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Laura Amy Schlitz

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Plot: The Awakening

The Awakening

Kate Chopin, 1899
Famous for: A free-thinking leading lady who refused to be caged by society's expectations. A beginning and an ending at the ocean.

Subtext in The Awakening| 60second RecapThe Awakening is the story of Edna Pontellier’s struggle to fit her emerging sense of herself and what she wants from life with the expectations of those around her. It shows us how Edna wakes up to the reality that the woman she is, and the woman society says she’s supposed to be, are two different people.

It takes us on Edna’s journey to self-knowledge, then shows us the consequences when she rejects the customs and conventions of her class and time.

Here are the essential beats of Edna’s story:
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When The Awakening begins, it’s the late 1800s, and Edna is vacationing with her family at a holiday resort by the sea.
Four important events occur during her summer stay at Grand Isle:

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1. Edna spends time with her friend Adele, whose openness about her own emotions awakens Edna emotionally.

2. Edna spends time with Robert Lebrun, who awakens her to love, and to an identity that can’t be possessed by her husband.

3. Edna hears Mademoiselle Reisz play the piano and awakens to the language of art.

4. Edna learns to swim and awakens to the idea of freedom.

When the summer ends, Edna and her family head back to New Orleans, where Edna moves into the next stage of her awakening—acting on her newly-discovered freedom. Four more important events occur there:

1. Edna breaks from social convention and stops acting the way her husband wants her to. She goes walking and visits with friends instead of taking callers and attending to her children.

2. Edna dedicates herself to painting.

3. Edna begins an affair with the town flirt, Alcée

4. Edna moves into her own home and tries to convince Robert that they can be together.

When Robert proves unable to break free the way Edna has, Edna heads back to Grand Isle where she swims out to sea and drowns.

 

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