The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Edna Pontellier is considered a dangerous rebel! Her scandalous behavior has been deemed immoral and unfit by New Orleans society. It is feared that her negative influence will be the downfall of women everywhere unless she is stopped.
Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is a terrific read and I am hardly able to put it down! I am up to chapter XV and many of the characters are developing in very interesting ways. Edna is unfulfilled as a wife and mother even though she and her husband are financially well off. Her husband, Leonce Pontellier, is a good husband and father but he has only been paying attention to his own interests. At this point he is unaware of the fact that his wife’s needs are not being met. Robert and the other characters are equally intriguing but something else has piqued my interest. Some of Chopin’s characters are not fully developed. I know that these are important characters because they are representative of specific things; they are metaphoric characters. In particular, I’ve noticed the lovers and the lady in black. I’m fascinated by the fact that both the lovers and the lady in black are completely oblivious to the rest of the world. They are also in direct contrast with each another. For this week’s reader response I am taking a different approach. Rather than analyzing the main characters, I will examine the lovers and the lady in black.
The lady in black is first mentioned in Chapter I. Mr. Pontellier is surveying the cottages when he notices that a lady in black is walking demurely up and down, with her beads (468). In this example the rosary beads suggest that the lady in black is religious. I believe that this character is a symbol of religion. While everyone else is relaxing, she is busy praying. It is also worth noting that there are several passages which suggest that Edna is rebelling from her religious upbringing. For example, just after we meet the lovers, Edna shares a memory with Madame Ratignolle. She describes herself walking through a meadow as a young girl. She says, “Likely as not it was Sunday... and I was running away from prayers, from the Presbyterian service, read in a spirit of gloom by my father that chills me yet to think of it” (480). Similar to the description of her fathers service, the lady in black is serious and serene. After that day at the beach Chopin describes the lady in black as follows: “[she], creeping behind [the lovers], looked a trifle paler and more jaded than usual”(483). The lady in black’s representation of religion is not one of heaven or angles, but instead, her image resembles death.
The lovers however, represent something entirely different. I believe that Chopin uses the lovers to contrast the relationship between Edna and her husband. The first time the lovers are mentioned is just shortly after we’ve learned that Mr. Pontellier is “the best husband in the world,” although Edna is “forced to admit...