Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Awakening

Every week by Saturday morning...
* Read 100 to 150 pages.

* Write 300+ words a week in response to your reading.
* Respond analytically and personally to what you have read.
* Discuss the significance of at least one passage/quotation.
* Discuss the relationship between what you are reading and something(s) else you have read this year.
* Respond to a comment made by a peer (after the first week).


Katina T said...

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, is about a woman named Edna being “awakened” into the woman she wants to be. She feels as though her inner self was being repressed for so long. She was married and had children, but both caused her to have feelings of oppression. When she met Robert, a single younger man who is the son of a friend, she seemed to feel more like herself. He was the start of her “awakening” into a free woman. Edna met Robert while she was vacationing with her family. On this vacation, she learned how to swim. The ocean has, so far, seemed to be a constant symbol of a freedom or salvation from the outside world for Edna. Such as on page 16, when Chopin writes, “But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult! The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft embrace.” This quote shows how the ocean offered Edna a new place of solitude, to discover herself and what kind of person she wants to be. The ocean does not judge her or make her do things she doesn’t want to do, but lets her do as she pleases. As the novel goes on, she takes her experience in the ocean, and brings that to her everyday life. Once her vacation is over, and Robert moves to Mexico, Edna does only what she wants to do. Her husband found her behavior extremely unlike her usual self, but he did not realize that this was the first time that she had felt the most like herself. The Awakening relates to the novel Jane Eyre because they are both books about women discovering who they are and dealing with the rest of society’s pressures.

Brianna A said...

As Katina said, “The Awakening” is about this woman, Edna, who has finally had the fire inside her lit. Edna has felt chained and bound by her husband and he in return has treated her this way; such as on page 3 when Mr. Pontellier references Edna to property. Mr. Pontellier also sees his life with Edna as he wants and demands it like when at the beginning of the novel, she has made dinner for him and asks if he will be returning from his pool game to eat with her and Mr. Pontellier just says maybe and knows that he has her there if nothing better comes along. Edna feels that something is not right but recognizes her role in society and to her husband. As Edna starts to listen to her inner feelings more she starts to spend more time with a younger friend, Robert. As Robert and Edna grow closer, Chopin introduces another character, Adele. The way that Chopin introduced Adele and immediately started to compare the two women’s appearance and how they might be considered attractive draws attention to society’s pressure on women to be beautiful for a man. As Katina discussed about the sea metaphor, I also noticed its direct relation to Edna’s independence such as on page 36 and 37 as Edna wants to swim out on her own and see how far she can go by herself. However, Edna mentions that she still wants to be able to see Robert. As independent as Edna can be from men and the bounds of society she does not want to be away from love. As the novel continues to develop, Edna is never completely alone. She does try to move away from Leonce, but she still has a minor relationship with a man, Alcee. When she tries to move to a smaller home, more independent she still invites Alcee to a dinner party and is seduced by him in that very home. Edna is not running away from the bounds of society but she is running away from the bounds of false love, and false commitment. Edna is chained by mistakes and the ghost of her previously dormant soul. As Edna awakes, she starts to express her desires and realize that even though there are many choices for her of who to be with, she always goes back to Robert.

Katina T said...

Brianna makes a great point when she talks about Edna running away from false love rather than society. She is sick of her husband keeping her bound down with his commitments. But as she seeks freedom with Robert, she realizes, that he also is stuck within society’s narrow-mindedness when he talks about Edna as if she is a possession that could be passed from her husband to him. Edna sees how Robert won’t be an escape from society. But shakes it off as if it was a big joke to her when she says, “You have been a very, very foolish boy, wasting your time dreaming Although he isn’t an escape from society, Edna still loves him. This is the reason why Bri makes a great point that Edna is searching for happiness in love within her awakening. Her idea of love is something completely out of the ordinary in her society. Her search of love sparked her awakening. It is clear that Robert feels as though they will never be able to function in a relationship in the society they live in. Stuck in a moment of bliss, both of them forget about everything around them, until Edna has to leave. Edna returns to find only a note left behind. The one thing that sparked her awakening was now gone. By the end of the book, she commits suicide by wading out into the ocean at Grand Isle. Personally, I did not like this ending. So much was left unsaid, and it didn’t shine a bright light on the awakening of a woman during this time in society. It shows how she found what made her happy, and once she couldn’t have it, gave up. Interestingly enough, her escape at the beginning of the story, was her final escape also. I understand that the pressures of society without Robert were going to be difficult, but it bothered me that Edna didn’t even want to try to work things out. She was “awakened” and then she was dead, asleep forever. It seems like a waste of an awakening to me. Or perhaps that is what the author was trying to portray, how difficult it was for a woman to escape from society during this time. Maybe the point wasn’t the actual “awakening” but the difficulty in surviving in a society that doesn’t except you once you’ve been awakened.

Brianna A said...

