Get help from the best in academic writing.

Feminism and Emotional Liberation in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

Feminism and Emotional Liberation in The Awakening

In our time, the idea of feminism is often portrayed as a modern one, dating back no further than the famous bra-burnings of the 1960s. Perhaps this is due to some unconscious tendency to assume that one’s own time is the most enlightened in history. But this tendency is unfortunate, because it does not allow readers to see the precursors of modern ideas in older works. A prime example of this is Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening, which explores the marital infidelities of a woman stuck in a loveless marriage as she searches for her purpose in life. In it, we see how an institutionalized union such as marriage is, almost by necessity, dispassionate, while forbidden loves are characterized only by passion, either physical or emotional. Because of this, we can observe that The Awakening is a feminist novel; through its unflattering portrayal of the institution of marriage and its positive stance towards feminine liberation, we see Chopin’s belief in the equality and independence of the sexes.

But we cannot discuss feminism without a definition of the term. Since this term is one that has been thrown about for many decades and used by various groups to define themselves, it is imperative to pin down precisely what we mean by the word “feminism”. The first definition that may come to mind is the belief in female superiority – the belief that, either by accident or design, females are inherently superior to males; or, equivalently, that males are inferior to females. This is just as imbalanced as the traditional European belief in male superiority, and this is not the type of feminism that we observe in Chopin’s work. A second, somewhat improved, definitio…

… middle of paper …

…ial conventions in general illustrate a belief that females as a whole have the right to independence. While this idea seems almost trivial in our time, it was scandalous when the novel was written. It is with this in mind that we must conclude that The Awakening is, in fact, feminist, and at the same time promotes an emotional independence that many would still not dare to strive for today.

Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Dover, 1993.

Deyo, C. L. “The Newest Books”. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 20, 1899: 4.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self-Reliance”. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Selected Essays. Ed. Larzer Ziff. New York: Penguin, 1982: 175-203.

Hofstadter, Douglas R. “Pattern, Poetry, and Power in the Music of Frédéric Chopin”. Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern. New York: Basic Books, 1985: 173-189.

Love and Self in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

Love and Self in The Awakening

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is often said to triumph the exploration on the emotional and sexual needs of women, and the novel certainly is about that to a great extent, but even more importantly, it is a quest for individuality and the meaning of love. Through the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, Chopin describes in her novel one woman’s journey towards self-consciousness. Several stages of ‘awakenings’ can be detected on the road, which are discussed in detail, along with the themes of romantic love, possession and an individual self. Darwinian theories are used to some extent to explore the nature of love and the meaning it had for Chopin.

According to Bert Bender, Kate Chopin was very interested in Darwin’s theories of the descent of humans. In his article “The Teeth of Desire: The Awakening and The Descent of Man” he argues that Chopin studied Darwin closely and especially his theories of sexual selection. It first seemed to offer a liberating explanation for human behaviour, “sense of animal innocence in the realm of human courtship” (p. 460) in the strict atmosphere of Victorian etiquette and moral codes.

The principle of natural selection and the “survival of the fittest” is well known, and sexual selection is a specified form of that principle. It “depends on the success of certain individuals over others of the same sex in relation to the propagation of the species” (Darwin, p. 638). There are two kinds of sexual struggle which take place between the same sex. In the one individuals, generally of the male sex, try to drive away or kill their rivals in order to win a partner, the females remaining passive. In the other individuals, again generally mal…

… middle of paper …

…ad her wings to fly. She broke her wing and fell “down, down to the water” (XXXIX, p. 587). Still, “it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life” (XXXVIII, p. 584).

Works Cited

Bender, Bert. “The Teeth of Desire: The Awakening and The Descent of Man” American Literature Vol. 63, No 3 (1991), 459-473.

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. In Norton Anthology of American Literature. Vol. 2. 2nd Ed. New York: W. W. Norton

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.