The Awakening - Kate Chopin

~~Moved from GR~~

 

Edna Pontellier starts out as an ordinary housewife with a kindly husband and two children. Her life is insipid and dull, but see that she is contented in it only because she knows nothing else. However, when she falls in love with Robert Lebrun, she awakens to her latent sexuality and begins to wish for freedom from the restraints of family, of duty, of domesticity. As Edna becomes aware of her liberty and power as a woman, she fights the role that she has been thrust into. She wishes to free herself from all responsibilities that chain her from the true emancipation she desires. However, Edna's only freedom is in choosing her bonds. Edna finds that she is still captive when she tries to shake off restraint. Though she feels her marriage to be no bar to her enjoyment of life, her love for Robert and the responsibility for her children become the tightest manacles of all.
The writing is lyrical, but although I sympathize with Edna's struggle, her feeling of being trapped between two worlds, I also find that her willful selfishness makes her a somewhat unsympathetic character. Torn between two worlds, her act of "bravery" is succumbing to passion; she behaves like a child instead of an adult.
The Awakening is a classic; its dreamy, poetic writing and evocative imagery is strong, but I was unable to actually like the characters.