I agree with Katina for sure about the ending of the book. It is extremely disappointing that a woman that went through such a transformation would end her life when it seems it was just starting to begin. I liked that Katina tried to see Chopin’s perspective as to why Edna acted this way, perhaps it wasn’t the actually awakening of a soul but surviving in that society once you have been awakened. This point supports the old phrase, “Ignorance is bliss” now that Edna has woken up and sees the world and her life for what it really is she makes the choice to make a statement for her freedom and her escape. I also noted like Katina did about her paralleled escapes via the ocean. The ocean’s rhythmic undulations were symbolic to Edna’s undulations of her expression; not only her sexual expression but also her artistic expression. The attention to Edna and Mademoiselle Reis’s art reminded me a lot of Portrait of the Artist and of Jane Eyre. Jane uses art as a constant aid for expression and for reason when she can not count on the social order, religion or even a family or loved one; much like Edna uses art to guide her to her own expression to find the constant aid within herself. In Portrait, Stephen is awakened by religion and led to his art just like Edna was by listening to Mademoiselle Reis play the piano: “she saw no pictures of solitude, of hope, of longing, or of despair. But the very passions themselves were aroused within her soul, swaying it, lashing it, as the waves daily beat upon her splendid body.” As I said, the waves help to represent Edna’s awakening as an artist as well as as an independent woman. What I find interesting is that at the end of the book, Edna recalls something that Mademoiselle Reis had said about being an artist, “And you call yourself an artist! What pretensions, Madame! The artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies." This is interesting to me because Edna plays this in her head just as she is about to submerge to her escape. Suicide, a very troubling and sensitive subject, is however often construed as cowardly because one is choosing to end their own life rather than sticking it out in life. With Edna’s final act, Chopin is choosing to show how Edna is daring and defying. This would make sense to disagree with Katina and I’s thoughts on the disappointment of Edna’s suicide but rather support the huge statement and protest for freedom that Edna is making. The only way that she feels she can be free from the possession of Robert, Leonce, her kids, and especially society is to show what society can push a woman to do. Edna is choosing her own dramatic path and she ends in the possession of no one but the waves.

Sabrina said...

After reading the first 25 chapters of The Awakening, I found Edna to be the most impulsive, spontaneous, and confusing woman. The plot of Edna clearly falling in love with Robert after a short time makes her change into a new person. Edna’s attitude toward her husband is out of line. For example, she stops her Tuesday job for him, where she attends the phone for his business. Also, she does not dress proper for dinner, and does not sleep with him. Edna acts strange toward her husband after Robert leaves.
The most significant passage/quotation in these 100 pages is at the very end. Edna feels like she has betrayed someone because of this kiss on the hand she received from Alcee Arobin. “The thought was passing vaguely through her mind, “What would he think?” She did not mean her husband; she was thinking of Robert Lebrun. This is by far the most important of all quotations. This is because Edna proves to the reader that she has fallen in love with Robert, he is the only one she thinks about. Instead of Edna thinking about her husband, Leonce, she is overwhelmed with the thought of Robert. Robert and Edna’s connection is complicated. Robert is clearly feeling something for her because of the way that he writes to Mademoiselle Reisz all about Edna. It is obvious through this that the two are going to have a connection later in the book. I think everything that has happened in these last 25 most symbolized the title “The Awakening” because of the sight that Edna begins to have. She realizes that she should not do everything that her husband says, she is defiant and realized that she has only married him merely in spite of her family and the love she felt. As much as Edna respects her husband it seems like she knows that without having no feelings for Robert, she cannot obey Leonce’s wished.
This book reminds me of Jane Eyre. This is because Jane falls in love with Rochester. Even when she and Rochester break it off and St. John comes into the picture, she cannot have something with him while still having love for Rochester. In the end, Jane follows her heart, and I hope that Edna will do the same.

Sabrina said...

The last section of the Awakening left me with question. The ending did not turn out as I thought it would. Although Edna tells Robert that she loves him and only him, it seems like to me that she is questioning it in the end when she thinks about how there is “no one thing in the world that she desired.” But does go on to say that “there was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone.” Edna still seems confused right through the end of the book. When Robert admits to her that he left New Orleans in hopes to lose his feeling for her and tells her that he loves her, Edna should be fully content. The reason I think she is not is because she talks about how her children still keep her chained to her old life.

She took his face between her hands and looked into it as if she would never withdraw her eyes more. She kissed him on the forehead, they eyes, the cheeks, and the lips./ “You have been a very, very, foolish boy, wasting your time dreaming of impossible things when you speak of Mr. Pontellier setting me free! I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. If he were to say, ‘Here, Robert, take her and be happy; she is yours,’ I should laugh at both of you.” / His face grew a little white. “What do you mean?” he asked. ……. “I love you,” she whispered, “only you; no one but you. It was you who awoke me last summer out of a life-long, stupid dream.” Page 145-146

This passage is the most significant because it is when Edna finally admits to everything she is feeling. Edna confesses her love to Robert and tells herself out loud why she is so unhappy. She finally is free of Leonce and knows how it feels to be happy. The quote shows a bold assertion when Edna states that she “loves him and only him.” Also, following the passage, Edna goes to see Adele deliver her baby, and the whole time she does nothing but think of her lover. She has been woken from her “stupid dream.”

This part of the book also reminds me of Jane Eyre. It especially reminds me of when Jane and Rochester realize that they are in love and have to be together. No matter what hurt can come out of going to someone, if that is where the love is, there is nothing these four characters can do to stop themselves from getting to happiness with one another. Although different in Edna’s situation because she has children, her feelings are the same.

The other piece of the section that stuck in my head was after the love confession with Robert and the trip to see Adele. Adele tells Edna “think of the children.” I think this is so important because of the how theme of how Edna treats her children. Leonce used to get mad at how she treated them, like she did not pay any attention to them. When they went away and she went to visit them at their grandparents, on the way home Edna thought about her children and how she missed them, but in the end she doesn’t “think about the children” like her friend tells her to. The reoccurring theme seemed like it would prevail in the end, but did not.