Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

Big Books (The Awakening) Forum

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

Go to last comment

Welcome to The Awakening
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-15 16:57:34
Link to this Comment: 5408

Well? What do you think? How does this experience of reading Chopin's novel (for the first? second? time) compare w/ that of Little Women? What's happening here for you?

mistake in text?
Name: Julia
Date: 2003-04-16 19:24:31
Link to this Comment: 5420

Early Mistake in Text
I'll begin with stating that small things can really annoy me. Has anyone noticed that there is a mistake in the third paragraph? The place where the text states that the parrot speaks Spanish, although none of the words in the preceding paragraph are in Spanish, rather they are French. Was this a mistake in the original text or just in this edition? Is it there for some purpose? The presence of such an error leads me to question the authority of the narrator for any other details that will be presented in the story.

Im just a true romantic...
Name: Nancy
Date: 2003-04-16 20:12:43
Link to this Comment: 5424

To set the scene for the potentially flowery posting that follows, I just came in, reluctantly and only because the sun refused to stay up, from lying on a soft blanket underneath a cherry blossom tree whose pink flowered branches almost touched the ground and would sway when the wind blew, scattering rosy petals across the grass and in my hair. sigh.
okay, so now that you understand where Im coming from, I LOVE THIS BOOK! It is amazing. I cant believe everything i missed the first time i read it (11th grade). It is nothing at all like Little Women, even though i dont think that even needs to be stated. the tale of a woman's true plight- unadulterated, sophisticated, and encompassing a breadth of human experiences... it is incomparable to the moralizing, sermonic primer known as little women.
i am amazed by the sexual tension between edna and adele. i was absolutely oblivious to this important (at least to me) aspect of the novel the first time through. Aside from the somewhat blatant linguistical cues ("[Adele] had excessive physical charm" and edna had a "sensuous susceptibility to beauty") and the symbolic periods of enlightenment edna goes through ( "A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly within her -- the light which, showing the way, forbids it... how few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult!"), i was especially fons of the scene in the beach house (pg 16 in the norton) where the two women are perspiring from the heat but "there was a breeze blowing, a choppy stiff wind that whipped the water into a froth [and] fluttered the skirts of the two women and kept them for awhile engaged in adjusting, readjusting, tucking in, securing hair pins and hat pins." I just love the idea of the wind playing on the tension between the women, as if it were an amusing activity- bringing the water to peaks and utterly flustering edna and adele simultaneously as if for sheer fun. the contrast between the easy, liquid flow of the wind ruffling the skirts and the swift, urgent movements taken to "right themselves" is such a powerful suggestion of human nature vs societal teachings. like i said I love this book, i cant wait to discuss it tomorrow!

no mistake
Name: Nancy
Date: 2003-04-16 20:15:49
Link to this Comment: 5425

i think the book is saying (fairly inarticulately) that the bird could speak french (as demonstrated) spanish, and also a the language no one understood. i think it is a confusing way to list the languages rather than a mistranslation!

irritation with irresponsible society
Name: Julia
Date: 2003-04-16 20:50:29
Link to this Comment: 5426

As I continued reading I realized that I could forget about the narrator needing to be correct on every point. I find that although I am frequently frustrated with the society represented, I enjoy reading the text as a form of entertainment. The society depicted is so far from any reality I can ever imagine. The ease of the lives of most of the women seems ridiculously simplistic. They sit around discussing nothing! The heat of a day should only take a few minutes to discuss; yet they manage to make it last for hours. They are a great contrast to the husbands who go out to work and make money to support the whims of the women. They are just part of high society that is so arrogant it scares me. They need to relax and worry a little less about what people will think of them. The only one with any sense is Edna, although she is little better than the others. Her advice given to her husband to save money is one of the first intelligent things regarding lifestyle that is a refreshing change from the usual irresponsibility.

2nd reading
Name: ngoc
Date: 2003-04-16 21:16:32
Link to this Comment: 5427

although i still enjoy reading the awakening for the second time, i find myself questioning the development and the outcome of such development of characters in ways that makes me uncertain whether the story deserve it's claim in bearing feministic spirit. i am not sure the role in which death plays...whether it signifies strength or weakness of the character...

community of women
Name: Natalie Ab
Date: 2003-04-17 01:01:13
Link to this Comment: 5429

I like the complexities in female relationships that are illustrated in the friendship between Mrs. Ratignolle and Edna- it is definitely much more realistic than the female relationships in Little Women.
I've been thinking about what I said in class on Tuesday, and figured out what I really wanted to say. Reading Pride and Prejudice made me aware of literary styles and techniques, whereas before I think I was still very much focused on plots, etc. Although it is impossible to have a great book with a terrible plot (at least I haven't found one), a plot can be easily sabotaged if the writer's style is undeveloped or just plain bad. On style, I like the fact that Chopin really manages to convey the sense of sadness and despair that Edna feels through the text itself.

