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Love and Death in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

Love and Death in The Awakening

“It was when the face and figure of a great tragedian began to haunt her imagination and stir her senses. The persistence of the infatuation lent it an aspect of genuineness. The hopelessness of it colored it with the lofty tones of a great passion:” (Chopin 17) a passion that eventually lost its newness and was relegated to the shelf that held vague, yet comfortably delightful remembrances. The tragedian keeps company with a visiting cavalry officer and an engaged gentleman. Though, in reality, the gentleman is probably no longer engaged, he will remain so in the mind of Edna Pontellier: one of the images of the infatuations of a “little miss.” (Chopin 17) With regard to her marriage to Leonce Pontellier, Edna is taken, not with the man himself, but with the notion he represents. “By leaving Mississippi on Leonce’s arm, she defies her family’s wish that she marry a non-Catholic. Add to that equation a healthy dose of flattery from her intended and their union is as good as cemented” (Martin 118). This is how Edna comes to be ensconced in the inescapable institution of marriage. One would suppose that the speaking of the vows would put an end to youthful enchantment, but that is not the case. Both the holy bounds of wedlock and the remonstrations of society fail to constrict her. Edna Pontellier experiences one last, great infatuation. However, this beat upon her soul reverberates into a feeling that far surpasses what she had previously thought to be “the climax of her fate.” (Chopin 17) The single-tiered fantasies of her youth are replaced with a sentiment that matures in nature as her awakening proceeds.

Upon the occasion of a summer escape to the Lebrun family pension o…

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… more. This is why a suicide is the only feasible manner in which to end this novel. “If Edna were to be no more, then the wave would strike no more. It would simply crest and blend with the rush of foam to wash over the sandy shore and be tugged back into the immense abysses of solitude” (Culley 47).

Works Cited and Consulted

Chopin, Kate, The Awakening; A Solitary Soul. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1992

Culley, Margaret, ed. The Awakening: An Authoritative Text Context Criticism. New York: Norton, 1976.

Delbanco, Andrew. “The Half-Life of Edna Pontellier.” New Essays on The Awakening. Ed. Wendy Martin. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. 89-106.

Koloski, Bernard, ed. Preface. Approaches to Teaching Chopin’s The Awakening. By Koloski. New York: MLA, 1988.

Martin, Wendy, ed. New Essays on the Awakening. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988.

The Esthetic Theory and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The Esthetic Theory and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus defines beauty and the artist’s comprehension of his/her own art. Stephen uses his esthetic theory with theories borrowed from St. Thomas Aquinas and Plato. The discourse can be broken down into three main sections: 1) A definitions of beauty and art. 2) The apprehension and qualifications of beauty. 3) The artist’s view of his/her own work. I will explain how the first two sections of his esthetic theory relate to Stephen. Furthermore, I will argue that in the last section, Joyce is speaking of Stephen Dedalus and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as his art.

First, Stephen states the theory that art should invoke esthetic emotions. These emotions are confined only to the intellect and are incapable of manifesting themselves in a physical manner: “The esthetic emotion is therefore static. The mind is arrested and raised above desire and loathing.” (Pg. 149). An example of esthetic emotion being static can be found in Keats’ poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” In this poem, the scene on the urn of two young lovers just about to kiss is frozen in time. Their feelings of anticipation, excitement, and innocence are still felt by the urn’s viewers even though their act can never be carried out. Human emotion, like the picture on the urn, is static. Also, anything that induces a physical reaction, such as flinching, cannot be art. This is because it has nothing to do with the intellect, but an animal reaction caused by nerves. Stephen’s experience with visiting prostitutes for the first time exemplifies this theory: “His hands clenched convulsively and his teeth set together as he suffered the agony o…

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…nting his creation (Stephen) and displaying Stephen’s experiences in relation to Joyce’s life. Joyce fulfills the epical form by displaying Stephen’s stream of consciousness and his position of certain issues (religious, political, etc.); then taking his positions and contrasting them with the thoughts and positions of others. Finally, he fulfills the dramatic form which he displays Stephen’s relations with other people, such as family, friends, and teachers.

In conclusion, the Esthetic Theory is Stephen’s definition of the beautiful and of art. Also, it serves the point for Joyce, himself, to describe and explain his thoughts and perspectives as the artist of both A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man as a novel, and of his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus.

Works Cited:

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: New American Library, 1991.

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