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The Awakening Themes
Little Words, Big Ideas
The Awakening is largely about an identity crisis. Dissatisfied with her labels as "wife" and "mother," Edna Pontellier seeks an independence that is hard to come by for Victorian women. The "awake...
Women and Femininity
The restrictions and expectations imposed on Edna Pontellier in The Awakening are based purely on her gender. The societal structure of the Victorian Era decreed that a woman was fit to be only a w...
In The Awakening, marriage is a huge barrier to happiness and individual fulfillment because the archetypical marriage had an "I Tarzan, you Jane" dynamic. At the start of the novel, Edna is barely...
In The Awakening, love is a fantasy. It’s used in jest by the Creole community (Robert Lebrun in particular), and we also know that Edna has a history of infatuations that culminate in a crus...
Society and Class
The Awakening features that age-old conflict between the individual and society. Is it more important to conform or to be yourself? Our protagonist Edna views herself as a super-fabulous individual...
Repression plays out subtly in The Awakening, as the open, "free-speaking" Creoles who are partly responsible for Edna’s awakening (artistically, sexually, etc.) turn out to be all talk and n...
Art and Culture
In The Awakening, producing real art requires holding a position outside the societal mainstream. The lives of the two artists we see in The Awakening, Mademoiselle Reisz and Edna Pontellier, sugge...
In The Awakening, Edna Pontellier challenges her role as a mother while Adele Ratignolle fulfills it to a tee. Motherhood is not a dynamic or fluid concept in The Awakening, but rather a static, id...
Respect and Reputation
In The Awakening, the main characters live in a society obsessed with reputation. Mr. Pontellier in particular carries this obsession out to unhealthy ends – he becomes more concerned about h...
Life, Consciousness, and Existence
In Kate Chopin’s day, ideas about the human psyche (including the subconscious) were just beginning to gain momentum. Regardless of whether Chopin was intentionally integrating these concepts...
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