Elliot and Chopin and Pip
Name: orah
Date: 2003-04-17 13:14:28
Link to this Comment: 5434

i'm just going to reiterate what i said in class because i think it is what this book is about:
sometimes things seem so meaningless that the roar of my inner voice drowns out people talking. I am charged with overwhelming questions...but in society I show a tip of myself, a thin crusting to cover the screaming, desperate questions. ((i initially had this as a generlized statement, but thought that it was to presumptuous to generalize...i only suspect, and hope that others are the same...that i am not a freak))
TS Elliot ((a god as of yesterday))speaks about the inability to write and be THE I around other people, "And indeed there will be time / For the yellow smoke that slides along the street / Rubbing its back upon the window-panes; / There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;".... "My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin- / (they will say: 'but how his arms and legs are thin!') / Do I dare / Disturb the universe?" The polar questions of: Do i dare disturb the universe and do i dare to eat a peach.
i haven't read far enough in the awakening to apply these thoughts perfectly.
sometimes i wonder why i put on this mask for YOU. maybe because the inside self is like the depths of the sea with the looming, primordial beings, and as the seas rolls on over these things, hiding them from view, i must grow a thick skin over my I and talk about michaelangelo.
"she turned her face seaward to gather in an impression of space and solitude, which the vast expanse of water, meeting and melting with the moonlit sky, conveyed to her excited fancy. as she swam she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself." BUT, she comes back because if she doesn't then she is unsteady amidst her inner loomings. she must place her feet back on steady land, and i must put on my mask every morning.
SHE doesn't dare to disturb the universe, she swims back...but what is it out there, within herself, that that gives her 'a quick vision of death'? is it What Pip saw? "the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. He saw god's foot upon the treadle of the loom." this self without the constraints of society? without the mask?
it is beautiful to think that the inner most part of ourselves, that part that if we swim out to....this part may be god's foot upon the treadle of the loom. that is a comforting thought.

swimming out
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-17 15:46:03
Link to this Comment: 5437

it is beautiful to think that the inner most part of ourselves, that part that if we swim out to....this part may be god's foot upon the treadle of the loom. that is a comforting thought.

The Quakers call this "the beyond that is within"; Emerson calls it the oversoul. See Perspectives in American Literature for more on Transcendentalism, such as

"A subtle chain of countless rings
The next unto the farthest brings...."

(from Emerson's essay "Nature")

Name: Barbara
Date: 2003-04-17 21:52:33
Link to this Comment: 5439

Tomorrow I'll start the second part of The Awakening, and see whether I can regain some of my early idealism on following one's own path and being true to oneself. I'm also writing about honor in my Shakespearean class and trying to sort out exactly what the word means. I can't quite reconcile it with totally abandoning one's commitments, even though the prospect seems most appealing at times. I see a lot of men who would also like to chuck it all, and follow their dreams. Very torn and wishy washy, as usual.

That yucky feeling I get from this book...
Name: kathy
Date: 2003-04-18 12:07:08
Link to this Comment: 5440

I expressed in class how much I did not like the book, but after class on Thursday I began to have an even better understanding of exactly why I am so uncomfortable with it. When we read a passage from the beginning of Chapter eleven, this was what struck me and had me feeling uneasy for the rest of the class time: "She would, through habit, have yielded to this desire; not with any sense of submission or obediance to his compelling wishes, but unthinkingly, as we walk, move, sit, stand, go through the daily treadmill of life which has been portioned out to us." And the reader is supposed to think "oooh... poor Edna!" When all I can think is... here is the rich, white woman... with all the money she could possibly want (not from her own personal hard work but from her husband or even possibly her husbands family)... she's not ill or physically suffering for food or any other necessities of life... her children are safe and healthy and rather neglected by their parents... and she disregards almost every person in her life all for the sake of her on self-centered sense of importance... I do not believe this would be any type of feminist awakening I would want to strive for. Obviously as a woman, I believe no girl should be repressed because of her sex. However, as a human being, I believe even more emphatically that no person should be repressed. Although I'm still trying to straighten out my thoughts and feelings regarding this book, hopefully that made some kind of sense of why these book is bothering me.

don't ead this if you haven't finishedthe book
Name: orah
Date: 2003-04-19 18:46:51
Link to this Comment: 5444

i just finished 'the awakening' is my fvorie book that we have read this semester.
i wrote in my previous posting that edna does not dare disturb the universe, and therefor she turns back to the steady shore, a place where she will not topple into the madness of solitude. but, at the end of the book she does swim out, presumably to her death. and i have to re-think what i said before. if she dies than she surely does not disturb the universe. so is it bravery that lets edna swim out to a place that is unknowable to the living?
i hope that edna swims out and finds another shore where she can leave footprints...that she does not die at sea. there are no footprints at sea..the sea rolls on over any indentaton that people try to make,there are no disturbances at sea.
i am the universe not just a large that any attempted indentationis are meaningless?
maybe denting the universe is the same as making footprints in the sand, soon they will be forgotten, washed away by wind and sea, but there is a diference between trying to make a difference at sea and making prints in the sand. somehow the sand is slightly more permanant. there IS a difference between the sea and the universe. thank goodness, that's a relief :)

Name: Samantha D
Date: 2003-04-20 14:50:37
Link to this Comment: 5445

I remain completely conflicted about this novel. I absolutely loved Kate Chopin's language in this book; it kept me turning the pages. Even when I didn't like what she was saying, I have tremendous respect for how she was doing it. I think that her style of writing is a huge part of what defines the Awakening as a great book for me. But, Edna achieved her "awakening" at the expense of so many other people, and I can't help thinking about how that defines her as a person. It seems to me that just because she was feeling discontented, she doesn't have the right to neglect the responsibilities she's burdened with. Thats why they're responsibilities, because if everybody simply abandoned them whenever they were feeling unhappy, the world would fall apart. Still, I love the idea of Edna as a woman reclaiming her life, and redefining herself as an individual. I think that its an incredibly romantic notion that a woman could live her life without any human ties, just relationships that make her happy. Basically, I've been pulled in opposite directions by this book, each with an equally strong effect. I hate edna as much as I love her, I admire her as much as i condemn her, and I pity her as much as I'm jealous of her.

