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A Deconstructionist Critique Of Chopin’s The Awakening

527 words - 2 pages

A Deconstructionist Critique of Chopin’s The Awakening

The multiplicity of meanings and (re)interpretations informing critical studies of The Awakening reveal a novel ripe for deconstructionist critique. Just as Chopin evokes an image of the sea as symbolic of Edna’s shifting consciousness (“never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude,”138), likewise the deconstructionist reading of a text emphasizes fluidity over structure: “A text consists of words inscribed in and inextricable from the myriad discourses that inform it; from the point of view of deconstruction, the boundaries between any given text and that larger text we call language are always shifting,” (297). From this perspective, the reader/critic opens the doors of interpretation instead of narrowing their focus to any singular, exclusionary reading, and exposes the deconstruction at work within the text itself. Whether defined as feminist martyr, metaphorical lesbian, the triumphant image of social transcendence or a broken bird “beating the air above . . . circling disabled down, down to the water,” (138) Edna Pontellier’s final swim takes on multiple “meanings,” which disrupt and push the boundaries of binary oppositions.

In her attempt to uncover the “grain running against the grain” in Chopin’s novel, Patricia Yaeger dismantles conventional approaches to The Awakening that regard the work as an emancipatory text by virtue of its rebellious, adulterous heroine alone. Using Tony Tanner’s analysis of Edna’s infidelity as “belonging to the tradition of transgressive narratives,” highlighted in his work, Adultery in the Novel, Yaeger conversely emphasizes how Chopin’s development of the romance plot between Edna and Robert supports rather than...

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