Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening was a novel which I knew nothing about when I added it to my ‘American Classics list’. When I did eventually get around to reading it I was firstly surprised at how short it is (around 100 pages) and that also the plot falls under the ‘bored housewife’ genre.

Of course I’m joking about the bored housewife genre bit and I certainly don’t mean to sound derogatory but you know the kinds of books I mean. I’m talking about women like Madame Bovary, women who are trapped in their marriage by the constraints of their social world and time period. BTW I did try to find other literary examples but alas I got mostly filth when I typed ‘bored housewife’s in literature’ into google.

While Bovary deals with her situation by delving into her own fantasy world, the protagonist in The Awakening, Edna Pontellier also tries to carve her own life away from her roles as a wife and mother. The catalyst for Edna is her own 'Awakening' when she suddenly cannot bear to keep her own passions (either for music, art or sexual) within any longer.

While I can see how ground-breaking the novel must have been and I can sympathise with Edna, I did not enjoy the actual reading experience of The Awakening. I found the prose while quite dreamlike and full of imagery also quite dull and for such a short book I struggled to read to the end.

I didn’t struggle to connect with Edna, I could see how she wanted to be something other than a wife and mother in that time period. I could see the point I just didn’t enjoy the writing style.

This is one that really you have to make your own mind up about and check out other reviews, many of which are far more favourable than mine.

Posted by Jess


  1. Sorry you didn't end up liking it! This is one that sucker-punched me in the gut and left me crying for days the first time I read it. Of course, at the time I had three small children and had only been staying home with them for a year and felt like my identity was trickling away...

  2. I have read lots of positive reviews about this one. I think Amanda's point about the stage of your life you are in when you read a book is really true.

  3. Sorry you didn't enjoy it!

    I had to read this as a school assignment and did not enjoy it, but when I came back to it a couple of years ago I liked it a lot more.

  4. I think it's true that sometimes the appreciation of a book comes when you consider it within the context of the time it was written, revolutionary road and the catcher in the rye are two other examples that come to mind. Funny story about the search for 'bored housewives' information. A few months ago I was trying to find a picture of the cover of Patrick Gales book of short stories called 'Gentleman's Relish'. Wish I'd thought that through more and typed 'gentleman's relish patrick gale' in FIRST instead of just 'gentleman's relish'. Too much information google images.

  5. For such a small book I thought it was very long too. I didn't make it to the end as I was so bored by the flowery writing. It is good to know I'm not alone in my dislike for this one.

  6. Is it really that short? I bought a copy but it's a chunkster and I've been putting it off. My copy must be a volume of more than one novel. I'll have to check.

    I enjoyed Madame Bovary so it would be interesting to compare the two.

  7. I just posted about this one last week. I read it a few years ago and really loved it. I agree the writing gets a bit flowery, but Edna's journey was so realistic to me. It is funny how differently Bovary and Edna dealt with their situations. Emma's decisions were much more destructive.

  8. Amanda - I did like the characters and the overall message I really did. I sympathised with Edna but it was purely the writing style that I didnt like. I kinnda reminded me of my mum and how she said she felt when having me, I read some reviews where ppl said they didnt like her indifference to her children but I felt her final act was for them in a way - not sure what you think about that though?

    Sam - I understood her I really did, honestly it was just the writing I didnt like.

    Kate - if I had this in school I would have been put off classics for life I think LOL

    mummazappa - that made me laugh lOl oh er

    Jackie - ah the great thing about blogs, theres always someone else that just didnt love it too :)

    Ti - the author did loads of short stories so perhaps they are inclided in your edition? haha otherwise you would have had a shock when it suddenly ended

    Avid - I agree that Emmas actions were overall more destructive but they were both selfish in their way and both of the men they chose were not prepared to give up everything for them, plus the ending.....hmmm

  9. I read this first, then I read Madame Bovary afterward. I could see the similarities between Edna and Emma, but I think Emma was more selfish.

    Also, Chopin was inspired by Maupassant's short stories. Flaubert was Maupassant's mentor. Sorry, my inner geek is fascinated by these connections. :)

  10. This has been one of my favorites since I first read it in college. I too could understand Edna and her struggle.