The Awakening
Name: Barbara
Date: 2003-04-20 20:55:34
Link to this Comment: 5448

Have just finished the book, and am certainly enjoying the language and feeling of the book. However, her 'independent' relationships seem so shallow, almost girlish, like adolescent love. Perhaps that's because her awakening comes so late for her. I love her moments of aloneness, of getting alway from it all, particularly her finding a secret garden in which to drink coffee and not have any responsibilities in the world. I need to let it sink in for another week before making a final decision.

awakened, yet drowned!
Name: Natalie Ab
Date: 2003-04-21 10:37:41
Link to this Comment: 5450

Although I definitely love this book, I was struck by how blatant the ending is. I mean, comitting suicide while naked really leaves nothing else to say about the character's mental state! In a way it does not resonate very well with the rest of the novel, as it is mainly about the subtle changes that occur within oneself. Edna definitely "had" to die, as she was not able or willing to leave her situation, but I wish Chopin had made her death a little less cliche and blatant.

A good Awakening
Name: Emily
Date: 2003-04-21 14:48:57
Link to this Comment: 5453

After reading the fist half of the book I was stuck by the complexity and depth of the novel. I wasn't positive I liked the book because I felt that not much had happened. Now, after just finishing the novel, I feel much more satisfied. I agree with Barbra when she says Edna's relationships seem "almost girlish, like adolescent love." But I don't see it as a bad thing. Part of the reason why Edna was so dissatisfied was because she was not in love with her husband. Good for her for making her life more exciting and feeling that way.

I also agree with Natalie that the end of the novel was very predictable. The moment Edna read Robert's note I could tell it was going to happen, and I read the rest of the book very quickly to make sure I was right. When I read the scene where Edna swims out in the water earlier in the novel, it was so profound that I assumed some part of the book would come back to that. Although it's predictable, I think it was a satisfying ending. In reference to the e-mail, I think a good alternate ending would be if Robert called out to her from the shore and she kept swimming. It would give her a little added independence.

Name: Monica Loc
Date: 2003-04-21 20:51:36
Link to this Comment: 5456

I can't seem to find the first post I wrote for this forum. Oh well, I am sure it will pop up soon. As I said in class, I found Awakening a delight to read! I first thought of it as a romantic novel because of Edna's character and how she was having this side affair with Robert. I found that aspect exciting and sneaky! The thrill of Edna seeing Robert on the side and Edna wanting Robert even after he left for Mexico made me feel that this was a romance. After finishing the novel, I still think it was a good read but somehow the ending just seemed so predictable. I do not know why it ended with Edna committing suicide. On the other hand, I really have not thought of another way the novel would end. Maybe Leonce would come back and Edna would leave him for Robert or maybe Edna would continue seeing Robert and stay with her children. I do not know if Edna's suicide was meant to show her failure or success. Instead of running away somewhere and living alone, Edna thought of her sons and how they would be treated if she left. Edna did not want her sons to suffer a life that she ruined for them. Another way Edna's suicide can be seen is her rebellion towards the suppressed life she did not want to live. She refused to be tied down my Leonce. All she wanted was her independence.

Awakening Ending
Name: Jillian
Date: 2003-04-21 21:21:40
Link to this Comment: 5458

I love that Natalie and Monica asked us to come up with an alternative ending for Awakening since I think that is what Chopin intended her readers to do. I think the ending is ambiguous and am certainly not convinced that Edna dies. (Okay, I admit that all signs point to her eventually drowning, but still, that isn't certain.) I see her continuing to swim and finding herself on a different and unknown shore in a utopic egalitarian society (the awakening part II). Or I see Victor swimming out to Edna where he almost drowns and she is forced to rise to the occasion and swim back to shore with Victor thereby saving his life.
Edna DOESN'T die by the books end - although she may be on her way to death. She is surrounded by embodied freedom - the expansive ocean. The last word in the book is "air" which implies breathing. We leave Edna remarking on the "musky odor of pinks" filling the air. Is this her last breath? Or a final appreciation of air?
Also, the ocean seems to represent Edna's culture. It's hard for her to keep her head above water; its hard to move in; she's continually fighting against the current; she gets farther than she ever thought she could get (she was unfaithful to her husband) but in the end she has swum out too far from the save shore and she can't possibly find her way back. She drowns in her own dreams of freedom and awakes up to the realities only to find herself miles from shore.

