Kate Chopin (1851-1904)
The Awakening (1899)
"The Awakening is too strong drink for moral babes, and
should be labelled 'poison.'"
--Review, St. Louis Dispatch, 1899
Things to Consider:
** Homework Questions ** (See Q's for Part Two )
- Homosociality vs. Heterosexuality
- Social Conventions
- "True Womanhood": Piety, Purity, Submission, Domesticity
- Woman's "passionlessness"
- Darwin & Naturalism
- Music/Arts (Perhaps compare with "In Search of Our
- Sea/Water/Swimming images: Feminine Symbolism?
- Race, Class, Gender: Interactions/Interdependencies
- Edna vs. Harriet/Linda
- Leonce vs. Dr. Flint
- Describe the role of Fate in Edna's life.
- Describe the relationship between Leonce and Edna. How do
they view each other?
- Explain: "Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman" (5).
- Describe Adele Ratignolle. How does she compare to Edna?
- Explain: "The voice of the sea speaks to the soul"
- Explain: "As she swam she seemed to be reaching out for
the unlimited in which to lose herself" (10).
- Explain: "She was blindly following whatever impulse
moved her, as if she had placed herself in alien hands for
direction, and freed her soul of responsibility" (22).
- Explain: "I would give my life for my children, but I
wouldn't give myself" (33).
- Why does Edna stomp on her wedding ring and break a vase?
How do these acts relate to the discussion on page 35 of how
Leonce views his "possessions"?
- Explain: "He could not see that she was becoming herself
and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume
like a garment with which to appear before the world" (40).
Other Discussion Questions:
- Where is Grand Isle?
- What is a Creole? How are Creoles characterized by the
- Explain this description of Edna's "dual life":
"the outward existence which conforms, the inward life which
- Why does Adele tell Robert to leave Edna alone? How does
- Why does Mrs. Lebrun have a "black girl" do the treadle
on the sewing machine?
- What is the significance of Edna's renaming a particular
- Explain: "No multitude of words could have been more
significant than those moments of silence, or more pregnant
with the first felt throbbings of desire" (21).
Whom/What does she desire?
- Why does Edna stay in the hammock, despite her husband's
insistence that she come inside?
- Who is Mariequita? What is her purpose here?
- What is the siginificance of the anchor and chain imagery
on this page? What do they represent?
- Why does Edna leave the church?
- Why, according to Robert, is it "folly" even to have
thought about going to church?
- How does Edna appear different to herself?
- Why does Robert go to Mexico?
- Why is Edna jealous of Mrs. Lebrun for receiving a letter
from Robert? Is this jealousy justified?
- Why is it such a big deal that Edna goes out on Tuesday
instead of staying home and receiving callers?
- Who is Cité? Why is she significant?
- What is "blind contentment"? Why does Edna feel pity for
Adele for not being "uplifted" above it?
- Why does Leonce suspect Edna is becoming "unbalanced
- Why doesn't Edna want to go to her sister's wedding?
- Explain the significance of Edna's reply to the
suggestion that her husband should stay home more often.
- How does Dr. Mandelet describe the change he sees in
Edna? To what/whom does he attribute this change?
- Explain the suggestion that Arobin talks "in a way that
pleased her at last, appealing to the animalism that stirred
impatiently within her" (55).
- Why is Edna moving in to her own place?
- Explain: "She had abandoned herself to Fate, and
awaited the consequences with indifference" (74).
- To what extent can Arobin be considered a surrogate for
- If Robert loves her, why does he say "Good-by"?
- Is it accurate for her to think that her children and
husband "thought they could possess her, body and soul"
- Why does she kill herself? When does she decide to
do so? Why does she choose drowning?
Other Discussion Questions:
- Why does Robert write to Mademoiselle Reisz?
- Why does Leonce consult Dr. Mandelet about Edna?
- Explain Dr. Mandelet's attitude toward the "circle of
- Why does the doctor think it would be good for Edna to go
to her sister's wedding?
- Why does he think "the mood will pass"?
- Compare the "stories" Dr. Mandelet and Edna tell after
- How does her father tell Leonce to "manage" Edna?
- How does Edna react to her husband's departure?
- Why do the children leave?
- Why does betting on the horse intoxicate Edna?
- Why does she have such an appetite when she gets home?
- Who is Edna afraid of upsetting when Arobin kisses her
- Why does Robert keep writing to Reisz, not Edna?
- Why is Edna throwing a party?
- Explain Mademoiselle Reisz's statement about "wings."
- Why will Edna let Leonce pay the bills for her farewell
- What is the significance of the party occurring on Edna's
- Why does Mrs. Highcamp "decorate" Victor Lebrun?
- How does Leonce "save appearances"?
- What is Mrs. Ratignolle's "hour of trial"?
- Explain: "But some way he had appeared nearer to
her off there in Mexico" (73).
- What is the symbolic significance of the cat Edna and
- Explain: "I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier's
possessions to dispose of not" (94).
- How well does Edna's rememberance of childbirth
correspond to her experiences in this novel?
- Why does Mrs. Ratignolle tell Edna to "think of the
- How does the description of Edna standing naked at the
seashore compare to the vision of a naked man she has on page
- Does Edna "think of the children" at the end?
Back to Top