This is my fourth post for The Classics Club. I’ll be reading one classic book a month for the next 4-5 years. Here’s the list of all the books I’ll be reading. I’ll try not to include too many spoilers in my review but I may need to discuss some in order to fully review the book. I’ll warn you if I’m going to mention one.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
- Year Published: 1899
- Re-read? Or new to me?: new to me
- Number of Pages: 118 (pretty short)
- Date Finished: 4/17/14
- Number of Days it took me to read it: 14
- Page/Day ratio: 8.5:1 (Clearly this book didn’t grab my attention – see below.)
- Would I have wanted to read this in English class?: Definitely not.
The Awakening was one of the rather more strange novels I’ve read in a long time. It’s really slow at the beginning and I kept reading a page or two and then walking away for awhile. I finally forced myself to finish it, rather than reading any number of other more interesting books that I had waiting for me. The ending in particular was so abrupt and disturbing that I finished the book with a big, “What in the world?” question mark. Having learned my lesson with Silas Marner, I saved the introduction to the novel until after I’d read it. In this case, it was wise for me to have done so because the introduction gave away all major plot points, including the ending. However, I think I might have enjoyed the novel more, had I understood the background of Kate Chopin, the social environment that she was writing in, and some of her literary influences. I at least wouldn’t have been saying, “This is so weird,” all the time as I was reading it.
Two things stand out to me as I reflect on this novel.
1. Her husband was really a jerk. I can’t imagine being treated as a object to be displayed on the one hand and a person to be ordered about on the other. I’m so thankful for Nik.
2. Edna (the main character) must have had some kind of mental illness or other problems related to the births and/or raising of her children. I’m not sure if it should be called postpartum depression or maybe it was just way the rich were expected to act towards their children in those days. She was so detached from her [little] children and able to just leave them in the care of others for weeks, even months, at a time, without any kind of emotion.
It was with a wrench and a pang that Edna left her children. She carried away with her the sound of their voices and the touch of their cheeks. All along the journey homeward their presence lingered with her like the memory of a delicious song. But by the time she had regained the city the song no longer echoed in her soul. She was again alone. (from near the end)
Chopin seemed to present it as Edna coming into her own and finding her own self – as in, shedding a role forced on her and becoming who she truly was. And perhaps that was some of it. But I also see some more sad forces at work if Edna was so able to completely put her children away from herself, physically and emotionally. That’s probably the part of the novel that made me the most sad.
I can definitely say that I would never have finished this novel if it wasn’t for this Classics Club commitment. So hurray for widening my reading horizons, although I definitely don’t plan to read it ever again.
Have you read The Awakening? What issues in it affected you the most deeply?
I’ll be reading Persuasion by Jane Austen in May. Join me if you’d like!