Name: Samantha D
Date: 2003-04-21 21:26:42
Link to this Comment: 5459

I think that the ending of the Awakening was either a really great one, or a really disappointing one depending on how you interpret Edna's suicide. Her suicide could be viewed as her defeat, and thus, the subsequent defeat of the generation of women she's intended to represent. Arguably, Edna's suicide at the end could suggest predetermined failure for womens' awakening.
However, I also think that Edna's suicide could mean the complete opposite. Maybe Edna was representative of the constrictive society which was inhibbiting the "awakening," and Edna's physical death is synonymous with the proverbial death of this repressive society. Initially I was really disappointed with the ending because I considered it the ultimate defeat. But then I guess after a little bit more consideration the second interpretation also makes sense, and its much more optimistic. I think that this reading of the suicide changes the entire book. I didn't realize that I liked it until hours after I had finished it. I have no idea, it will be interesting what everybody has to say about it tomorrow.

I meant to post this last thursday
Name: Bernadette
Date: 2003-04-21 21:52:35
Link to this Comment: 5462

First I want to commend Maggie and Eric for leading what I thought was one of the best classes of the semster this past thursday. Your questions were inciteful and I thought they brought us to a better understanding of the book.
I haven't yet done the reading for tomorrow (i will i will) so this post will disrupt the chronology of the postings already up - sorry. I found Anne's description of the different, generational, readings of the book interesting and important to consider, however I do not agree much (if at all) with what I think was the most recent criticism which expressed the idea that the novel is a prtaryal of how privilaged white women built feminism on the backs of women belonging to minority cultures and races without sharing any of the gains of feminism with those women. Not that I don't see this as truth in reality - I find it hard to believe that Chopin had a clear intention of presenting this through her book.

Name: Maggie
Date: 2003-04-21 22:48:42
Link to this Comment: 5465

I wanted to post this earlier, because it had to do with class on Thursday and not so much about the ending, although I'm sure that we'll have a fruitful discussion about that as well.

While I was reading, I felt dissatisfied with the book for positing Robert as the "awakener". It seemed obvious to me that he had nothing to do with Edna's increasing consciousness. I tried to come up with other reasons, but couldn't find something that exactly triggered it. It did seem to me that learning a new way of self-expression encouraged her layers of self-discovery. For example, her exposure to the Creoles' openness as opposed to her reserve, learning to swim, and taking her painting more seriously.

For another class, I am writing about the homoerotic nature of some of Shakespeare's characters. I thought that maybe I was just stuck on reading novels this way, so I was relieved that Nancy posted early on about the eroticism between Edna and Adele. I don't think that Mademoiselle Reisz is a potential lover for Edna... However, the scene between them when Edna reads the letter from Robert, and cries, and Mlle. Reisz plays the piano- that has sexual undertones also!

I guess I was just glad that we all kind of agreed that Robert is a displacement for, if not Edna's passion for other women, her awakening that would have happened regardless of him.

Name: orah
Date: 2003-04-22 00:02:45
Link to this Comment: 5472

its late and i am a tree killer. i wrote a paper on awakening this weekend and went about revising it tonight. i started at about 8 and ended up rewritting the entire paper. and each time i print it out and proofread it i realize that i left out an entire idea and have to write in. I reprint. trees are being sucking into my printer. ideas come fast to me late at night and i wake up in the morning with fingers sore from speed typing. i always have trouble writing about books that i love. there is so much to say...and to think that i am expected to put all my thoughts into coherent words and paragraphs!
my point...tonight i found a striking similarity between little women and the awakening. little women is about jo's longing to be with others and the inability of this desire to be filled because people don't stay. the key to the awakening comes in the last pages, "there was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, LEAVING HER ALONE." edna strives the whole book to be different, alone, not a part of the community. and here she realizes that that's not at all what she wants, all she wants is to be loved. she has pushed everyone away and finally when she stands alone on the beach she realizes that all she wants is to be with Robert. There is nothing more tragic. the only thing she can do is swim out.

unintended effect
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-22 08:23:59
Link to this Comment: 5489

I didn't say, Bernadette, that Chopin had a "clear intention of presenting" feminism as the purview of priviledged white women. I don't think that was her intention @ all--I don't think Chopin was willing to confront racial issues. But I DO think that is the effect of the book, of the multiple passages in which Edna scolds "the quadroon for not being more attentive," or a young black girl "deposits the laundry" and quietly goes away, or is loudly instructed to do her duty. The pattern of nameless, faceless black and Hispanic women taking care of menial work, and so making Edna's liberation (or failed liberation, or ironic liberaion) possible, is an insistent one. With such women as the backdrop, the book becomes a liberation fantasy of the well-to-do, purchased by the labors of the working class. For more on this, read the essay by Elizabeth Ammons (included in the North Critical Edition of the novel) on "Women of Color in The Awakening, which explains the death @ the novel's end as the inevitable playing out of an "utterly individualistic and solipsistic white female fantasy of freedom..."

Name: Eric Seide
Date: 2003-04-22 09:28:32
Link to this Comment: 5492

If Chopin intended for the Awakening to encourage women to be free of their husbands and have a will of their own, I wish she could have found a more worthwhile ending. What if everyone went around killing themselves because they perceived that they couldn't get what they wanted? I found it a bit disconcerting that Edna's perceived awakening was totally ruined by the fact that Robert would not have her. This makes me question whether she really had an awakening or not.

