When The Awakening was first published in 1899, critical outcry proved so vociferous that the novel was banned for decades. Now praised as a classic of early feminist literature, Kate Chopin’s final work rejects conventional female roles and celebrates a woman’s journey towards self-awareness. As the heroine, Edna Pontellier, awakens to her own desires, she begins to question her ideas about marriage, motherhood, society, art, and the nature of love itself. A milestone in American fiction, The Awakening is an unforgettably poignant novel of self-discovery that has inspired generations of readers.
Enriched Classics enhance your engagement by introducing and explaining the historical and cultural significance of the work, the author’s personal history, and what impact this book had on subsequent scholarship. Each book includes discussion questions that help clarify and reinforce major themes and reading recommendations for further research.
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About the Author
Kate Chopin (1851–1904) was born in St. Louis. She began writing after her husband’s death in 1882, supporting herself and her six children with the publication of stories in the leading popular magazines of the day. Her first novel, At Fault, a pioneering work about the taboo subject of divorce, appeared in 1890. Bayou Folk, her first collection of stories, was published in 1894 and gained her immediate national fame. But her second story collection, A Night in Acadie (1897), began to depart from this popular and financially rewarding literary vein by presenting unconventional heroines whose views and actions stood in sharp conflict with the morality of the day. With The Awakening (1899), Kate Chopin achieved what was to prove her literary masterpiece and her ultimate break with popular taste. Although she continued to publish short stories, Chopin did not recover her former success and died seemingly forgotten. The Awakening, however, survived and has given its author a permanent and important place in American literature.
Barbara H. Solomon is a professor emerita of English and women’s studies at Iona College. Among the anthologies she has edited are Herland and Selected Stories of Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Haves and Have-Nots: 30 Stories About Money and Class in America.
Roxane Gay's writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories, McSweeney's, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. She is the author of Ayiti, An Untamed State, and Bad Feminist, and is the co-editor of PANK Magazine.
Read an Excerpt
Upon the pleasant veranda of Pere Antoine's cottage, that adjoined the church, a young girl had long been seated, awaiting his return. It was the eve of Easter Sunday, and since early afternoon the priest had been engaged in hearing the confessions of those who wished to make their Easters the following day. The girl did not seem impatient at his delay; on the contrary, it was very restful to her to lie back in the big chair she had found there, and peep through the thick curtain of vines at the people who occasionally passed along the village street.
She was slender, with a frailness that indicated lack of wholesome and plentiful nourishment. A pathetic, uneasy look was in her gray eyes, and even faintly stamped her features, which were fine and delicate. In lieu of a hat, a barege veil covered her light brown and abundant hair. She wore a coarse white cotton 'josie,' and a blue calico skirt that only half concealed her tattered shoes.
As she sat there, she held carefully in her lap a parcel of eggs securely fastened in a red bandana handkerchief.
Twice already a handsome, stalwart young man in quest of the priest had entered the yard, and penetrated to where she sat. At first they had exchanged the uncompromising 'howdy' of strangers, and nothing more. The second time, finding the priest still absent, he hesitated to go at once. Instead, he stood upon the step, and narrowing his brown eyes, gazed beyond the river, off towards the west, where a murky streak of mist was spreading across the sun.
'It look like mo' rain,' he remarked, slowly and carelessly.
'We done had 'bout 'nough,' she replied, in much the same tone.
'It's no chance tothin out the cotton,' he went on.
'An' the Bon-Dieu,' she resumed, 'it's on'y to-day you can cross him on foot.'
'You live yonda on the Bon-Dieu, donc?' he asked, looking at her for the first time since he had spoken.
'Yas, by Nid Hibout, monsieur.'
Instinctive courtesy held him from questioning her further. But he seated himself on the step, evidently determined to wait there for the priest. He said no more, but sat scanning critically the steps, the porch, and pillar beside him, from which he occasionally tore away little pieces of detached wood, where it was beginning to rot at its base.
A click at the side gate that communicated with the churchyard soon announced Pere Antoine's return. He came hurriedly across the garden-path, between the tall, lusty rosebushes that lined either side of it, which were now fragrant with blossoms. His long, flapping cassock added something of height to his undersized, middle-aged figure, as did the skullcap which rested securely back on his head. He saw only the young man at first, who rose at his approach.
'Well, Azenor,' he called cheerily in French, extending his hand. 'How is this? I expected you all the week.'
'Yes, monsieur; but I knew well what you wanted with me, and I was finishing the doors for Gros-Leon's new house' saying which, he drew back, and indicated by a motion and look that some one was present who had a prior claim upon Pere Antoine's attention.
'Ah, Lalie!' the priest exclaimed, when he had mounted to the porch, and saw her there behind the vines. 'Have you been waiting here since you confessed? Surely an hour ago!'
'You should rather have made some visits in the village, child.'
'I am not acquainted with any one in the village,' she returned.
The priest, as he spoke, had drawn a chair, and seated himself beside her, with his hands comfortably clasping his knees. He wanted to know how things were out on the bayou.
'And how is the grandmother?' he asked. 'As cross and crabbed as ever? And with that'—he added reflectively—'good for ten years yet! I said only yesterday to Butrand—you know Butrand, he works on Le Blot's Bon-Dieu place—'And that Madame Zidore: how is it with her, Butrand? I believe God has forgotten her here on earth.''It isn't that, your reverence,' said Butrand, 'but it's neither God nor the Devil that wants her!'' And Pere Antoine laughed with a jovial frankness that took all sting of ill-nature from his very pointed remarks.
Table of ContentsEdited and with an Introduction by Barbara H. Solomon
A Note on the Text
Wiser Than a God
A Point at Issue!
A Shameful Affair
At the 'Cadian Ball
Madame Celestin's Divorce
A Lady of Bayou St. John
La Belle Zoraïde
A Respectable Woman
The Story of an Hour
A Pair of Silk Stockings
What People are Saying About This
“Flexible, iridescent style.”—Willa Cather
“As pertinent as any fiction this year or last. It is uncanny, nothing else.”—The New York Times
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this for Banned Books Week and I think that I enjoyed reading about Kate Chopin and her life far more than I enjoyed reading what she wrote. In "The Awakening" Edna Pontellier lives what was at that time an upper middle class life, I would think. She is married to a husband who treats her well, has two children, several servants and is rather comfortably well off. However she finds her life boring and wants to be more independent. She loves her children but is not emotionally connected with them. In trying to change her life to become what she feels she needs to be to become whole and independent, she looks to other men and in the end she turns out to be what appears to me a weak, feeble, simple minded and silly woman. The book just didn't work for me.
One of my favorite books of all time. The main character's search for identity and independence is wonderfully constructed. You yearn for her freedom and want her to be happy while also begging her to do the right thing for her family. Heavy symbolism runs throughout, but a very moving depiction of the stifling life of women.
Interesting series of victorian short stories based on in New Orleans.
The book has several of Chopin's complete stories and is nice. However I did have a problem. In the description of the book here on the page it gives a table of contents for the book. When I opened the nook book, not all of the stories that were supposed to be there. The table of contents lists "The Story of an Hour", but that story is not actually in the book. This needs to be fixed. It is very frustrating to buy a book thinking it will contain all of these stories (because the description says it does) and in reality it only contains about half of them.