no way. When she dies, drowning alone in the sea, she finally feels naked, finally free.
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Editorial reviews and praise for the book
“Interesting and Timely . .Chopin’s oracular feminism and prophetic prophetic psychology almost outweigh her estimable literary talents.” — –Newsweek
“[A] poignant spiritual tragedy.”– “Dial”
“Beautifully written.”– “Edmund Wilson”
“Chopin shares the boldness in technical experiment and moral relativism of her contemporaries in the 1890s…a writer of considerable sensibility and talent…in her stories she worked for breadth. In height, however, and depth, it is The Awakening that will serve as her passport into our time and posterity.”– “Times Literary Supplement (London)”
“Exquisite and sensitive…iridescent.”– “Willa Cather “
“Her story is a tragedy and one of many clarion calls in its day to examine the institution of marriage and woman’s opportunities in an oppressive world.”– “500 Great Books for Women”
“Interesting and timely…Chopin’s oracular feminism and prophetic psychology almost outweigh her estimable literary talents.”– “Newsweek”
“Kate Chopin was long before her time in dealing with sexual passion…and the personal emotions of women.”– “New York Review of Books”
4.0 out of 5 stars An unconventional woman
Reviewed in the United States on July 6, 2017
I first read The Awakening in high school or early college, many many years ago. I’m sure it was over my head and beyond my life experience at that time. I likely read it because I thought it may contain explicit steamy love scenes! It does not. Or maybe it is steamy for 1899. To me, the marvel of this book is that it was published in 1899. A feminist novella indeed!
The Awakening is the story of wealthy and unhappy Edna Pontellier. She lives in New Orleans though the story opens when she is vacationing on the Louisiana coast with her husband and their two young sons. Her husband is portrayed as a stuffy bore and the children as always wanting something. At the summer resort she meets a variety of people. Her close friend is very conventional, pregnant again, and would sacrifice anything for her children. Another female vacationer is a pianist and an unconventional single woman. She offers an alternative view of life for a woman. Edna falls in love with the resort owner’s flirtatious son Robert Lebrun. When she returns to her daily life in New Orleans, Edna is despondent. She misses Robert and she is unhappy being a wife and mother. She tries to carve out some independence with her painting. When her husband leaves on an extended business trip, she has an affair with a notorious womanizer. She ends the affair on her own terms. Still unhappy and unfulfilled, she rents a small house which she intends to live in on her own. Her husband is appalled, but he is mainly concerned about appearances. In a move worthy of today’s best spin doctors, he makes arrangements to renovate their house in order to explain his wife living elsewhere. In the meantime, Robert returns, sparks fly, and he leaves again. Edna returns to the coast alone.
That is a lot of story in a short book. The writing is descriptive and evocative without being too flowery. The real power is in the main character daring to defy a woman’s prescribed role. She tries to assert herself in small ways, but becomes bolder when this does not work. There is a great scene when Edna decides to sleep outside in a hammock. Her husband orders her in the house. When she refuses, he sits on the porch with her all night. He drinks wine and smokes cigars while she tries to sleep. It is a great example of the passive-aggressive behavior that occurs in most marriages at some point. I noticed that some reviewers do not like the character of Edna. She is not particularly likable, but neither are any of the other characters in this book. She is an unhappy woman who does not like society’s rules. She has very few options and makes a lot of blunders along the way. The book really resonated with me at this time in my life and also at this time in our social and political climate. I’m so glad I re-read this!
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
Reviewed in the United States on March 6, 2018
This is a controversial but worthwhile read, if you are interested in the history of American novels and/or the history of female American writers. I didn’t like it. The writing is uneven, and Edna had a pretty good life compared to a lot of women today, let alone in Kate Chopin’s time. However, it bears keeping in mind that Chopin was trying to do something different and somewhat revolutionary for the time. She was bending the formal rules of prose-writing and trying to break away somewhat from the realism that dominated the novels of her time. Both efforts work better in the dialogue than they do in the descriptive text, at least for me. The extended metaphor, however, is well-executed, if a bit on the nose.
For my son, who read the book this year for AP Lit, Edna’s character was insufferable, and the way the other characters existed to price her was unendurable. I agree that it’s tiresome, but after speaking with a friend of mine who is smarter than I am by a lot, I think maybe that Chopin intended it to be so as a way to illustrate the cognitive dissonance involved in Victorian American bourgeoise society when a wife and mother was not good in either role. All that said, parts of it are gorgeous, and Chopin was way ahead of her time, which makes the book worth reading.
I am a 31 year old man, and while I don’t think anyone would consider me a “manly man”, I’m also far from the type of person people would think would enjoy this book. It’s the metamorphosis of a reserved typical (for the time) caterpillar of a woman who grows or “awakens” into a free spirited, ambitious, outspoken, independent woman. The writing is awesome. In the beginning I really didn’t care for the plot much but wanted to give it a try because it’s considered a classic and was very controversial for the time. For about the first 30% I really wasn’t excited to pick it up and read it, but every time I did, I really enjoyed reading it just because of how well it was written. Then the metamorphosis begins, and I really think there’s no better word to describe the change that Kate Chopin masterfully (and I’ve never once used that word) portrayed. And I love reading that old-time English, but a lot of books it’s so old that it’s barely understandable to me. This was a perfect mix to me. It had me trying to speak like that since I’ve finished. All that said, I can easily see why someone would be turned off by the plot (though not angry at it as so many seem to be) since it’s very plain and simple. But if you give it a chance, the writing and the beautiful way she makes the character grow and change is well worth whatever problems you have with it
TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE
5.0 out of 5 stars No Wonder Men Were Horrified by This Book!
Reviewed in the United States on December 1, 2017
Pssst….Want to read a book that was so scandalous when it was published that critics vilified it as “morbid, vulgar and disagreeable”? But that’s not the worst of it. Those same critics were most horrified by its amoral portrayal of adultery. Published in 1899, this classic feminist work by Kate Chopin is now considered one of the great American novels, focusing on a woman’s sudden blossoming of sexual passion as it conflicts with all the things proper society expects of her. Edna, age 28, is married with two children and living an upper class life in New Orleans with summers spent on Grand Isle. Over the course of six months, she discovers not only the power of lust and love, but also the power within herself to be an independent woman. No wonder men were horrified by this book.
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