Name: Sebastian
Date: 2003-04-22 09:30:35
Link to this Comment: 5494

I'm not really enjoying the first half of this book, it makes me feel unsettled and i'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly what it is that bothers me about it. I'm not sure whether or not I'm supposed to feel sympathy for Edna, sometimes I do feel bad forher because she is being controlled. Other times I don't feel sorry for her because she is selfish. Either way, I don't think pity is the right feeling for me to have for I don't think that would help her in any kind of "awakening".

The second half
Name: Sebastian
Date: 2003-04-22 09:38:48
Link to this Comment: 5495

After being unsure about the first half of the book, now that I've finished it I know why I didn't like it. Edna is selfish and stereotypical. In my opinion she is just a crappy person and so I feel no connection, sympathy or even recognition of her "awakening". To me, her suicide at the end simply indicates an admittance that the "awakening" she thought she was experiencing was just a harmful bout of selfishness. Still, I think she had no good reason to take this last course of action and all it resulted in was further selfishness on her part, because she leaves her husband alone and her children without a mother.

yay awakening!
Name: Kati Donag
Date: 2003-04-22 09:47:27
Link to this Comment: 5496

I loved this book! "How strand and awful it seemed to stand naked under the sky! how delicious! She felt like some new-born creature opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known." How can writing this beautiful not be loved! The story kept me reading: was in displaced passion, who was a substitute for who, and why couldn't Robert let it happen? Last week there were comments on how Edna was not a sympathetic figure and many students couldn't get into the book because of that. Edna is great! If you want to read about an unsympathetic character get to know Nella Larsons' Helga Crane (Quicksand).

the not-so-trashy romance novel
Name: Mia
Date: 2003-04-22 09:53:47
Link to this Comment: 5497

I'm usually wrong on these sorts of ideas, however, I'm going to say it anyway. After finishing The Awakening (and enjoying it very much) I felt that it's almost like a muted "trashy romance novel". The damsel is young, vibrant, handsome, and if she can get other men than her husband, she does. It's thrilling to leave conventional ways behind of a hum-drum husband to seek something new and adventurous, to be selfish and deceptive. Not that I've ever read many bad romance novels to make a secure comparison, but it just seems like a housewife's read (nothing wrong with that)- only way more well written. It seems like that theme is there, but is on a more intellectual level.

I know most (perhaps all) will disagree,

PS - What also made the book very interesting to me is how I could relate on a few different topics and problems that Edna faced. . . .

rewriting the end
Name: ngoc
Date: 2003-04-22 20:16:39
Link to this Comment: 5498

i thought today's class was really fun. i really enjoyed it. i just have a quick thought about on some of the very optimistic and creative ending where Edna goes to Europe, gets to have all the affairs and does whatever she wishes to do... well, i cannot imagine that such thing would happen...and if it does, i am not sure if Edna would be as happy and satisfy as we expect...considering that she ran away from her problems. being in a new place, starting a new life in europe does not ensure everytning go as she hopes--it also depends on how women are being treated/viewed in Europe...if they live within a similar structure/expectation/society as the one Edna left behind...then doesn't matter where she goes, she will always end up feeling as helpless and hopeless.

geographical cure
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-22 22:07:09
Link to this Comment: 5500

yes, ngoc, this is what in alcoholics anonymous is called "the geographical cure"--the idea being that wherever you go, you take yourself (and your problems) w/ you. just moving cures nothing...

and mia: can you tell us more about what makes The Awakening "more intellectual" than the other novels w/ which it shares a plot line?

you are right, not wrong, to identify that pattern, for there are MANY versions of this tale in the literary canon: think not just "a housewife's read," but, oh, everything from Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter through Flaubert's Madame Bovary to James's Portrait of a Lady. Eric also mentioned to me today the similarity of Chopin's novel to D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers.

What other, more modern versions of "sensuous awakening" can the rest of you think of?

sensual writing
Name: orah
Date: 2003-04-22 22:48:19
Link to this Comment: 5501

ooohhh, yeh! this is my favorite game.
here is one of my favorites, by zora neale hurston from "their eyes were watcing god"...
"Janie had spent most of the day under a blossoming pear tree in the back-yard. she had been spending every minute that she could steal from her chores under that tree for the last three days. That was to say, ever since the first tiny bloom had opened. It had called her to come and gaze on a mystery. From barren brown stems to glistening leaf-buds; from the leaf-buds to snowy virginity of bloom. It stirred her tremendously. How? Why? It was like a flute song forgotten in another existence and remembered again. What? How? Why? this singing she heard that had nothing to do with her ears. The rose of the world was breathing out smell. It followed her through all her waking moments and caressed her in her sleep. It connected itself with other vaguely felt matters that had struck her outside observation and buried themselves in her flesh. Now they emerged and questioned about her consciousness.
"she was stretched on her back beneath th pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! she had been summoned to behold a revelation. Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid."
it goes on an on....everyone should read it;)

Name: Maggie
Date: 2003-04-23 10:32:39
Link to this Comment: 5503

First, I just want to say that I think our conversations, in class and online, about The Awakening have been great. Almost everyone's comments are insightful and different. In comparison to some of the other books that we've read this semester, The Awakening seems to have invoked the most varied responses. Maybe some of us liked Little Women and some of didn't, but even the way we read it was similar. Maybe the sign of a good book is the number of different reactions and conversations that can be held regarding it? I feel like we would all be able to keep talking about this one for a little bit longer, because we haven't come close to touching on everything in it.

