The novel, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, was written in the late nineteenth century in St. Louis after her husband Oscar died of a severe illness. Her book appeared in 1899, after she was idolized by many novels written by Darwin and Sarah Orne Jewett. Her first attempts at writing were just brief sketches for a local newspaper that was only short descriptions of her life in Louisiana. However, Chopin’s interests had always run along more risky lines, as reflected in her diaries, letters, and fictions. Her most common subject was female subjugation and freedom. When The Awakening appeared, Chopin was severely criticized for depicting a sexualized and independent-thinking woman who questioned her role within the southern patriarchy. The disapproval surprised Chopin, and she never quite recovered her faith in her own work.
There were many themes discussed throughout The Awakening, many of which are very important to the concept of the novel. The main theme is the awakening from the slumber of patriarchal social convention. Edna who is the main character pronounced in the novel, must rouse herself from the life of dullness that she had always lived. What she awakens to, however, is so much larger than herself that she ultimately cannot manage the complexity of it. Edna awakens to the concept of self-discovery and must live to embrace it. This theme is deeper than the obvious themes of independence and women’s rights, however, The Awakening presents
suicide as a valid solution to problems. People commit suicide because of isolation and loneliness or a serious disruption of one’s life. It is easy to connect these with Edna’s life. The isolation of her small house, the disruption caused by Adele’s death, and the common good of her children. However, her suicide had nothing to do with any lack of personal freedom. Edna, for the most part did anything she wished to do, and there were no signs that she was intending on stopping. The suicide was more of a lack of good, healthy alternatives that lead her to do so. Robert had left her in attempt to protect her, himself, or possibly both. This lead Edna to pursue a romance with Alcee Arobin, in which she secretly kept quiet in order not to hurt her children. None of these options satisfied her though, longing for the one who “awakened” her. She chose suicide instead.
Another major theme in the novel, was the artist’s ability to create herself in another’s theme. In other words, naturalism; which is a literary movement during the turn of the century. In Chopin’s writing, Edna is the main focus of the novel, and her motivations are strongly influenced by her environment, frequently in negative ways. She behaves in a certain way because of her environment and the way it has an affect directly on how she viewed the world, herself, and other people. She tries to convey the grim reality of life, often with...