The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The story revolves around Edna Pontellier, a woman in her late twenties who is a mother, wife and socialite in New Orleans. After a family vacation to the seaside, Edna’s view of her world and the life she leads drastically changes. She’s no longer content to be viewed as a piece of property and she decides to rebel against the accepted social norms.

The novel is small in size, but large in revolutionary ideas. If it had been written in the last 50 years, it wouldn’t have the same power. It was published in 1899 and it challenged the traditional and widely accepted social standards of that time.

In Edna, Chopin created a character that balked at being defined by her husband and children, when no one else dared to do so. Though I’ve never had children and I’m lucky enough to have a husband who supports my interests, I can still understand how disturbing it would be to see yourself disappearing into the roles you’ve been assigned.

Henrik Ibsen published his play, A Doll House, which deals with a similar situation, in 1879, but I think it’s easier for a man to make those observations. It was much more daring and controversial for a woman to write about such things.

The book is striking both for the issues it deals with and because of the prose is beautiful. It provides a powerful look at our gender and a gives us a chance to reflect on just how far we’ve come.

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