I really enjoyed hearing different takes on Edna's awakening. Mia (I think?) thought that the men, without trying to, triggered her changes, which was interesting because I had completely dismissed her relationships with them. I was also very intrigued by the fact that the men were there to foil her quest for independence. (Although I didn't read it that way, this may be my favorite interpretation yet.) Some of us disapproved the way she abandoned her children, others thought she had abandoned them long ago and it made little difference.

I agree with Mia that it does seem to have the plot of a trashy romance novel, but I imagine them with more twists in the plot and a happy ending (and more sex).

And their are so many opinions about the end! As for Jillian's reading that she didn't die, and that Chopin meant for us to come up with alternate endings... I don't know HOW she got that! = ) I think I read it as Edna mostly being an aimless drifter, and finally just drifting out to the ocean to die, half consciously, half unconsciously.

I feel like this story is a pretty standard one, and I'm looking forward to talking about contemporary versions on Thursday. Hopefully the conversation about it will be as fruitful as the other ones we've had about the book.

Name: Jillian
Date: 2003-04-23 20:46:58
Link to this Comment: 5507

Okay, I just wanted to clarify what I said in my posting and in class on Tuesday. I'm not saying that I think Edna didn't die - I just think that the ending is a little more ambiguous than most people take it to be. I think its wrong to assume that she dies, because if Chopin wanted us to think she died, she would have been a little more specific in her choice of words. I understand that the language in that last paragraph or so seem to imply eminent death, BUT my point is that we never see Edna's head below water - we don't see her drown. For this reason, I think we should think twice before saying that she "definitely dies".

Edna Pontellier
Name: Margaret
Date: 2003-04-23 23:29:49
Link to this Comment: 5509

I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. Why? Well, for one, Chopin's writing in so descriptive that I couldn't help but fall in love with the text for its style. But, I also really believed that Edna's final decision was the right one. Chopin convinced me, through her details of Edna's interactions with other characters, that she was truly alone in "her" world.
Her suicide, I believe, was freeing; Edna decided to die because she felt that it was the ultimate inacting of her awakening. If she were to continue living in this affected world, she would be miserable, and still alone. The sea was an invitation for her to free herself from these feelings and duties which society had previously placed on her.
The novel's end and scenes near the beach also reminded me of the poem "Dover Beach" by Arnold, because he explores the idea of the ocean and waves echoing loniliness, and that the sea is a metaphor for being alone.

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-24 00:04:07
Link to this Comment: 5511

Margaret's reference to Arnold's "Dover Beach" surprised me; do the rest of you know the poem? See A Selection of Poetry for the whole poem, or better--more generatively, I think--the link to a talk Paul Grobstein did for the Visual Cultures Seminar here two years ago, about The Brain's Images: Reflecting and Creating Human Understanding, which shows how our brains can paint the world in different hues and ends by illustrating the "downside" of that range of possibilities w/ "Dover Beach" and the "upside" w/ something by Paul Klee...

which reminds me of Natalie's observation that Edna was depressed...

Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-04-24 08:39:11
Link to this Comment: 5513

I have to say that I agree with Margret that it did seem as though she had nothing left and should swim into the sea. But it is times like those when the world seems empty and there is no where to turn that people have to be the strongest. The beauty that Chopin drew with her words in the ending scene made it sound enrapturing and extremely compelling. However, if we place it in a real world atmosphere, and not just in that which is held within a book. Is it so beautiful? Perhaps, it would have been more beautiful if Edna had picked up what little she had left in her life and tried to start anew. Yes, for the time period this seems unreasonable. In todays life it seems unreasonable as well because it takes many qualities that we don't believe that we have or don't have enough of. If edna had had a true faith in her self she would have believed that there was a way and that she would find her freadom and changed the ways that she was approaching life that were causing her some many problems. There is always the idea that edna was captured by the moment and blown away. I have to say that self control is quality that she should indeed acquire. The rest of the novel shows that self-control seems to been her main fault, and when it is her demise does it not show that she has not grown throughout the novel; rather she has become more encircled by her initial fault.

thursday's class
Name: kathy
Date: 2003-04-24 13:14:11
Link to this Comment: 5514

I definitely liked reading the two stories in class today. It gave you another perspective about a similar situation to Edna's. I felt more sympathy for the Helga character, perhaps because she did express some concern for her children and leaving them without their mother. And it was interesting to read about Bevel because it shows possible consequences to a detached mother such as Edna was. It was almost a relief to see these other perspectives.

Name: orah
Date: 2003-04-24 13:42:56
Link to this Comment: 5515

maybe it isn't human nature to be selfish, but rather a value so ingrained into the western psyche that it has become almost an innate trait. selfisness is nutured into american children.
but, i don't really beleive this. i think the only way of survival is to ensure ones own personal existence and the existence of one's children. ((maybe this is the ingrained american selfishness speaking for me.))I think the selfishness that american ingrains is a blindness to the rest of the world. edna does what she needs, ignoring everyone around her. if this story was writen from another culture, another psyche, maybe she wouldn't have had to commit suicide, but as an american woman i think (like margarett) it was inevitable that she die.

