“The Awakening” by Kate Chopin

When Kate Chopin published The Awakening in 1899 it received several reviews that defined the novel as
subversive and immoral because it treats, in general, Victorian family life in a somewhat negative and
destructive way and, in particular, Victorian wives as unhappy and unappreciative of their duties and husbands.
Those same critics praised the aesthetic aspects of the novel and wished that Chopin would write something
worthy of her talents. Those were the comments written on the publication of The Awakening. Then the novel
went into obscurity until a few years ago when it was rediscovered and praised as one of the great Victorian
Examine the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Pontellier. Assess why they are unhappy with each other and
with their conditions of living together. Why is Edna so distant from her husband and her children? Why does
Leonce treat Edna as an object of possession rather than as a person to appreciate and love? Why does
Robert play such an important role in Edna’s life? Remember, this is an affluent upper middle-class Victorian
family that should be living a fairly meaningful and full life. What is Chopin suggesting are their problems?
Why is the symbol of swimming important? What is the major significance of the distant ocean? Why is the
focus on the weather important? How does Chopin use swimming, the ocean, and the weather to emphasize
her thematic structure and how do they provide insights into the characters’ behavior? Use the descriptions of
the other families presented in the novel as a way to analyze the Pontellier family problems.
Also, use material from the other literary works we have examined as a way to examine this culture and its
problems. Obviously, Gilman and Fitzgerald share many of the ideas presented in Chopin’s novel and often
seem suspect of the American family unit. What are the problems within the Victorian family? Do we in the
twenty-first century share any of these same concerns? What are some of these concerns and how do today’s
families approach them?

Sample Solution