The Awakening - Kate Chopin

The Awakening
About the Book
first published in 1899
The novel depicts a young mother’s struggle to achieve sexual and personal emancipation in the oppressive environment of the postbellum American South
Kate Chopin
American author of short stories and novels based in Louisiana
Originally titled A Solitary Soul
Today it is considered a landmark work of early feminist fiction.
Plot Summary
Edna Pontellier
Edna is the protagonist of the novel, and the “awakening” to which the title refers is hers. The twenty-eight-year-old wife of a New Orleans businessman.
Mademoiselle Reisz
Mademoiselle Reisz may be the most influential character in Edna’s awakening. She is unmarried and childless, and she devotes her life to her passion: music.
Adèle Ratignolle
Edna’s close friend, Adèle Ratignolle represents the Victorian feminine ideal. She idolizes her children and worships her husband, centering her life around caring for them and performing her domestic duties.
Robert Lebrun
Robert Lebrun is the twenty-six-year-old single man with whom Edna falls in love. Dramatic and passionate, he has a history of becoming the devoted attendant to a different woman each summer at Grand Isle.
Alcée Arobin
The seductive, charming, and forthright Alcée Arobin is the Don Juan of the New Orleans Creole community. Arobin enjoys making conquests out of married women, and he becomes Edna’s lover while her husband is on a business trip to New York.
Léonce Pontellier
Léonce Pontellier, a forty-year-old, wealthy New Orleans businessman, is Edna’s husband. Although he loves Edna and his sons, he spends little time with them because he is often away on business or with his friends.
Doctor Mandelet
Doctor Mandelet is Léonce and Edna’s family physician. He is a fairly enlightened man, who silently recognizes Edna’s dissatisfaction with the restrictions placed on her by social conventions.
The Colonel
Victor Lebrun
Madame Lebrun
The Colonel, a former Confederate officer in the Civil War, is Edna’s father.
Victor Lebrun is Robert’s wayward younger brother. He spends his time chasing women and refuses to settle down into a profession.
Madame Lebrun is the widowed mother of Victor and Robert. She owns and manages the cottages on Grand Isle where the novel’s characters spend their summer vacations.
Early critics condemned the book for its amoral treatment of adultery
From the 1960s on, most scholars and readers in the USA and many other nations have come to think of Kate Chopin as “the first woman writer in her country to accept passion as a legitimate subject for serious, outspoken fiction,” to cite the words of Per Seyersted, and they see Chopin as one of America’s essential authors.