March 6th, 2012
Title and Author
The title of the novel is The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
Setting and its Significance
The Awakening is set in New Orleans at the end of the Victorian era. The significance of the novel being set in the Victorian era is the way women are treated and looked at. For a typical Victorian woman, she was expected to be faithful and do what the husband desires, take care of the children, and basically be entertainment for man. If affects the novel because the main character will go through awakenings that will challenge this social norm. Point of View and the Significances
The point of view of The Awakening is third person omniscient that looks over mostly at Edna Pontellier. This gives more of an insight into the life and thoughts of Edna, while at the same time not encouraging a bias toward a character and allowing for the reader to develop individual preferences.
There are a couple of major characters in the Awakening:
Edna Pontellier is the main character of the novel, meaning she is the protagonist. Edna is a woman with two children, married to a Leonce Pontellier. Though she complied with society most of her life, she has always felt empty. She loves her husband but is not in love with him. She realizes her oppression and want for freedom when she learns to swim. Her thoughts on love and sex are two un-related things. Leonce Pontellier is the ideal man of the Victorian Era. His view of women is that they are man’s possessions. He tends to think of his reputation instead of Edna’s wellbeing. His is an antagonist throughout the novel, and is also a static character. Robert Lebrun is the son of the owners of the Grand Isle resort. He and Edna develop a romance in which he knows will not workout. Although he greatly cares for her “He cannot bring himself to join her in rebellion”(Bogarad 5) Adele Ratignolle is the complete opposite of Edna. She is the average Victorian women. She is subservient, has children “at regular intervals”(Green 3), and puts family before everything, including herself. Edna feels pity for her. Alcee Arobin is Edna’s lover later in the novel. Alcee becomes infatuated with greatly with Edna, though Edna only uses him for pleasure. He helps Edna develop her love separate from sex belief. Mademoiselle Reisz is much like Edna. She lives alone and independent. Mademoiselle tells Edna that she needs “strong wings” in order to soar “above the level plain of tradition and prejudice”(Chopin ch. 27) Society, though it is not one character, plays an important role in the novel. Society is an antagonist, because it continually keeps Edna down eventually to the point where she has to kill herself trying to escape society and its grasp. Plot Synopsis
In the Awakening, Edna Pontellier, wife of Leonce Pontellier and woman in the edge of her prime, finds love and “the feminine dilemma” of Victorian society(Bogarad 1). After her realization she rebels against the norm and encounters disaster. Major Symbols
The sea is major symbol that can mean a couple of things like freedom and rebirth. The inability to swim showed Edna’s oppression in her society. When she learned how to swim the sea became her playground and she became free. She swims to a point “where no woman had swum,” which shows how she has gained freedom. The sea is also seen as a rebirth. When she gets naked and goes into the sea, at the end of the novel, she feels like she is being cleansed. This cleansing can be associated to a rebirth in where her death shall usher in a new life, if connected to a reincarnation idea. A refrain beginning “’The voice of the sea is seductive, vever ceasing, clamoring, murmuring,…’ is used throughout the novel.”(Eble 3)
The bird is also a major symbol in the novel. It represents Edna throughout. In the beginning there was a caged parrot that spoke a language that no one understood. That bird can be connected to Edna...