The Awakening

Kate Chopin’s 1899 novel The Awakening tells the story of Edna Pontellier, a young woman in turn-of-the-century New Orleans who undergoes an identity crisis. At the novel’s beginning, Edna finds herself defined by her roles in society: she is a wife to a wealthy businessman, a member of the status-conscious upper class of New Orleans, and the mother of two young children. During a summer trip to a resort on the Gulf Coast, Edna meets Robert Lebrun, a young man from another well-to-do family. As Edna and Robert grow increasingly intimate, Edna experiences feelings of passion and companionship nonexistent in her marriage. After Robert and her husband leave on extended trips, Edna embarks on a journey towards independence and personal discovery, questioning at each turn the life that has been prescribed for her. In its time, The Awakening was considered a key text in the burgeoning feminist movement for its implicit criticism of the often soul-numbing roles women were expected to fill. To this day, The Awakening remains relevant in its depiction of the modern fight for individuality in the face of conformity.

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