Thursday, December 17, 2009

Review: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

When I look past the fact that I was not a fan of Chopin's writing style, I will say the message and subject were good.

The Awakening is the story of Edna Pontieller, who is a New Orleans wife in the late 1800s. The book opens in the summer on Grande Isle, a resort for wealthy New Orleans families. Edna doesn't seem to connect with or belong with the others besides Madame Ratignolle, Mademoiselle Resiz and Robert. Robert had the reputation of picking a married lady and "befriending her" over the summer for some harmless flirting. This summer he picked Edna. Edna enjoyed the attention Robert gives her and slowly starts drifting from her husband. There are moments that she openly defies his wishes and then wonders if she always did what he said, and realizes that she has.

Madame Ratignolle is the vision of what the perfect mother and wife of the late 1800s should be. She is everything Edna had been before she was "awakened." Mademoiselle Reisz represents what Edna could become if she left her husband and children.

Her summer of discovery and fun ends when Robert abruptly leaves Grande Isle to go to Mexico for a "business adventure." Edna is heartbroken. The summer finishes and they return to New Orleans. However, back in New Orleans Edna is no longer the Edna that Mr. Pontieller married. This Edna does what she wants and casts away jobs/visiting that she oversaw as Mrs. Pontieller. Her husband worries about her and thinks she is mentally unstable. A doctor friend tries to reassure him that she is not and to just give her space.

Edna has a real push to independence when her husband is called away on business and her mother-in-law takes her two boys. She spends her days wandering, painting, visiting Mademoiselle Reisz, and entertaining Alcee Arobin. She decides she needs to separate herself from her large stately house and downsize into the "pigeon-house." So, yes she basically decides hey I am going to move out of my house and oh I will write my husband that is away on business a letter and it will be all fine and dandy. That is when I started questioning her mental capacity.

Edna is visiting Mademoiselle Reisz one day, when Robert appears. He is back from his "business adventure." He walks her home and they skirt around uncomfortable inappropriate topics until they are interrupted. Edna doesn't see him for many days until she runs into him and they get to talking. All the feelings are out in the open and it seems like all the cards are falling into place and they will be together. Edna is called away and when she returns, Robert is gone.

This sends Edna who is already emotionally fragile into a huge tailspin.

I do have an issue with her relationship with Arobin. If she is in love with Robert like she proclaims, then that was stupid and in no way acting in way to get him. However, if she is just unhappy and latching on to anything (which I think is the case) than fine. But, to go on and on about her love for Robert and then to that and THEN be soo upset when he says "good-bye." Uh no. Crazy. And perhaps this is when I have to remember this was the late 1800s and she was just beginning to assert "independence" and had no idea how to act in independently.

Anyway, I think I will settle on this being okay. Not something I'd re-read or gush about it. What do you all think? Comments? Questions? Start something up in the comments!


Anais said...

I didn't have time to read much of it to be honest... I couldn't get into it! Instead... I started reading Wicked - and I loved it! Have you read it yet??

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

I have not read Wicked. It hasn't really called to me.

Marie Cloutier said...

I had to read this for high school but I don't remember how I felt about it. I appreciate your review though- it's always great to get reaquainted with something like this. :-)

Anonymous said...

Grr. I wrote a ver long and detailed comment and Blogger erased it :( I understand where you are coming from about Arobin, but by that point she thought Robert was gone and did not want to maintain contact. And it was the Arobin relationship that was my first inkling that she was acting out and irrationally. Off to your questions...

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Wicked is wonderful :)

Kelly said...

I had a lot of trouble with this book too and then I gave up and read the other one you recommended What I want my daughters to know...i like that much better, but I'm still not done :)