Edna Pontellier’s Awakening and her Final Decision in Kate Chopin’s Novel
Mgr. Pavla Buchtová Renata Moudrá
Abstact This bachelor thesis deals with Kate Chopin, a popular American writer of the late nineteenth century, and her most famous work, a novel The Awakening. The thesis introduces Chopin’s family background and shows its interconnection with author’s life and work. It also describes a women’s role in the 19th century America and mentions typical characteristics of Creole society. The main aim of the work is to provide a detailed look at the protagonist of the novel The Awakening, Edna Pontellier, and the ways of her self-realization. Edna’s multiple awakenings leading to her liberation are discussed in terms of circumstances, which foreshadowed and roused her evaluation.
Key words Kate Chopin, Edna, The Awakening, reception, Creoles, caged birds, women, childhood, birth order, mother, children, Adele, music, freedom, women’s role, conventions, marriage, transformation, self- realization, liberation, power of ocean, swim, suicide
Tato bakalářská práce se zabývá Kate Chopin, populární spisovatelkou konce devatenáctého století, a jejím nejslavnějším dílem, románem Probuzení. Práce představuje rodinné prostředí, ze kterého Chopin pocházela, a zdůrazňuje jeho vliv na autorčin život a práci. Práce také popisuje postavení žen v Americe devatenáctého století a zmiňuje se o typických znacích kreolské společnosti. Hlavním cílem práce je podat podrobný pohled na Ednu Pontellier, hlavní hrdinku románu Probuzení, a na způsoby její seberealizace. Na sérii Edniných probuzení je nahlíženo v souvislosti s okolnostmi, které začátek Edniny přeměny předpovídaly a vyvolaly.
Klíčová slova Kate Chopin, Edna, Probuzení, přijetí, kreolové, ptáci v kleci, ženy, dětství, pořadí narození, matka, děti, Adele, hudba, svoboda, ženská role, konvence, manželství, přeměna, seberealizace, osvobození, moc oceánu, plavání, sebevražda
Brno 20 April 2010 ........................................................
Acknowledgments I would like to thank my supervisor Mgr. Pavla Buchtová for her valuable advice and comments. I would also like to thank my family for providing priceless moral support and encouragement.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 1
1.1 Life and work of Kate Chopin 2
1.2 Women in the End of the Nineteenth Century 8
1.3 Relationship of Creole society and a Novel The Awakening 10
2. A Novel The Awakening 14
3. Edna’s Process of Awakening 17
3.1 Circumstances for Edna’s Awakenings 17
3.2 Edna’s First Awakening 19
3.3 Edna’s Love Life Before her Marriage 23
3.4 Edna’s Marriage 24
3.5 The Importance of Edna’s First Swim 27
3.6 Edna’s Sensual and Artistic Awakenings 29
3.7 Edna’s Final Awakening 31
4. Conclusion 36
5. Resumé 39
6. Resume 40
7. Bibliography 41
8. List of Appendices 44
Although the name Kate Chopin probably does not say much to a majority of Czech people and her popularity in Europe is possibly not as great as in the USA, after the rediscovering and vindication of her work and her as a writer in the 1950s she has the place of significance in the canon of American literature. At the end of the 19th century, Chopin belonged to well-known writers of“local color”1. However, this American novelist, short story writer and essayist is best known for her controversial novel, The Awakening. Accused of immorality, it attracted a lot of attention and created a scandal. A scandal nowadays often guarantees a book’s success but it was not the same at the end of the 19th century when the book was first published. The irony is that The Awakening at first in fact ruined Kate Chopin’s career only to become her masterpiece fifty years after her death.
My first meeting with Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening was in my American literature course. It was one of the recommended books and intuitively, I decided to read it because the title aroused my curiosity - I wanted to know what or who was awakened. I enjoyed reading this novel immensely and I was keen on getting more information regarding the story. I also began to search all possible information about Kate Chopin’s life, wanting to learn if the story was partly biographical or whether it was complete fiction. I was surprised how famous this to me unknown writer is in America. There are numerous books, essays, newspaper and magazine articles, research papers etc. giving a report on her. There even have been held two conferences about Kate Chopin and her work. I was captured by her style and life story, thus I decided to dedicate the topic of my bachelor thesis to this interesting and brave woman of American literature.
The aim of this thesis is to introduce Kate Chopin, the great American writer, together with her masterpiece, the novel The Awakening. Chopin’s life and her career were closely connected with social conditions of the 19th century. This was apparent on the reception of The Awakening because Chopin, ahead of her time, described a woman’s life and desires in an unacceptable way as it was then deemed. My aim is to discuss here a series of awakenings the protagonist of the novel went through and explain her ultimate decision.
In the introduction, I will introduce Kate Chopin’s family background, life and work and describe typical features of the second half of the 19th century America, particularly a role of women in the patriarchal society.
The second, main part of the thesis will deal with Chopin’s most famous work, the novel The Awakening itself. Firstly, my intention is to discuss different receptions of the book in terms of interpretive strategies, and then I will focus on the main reasons for protagonist’s awakenings and the particular awakenings themselves.
The last section of my thesis deals with the novel’s ending, and discusses Edna’s ultimate decision and various interpretations of this act.