The Storm
Name: Barbara
Date: 2003-04-25 16:40:25
Link to this Comment: 5520

I was almost shocked to read The Storm by Chopin and felt it really belongs in True Romances. However, it does give one an idea of how difficult it would have been to give some sort of happy ending to The Awakening. Edna's suicide is the only ending that can make sense. The men she chooses are such lightweights, her art is not great and, although she is awakened by the sensuous atmosphere of the island, the lifestyle and lack of structure, the wonderful drifting and freedom that goes along with it, I think she understands that she is more "in love" with the idea of love than of actually loving Robert or anyone. She comes as close with Adele, however, when she leaves Robert to help in the birth. A great book, though, if it can produce all the fun times we've had talking about it.

the storm
Name: ngoc
Date: 2003-04-27 22:03:42
Link to this Comment: 5528

i thought the story was amusing in that it let us examine two different relationship/family ... in this way, it is so much more complicated then The Awakening. for edna, she has always felt disconnected/unsatisfied with her fam, her kids. but here, the women enjoy/love their family...yet they can be equally passionate about/allow themselves to indulge... what does this say about faith, relationship, trust, etc...??

Stories not centered on self
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-29 08:29:14
Link to this Comment: 5559

The conversation we were having @ the end of our last class, about the possibility of writing stories that don't have an "I" or a "self" at the center--the possibility that there might be stories of actualization that are culturally general, not individually specific (exs. given included Achebe's Things Fall Apart, some Native American fictions such as those by Sherman Alexie....this possibility forms an interesting backdrop/introduction to Whitman's "Song of Myself" as well....)

Anyhow: all this is being pursued (in VERY different, less accessible language!) by the Neurobiology and Behavior course that some of you are also taking now. See

Hmmmm ...
* Noticing the "gap" ...
Katherine: As it is, we realize that we must deal with the gap within our own brains (between the I-function's reality and the nervous systems's reality), just as we must deal with the eternal gap between different human minds ... The whole situation though reminds me of the final lines of Milton's Paradise Lost, where the two characters walk away from us, and "...hand in hand...took their solitary way."

and learning to value it? Maybe free will and other forms of "getting it less wrong" in there?

* Noticing a problem in the conception of the "I-function"
Zunera: staying close to family, helping with the care of the elderly and the youngest, and being reliant on one another are ways of living. Does this make those societies incapable of free will? Is that why whenever we see women at home, bearing children, helping their elders, all "against their will" in other countries where women are likely to stay home, where they feel that having a reliability on another human is not such a crime, we cry, "repression!" ... Our views can be due to social conditioning. Society determines just how much importance should be placed on self-action and control.

Is possible (more than) that "I-function" misnamed (by me [Paul Grobstein]) because of "social conditioning" (mine). Doesn't affect evidence for all done without knowing one is doing it (unconscious), but does suggest a more general (and culturally influenced) mode of function for what "knowing" involves ... is a narration (story) but may well need not necessarily have "I" at the center (Julian Jaynes, Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind).

short stories
Name: Maggie
Date: 2003-04-29 15:41:42
Link to this Comment: 5567

I tried to post this last night, but I had severe (but thankfully, temporary) computer problems. I'm not sure if anyone else has Chopin's short stories in their versions of The Awakening, but I highly recommend reading them. A few things I have noticed:

Almost all of them have the theme of unhappy women, or lovers who can't get married. Sometimes, the women end up happy, sometimes they don't. This theme is so prevalent... I think the claim made by most of Chopin's short biographies that her marriage was happy is highly suspect.

Also, the "trashy romance" story we read is a sequel to "The 'Cadian Ball", which causes me to question Ngoc's assertion that Calixta enjoyed/loved her family. When Calixta accepts Bobinot's proposal, she says: "You been sayin' all along you want to marry me, Bobinot. Well, if you want, yet, I don' care, me." Talk about a happily wedded wife, right?

And, if anyone has the chance to read "Charlie," I thought it was fascinating in comparison to Little Women. Charlie is the second born of seven sisters in a family without a mother, and she is set up to be even more boyish than Jo was. There are plenty of similarities and differences in their characters, but of course, they both settle down in the end.

Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-30 14:36:13
Link to this Comment: 5581

Sam's just recommended to me a website she thought I might find useful "next year": Excerpts of Interviews made during the Production of Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening." I thought it might actually still be of interest to a number of you THIS year; it has interesting commentary on Chopin's impetuousness, her burial in a Catholic cemetery, her relationship to modernism and feminism, her treatment of Black characters, her view of the soul and her support of slavery....

last thoughts?
Name: Julia
Date: 2003-04-30 19:51:40
Link to this Comment: 5589

I found that I really enjoyed reading The Awakening. The narrative was fun and also instructive of another time of living as a woman. I found that although Edna's exact way of living is very outdated, seeing how women once coped with life is good for the modern reader. The text shows that although many things in life have changed, including most social interactions, there are still many changes still to come. Men and women are still not completely equal in all aspects of society or family life. The setting has changed, but not all of Edna's problems have disappeared in the time since her conception.

barometer/final chapter
Name: Phil
Date: 2003-05-14 13:48:57
Link to this Comment: 5659

