Kate Chopin's Techniques in the Awakening

Topics: School districts in Texas, Homosexuality, Female Pages: 10 (3107 words) Published: May 6, 2014
Chapter 7 Queer Analysis:

I don’t really want to write an essay this is more like an accumulation. However, if I were to have a thesis it would be something like: In chapter seven of The Awakening, Kate Chopin uses several subtextual techniques such as parallels, callbacks, and symbolism, to covertly convey an aspect of Edna’s sexuality that is, as the writer understands it, homosexual. By using these literary techniques in tandem with the strongly written friendship between Edna and Adele, Edna’s homosexuality can be unearthed from the subtext. (or something like that)

Anyway, to whomever is reading this, if I show this to anyone, there is a bit of exposition that might seem unrelated but bear with. Unless you don’t want to, in which case there is an overview/summary at the end.

The chapter opens up talking about Edna Pontellier and how she is not an open or trusting person, saying: “Mrs. Pontellier was not a woman given to confidences...” “even as a child she lived her own small life within herself.” “...she apprehended instinctively the dual life--that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions.” (26)

It then goes on to talk about her Summer at the Grand Isle, where the story takes place. It illuminates the fact that she was loosened a bit from her closed off personality, and that the influence of Madame Ratignolle was the most significant in:

“...loosening a little the mantle of her reserve that had always enveloped her.” (26)

The narrator then talks about their friendship and what what attracted Edna to Adele:

“The excessive physical charm of the Creole had first attracted her, for Edna had a sensuous susceptibility to beauty Then the candor of the woman’s whole existence, which every one might read, and which formed so striking a contrast to her own habitual reserve--this might have furnished a link. Who can tell what metals the gods use in forging the subtle bond which we call sympathy, which we might as well call love.” (26)

After that set up, the story cuts to Adele and Edna walking arm in arm down the beach. They both had escaped Robert and Edna had asked Adele to leave the children behind. They have left behind their burdens--their realities, to spend time with each other.

The narrator goes into physical descriptions of the two women. They then both sit down in the shade and mostly just adjust their dresses and talk about how fricken hot it is. Off in the distance, are the young lovers and the woman in black:

“Two young lovers were exchanging their hearts’ yearnings beneath the children’s tent, which they and found unoccupied.” (29)

After this description, Edna begins staring into the sea. The sea has already been associated with Edna’s sexuality and the introspection that accompanies it--her sexual freedom, in the lines: “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.”

And later in the story we find out that Edna can’t swim. The idea that the ocean is Edna’s sexuality/sexual freedom, and her inability to swim in it meaning an inability to express her sexuality freely could be supported by the description of her delight upon learning to swim:

“A feeling of exaltation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and soul She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim out where no woman had swum.

The the ocean, a wide, limitless, free, expanse, represents Edna’s sexuality/gender-based freedom/ or freedom to express her sexuality.

Adele, who finds Edna’s immersed expression amusing, asks her who, or what, she is thinking about. Edna says that she doesn’t know and then laughs and begins to retrace her thoughts.

“First of all, the sight of the water stretching so far away, those...
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