Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Awakening

by Kate Chopin

The title of this book made me think of new beginnings, spring and hope; like awakening from a deep sleep and opening your eyes, seeing what is before you. What I discovered while reading was not an awakening by my definition, but rather a dark and gloomy depression.

I admit to not knowing little about this classic before reading it, but I had the impression it was about a married woman who "awakens" to a new life as she discovers her own independence.

I did not feel this was a story of finding independence - with independence and "freedom" comes feelings of completeness, satisfaction, contentment and energy. Edna, the main character in this book, never exhibits those feelings. I think she was depressed and because she had financial means, is able to indulge in the "luxury" of her depression. She ignores the running of the house, she ignores her children and allows them to go live with the maid and she moves into a little "pigeon-hole" house alone.

So many passages, so many of Edna's behaviors and feelings were characteristic of depression. There was a sadness to her life, a feeling of darkness and despair. Cutting the ties that bond her in her marriage and motherhood did not free Edna of the darkness. If the story was indeed about the smothering effects of marriage and motherhood, why didn't Edna ever feel relief?

I think the author was trying to decry the feelings of many woman, both in the past and still today, who feel like they are nothing more than possessions. I think the argument could have been stronger if the main character was not suffering depression. Was the author herself suffering from clinical depression and with no understanding of it, blaming those feelings on marriage moires.

This would be a good book for a face-to-face book group. I would like to bounce my ideas of others and see if anyone agrees with my feelings about the book or not. There would be many things about this book to discuss. I think I could better express my thoughts about this book in person rather than in a post.

One quote that stood out was something Robert, Edna's lover, said to her towards the end of the book.
"Why do you force me to idiotic subterfuges? I think you cruel. Maybe not intentionally cruel, but you seem to be forcing me into disclosures which can result in nothing. As if you would have me bear a wound for for the pleasure of looking at it, without the intention or power of healing it."

BTW, I made it to TEN books this month for the NaJuReMoNoMo (National Just Read More Novels Month) Wahoo for me!


Chrisbookarama said...

I vaguely remember this. I did like the writing but was disappointed with the ending. I think maybe the author was trying to say that women in her time were prisoners of the society. That they couldn't have freedom.

It was pretty thought provoking though.

yellojkt said...

Congratulations on your ten books. That is quite the accomplishment.

Amy said...

Congrats on you 10 books. I made 8 and am ok with that.;)

Have a nice weekend!

raidergirl3 said...

Wahoo for you. I got to 9 novels. Sooo close, but I just couldn't get there.

I am hoping to read this book, I just bought it, and will be interested to see how our opinions compare. I am a little leary because it strikes me as a 'classic' that is hard/boring, but I still want to read it.

Lisa said...

Congrats on 10 books -- that's pretty impressive. I haven't read this book, but from your descriptions, it does sound like clinical depression and not simply being in an unfulfilling marriage.

Framed said...

I was depressed just reading your review so I guess I will skip the book. It does sound thought-provoking, though. I just avoid thinking.

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for the interesting post :)
I read The Awakening for an American Lit. paper a couple of years ago. One thing I remember is talking about the ending - how it's not exactly a victory or escape for Edna, but it doesn't feel like a tragic ending either because of how it's written.

I agree about it being depressing. I kept expecting her to find her independence and live happily ever after...

Paula said...

Think I'll skip this book. I don't want depressing on these dark coastal days.
Congrats on your 10 books. That's great!

Stephanie said...

I read this book a few years ago, and I have to say, I really hated it. I didn't find Edna to be sympathic in the least. Mostly just pathetic. Mabye it's because I always try to make the best out of every situation....or maybe it's because I just found her to be self-indulgent and so full of self-pity. Whatever the reason, I really disliked the book. The writing was good, but the character just made me mad!!

Nice review!!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I really enjoy Chopin's short stories but was really disappointed with this one when I read it last summer. And I believe I read it right after The Portrait of a Lady which is also depressing--as I don't believe that Isabel exhibited any independence either after wanting it so badly (I'm blabbing unless you've read it). I agree this one would be a great book for book-club discussion.