Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

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Overview: 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.

Metaphor in literature, The Awakening | 60second RecapThe Awakening begins and ends at the sea. The sea is the place where Edna Pontellier begins to find out who she is, and what she wants out of life. The sea is the place to which she returns once she decides to leave her old life behind forever.

We have more to say about the symbolism of the sea in Recap 10 and, in Recap 11, the meaning of Edna’s decision to return to the sea at the end of The Awakening‘s final chapter. In this Recap, we’ll look at what happens at the sea at the start of The Awakening.

It’s the moment Edna begins to awaken…


Kate Chopin: Bayou Folks, A Night in Arcadie | 60second RecapAt the beginning of this story, Edna Pontellier, your main character, is asleep. Not literally asleep. Edna is metaphorically asleep—she’s unaware of who she is.

Is she the daughter of the Colonel? Is she the mother of Etienne and Raoul? Is she Mr. Pontellier’s wife—another one of his possessions?

Or does Edna have her own identity—distinct from all the men and social obligations in her life?

The answer to that question, of course, is yes—and that’s the identity that Edna wakes up to over the course of this story.

But this novel isn’t just about the fact that Edna awakens; it’s about what she awakens to.

– She wakes up to discover that she’s not something to be possessed.
– She wakes up to find that she has a voice of her own and that she can express it through art.
– And Edna wakes up to the cruel realization that the society of her time is not friendly to women who try to assert themselves as something more than wife and mother.

In sum? In The Awakening, Edna awakens both to the possibility of freedom, and its cost.



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