I noticed a surprising discrepancy between the opinions expressed in the barometer and the final chapters we came up with. Everyone, including myself, who placed Edna in the 'selfish' category devised scenarios in which she ran away from her problems, which is still akin to committing suicide, only less extreme. Even those who said that she was selfish and a terrible mother for abandoning her children produced concluding chapters in which Edna ventured to Europe or utopian islands. I think that the reason this occurred is that Edna cannot simply return to her mundane, restricted life at the end of the novel. Writing a mere addendum to the novel is insufficient; the novel would have to be entirely rewritten to redeem Edna from her 'selfishness.'

good intentions
Name: kati
Date: 2003-05-14 14:46:05
Link to this Comment: 5668

Here is the (delayed) posting on what Nancy and I had hoped to touch on during our discussion, but never got around to:

I wanted to explore questions I was left asking after reading the modern interpretations that we selected. Here are some excerpts from my correspondance with Nancy before the class.

I really liked The River, it works so well with the Awakening Text and I
think it even works well with the final chapters of Quicksand (i.e. issues
of religion, class, gender...hahaha, I sound like our syllabus...)

So, here are some of the ideas popping into my mind at the moment: What
is the duty of a woman, mother, wife in these different time periods? have
they changed (through the peices and in the present)? Were/Are they
valid? Is there a perceptible difference between selfishness and self
preservation? (that's one I've been thinking of a lot during the class
conversations and while reading) And other issues along those lines.

I think that looking at Helga Crane as an Edna-esque character creates an interesting dilemma. Helga wanted to escape and to change, just as Edna did, but the pull of Helga's maternal duties proved too strong and while she had hoped that she could escape her home and take her children with her, she couldn't. Everytime I read that final chapter of Quicksand I'm just sick to my stomach with depressing feelings. I hate that this happened to Helga, and even though I don't like Helga as a person or even as a literrary character I still tear up when I find out that she's pregnant yet again. Trapped. So after the modern interpretations I'm left with all kinds of unpleasant and sticky questions like is it better to be dead or to be absolutely trapped and miserable? I haven't come up with an answer yet

Name: Sebastian
Date: 2003-05-15 12:48:33
Link to this Comment: 5685

I feel taht I should clarify upon a post I made earlier, as Nancy brought to my attention that it was unclear. Ok, maybe stereotype wasn't the word i was looking for (i was tired and
feeling unimaginative). And what i think i'm trying to say by calling her
crappy is not really a criticism of her thoughts and feelings but more so
her actions based on those feelings. i think everybody thinks similar
thoughts to hers at some point or another (wanting independence from
societal expectations and pressures), sometimes i even question why i am at
school thinking that i'm doing this just because "it's what you're supposed
to do after high school" and because my parents make me. There are also many
times when i get into moods just like edna where i'm thinking only about
myself, ("Why should i be nice to other people when they're not nice to
me!"). However, instead of running with my initial feelings and impulses i
make myself take a step back and try to examine things from a different
perspective (doesn't always work, i still piss people off sometimes). I call
her "crappy" because i dont' think she acts rationally and simply works on
those impulses no matter what the results. Also, she doesn't seem to want to
take responsibility for those actions. This ends up in hurting others, which
i don't like. I do realize that there is a fine line between doing what is
right for you and think about other people, but from personal experience of
being on the short end of that stick i tend to dislike those that run with
the side of personal satisfaction. Oh, now i think i know what i meant about
the "stereotype" comment; i think the feeling i got from the book was that
the way Edna acts (which i don't like) was supposed to be ok and that the
book was trying to paint this as an objective of feminism. like that this is
what feminism is about and that's the way women should be and that's what i
didn't like (mainly because i don't believe it's true).

Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-05-16 09:04:30
Link to this Comment: 5697

The awakening most definatly is not only a women's book. It explores the ideas of self exploration. In some way it seems that most people feel bound to this earth. That might be because we don't have wings attached to our backs or huvor boards as in Back to the Future. Chopin touches on the idea of human nature that seems to bind us all. She speaks of the moments when the famale feels trapped as I am sure males do at times. She continues on with the idea of marital relations that call for more than a womens perspective.

Name: Taka Kawan
Date: 2003-05-16 16:24:48
Link to this Comment: 5715

I think we've had a wonderful discussion since we started reading The Awakening. I've enjoyed reading the novel, fascinated by the beautiful lines and the description of fancy life. The ending was a disappointment for me, although it was predictable, and I was little troubled calling her action as "Awakening." I think the decision to commit suicide is nothing but abandoning all the responsibilities she had (whatever that may be), and cannot be just applauded per se as the "liberation from restriction." The "Awakening" of women takes place within the society, and as long as they participate in the society people have to take responsibilities in many levels, and thus killing herself is just escaping from the society and she can no longer enjoy "free world". If going to heaven is the ultimate "freedom", it really reminds me of the idea by John Lock, that slaves can liberate themselves because they can kill themselves, and it really disgusts me. I am personally not comfortable with the ideas of going to heaven as the ultimate destination, and whenever death is glorified in the novel, I get really troubled.
Nevertheless, I interpreted the novel as an initial driving force of the feminism (I'm no expert, so I'm only speculating.) This extreme example may have promoted women of that time, not to kill themselves, but to think about their lives, desire, etc.

Name: M
Date: 2005-02-03 21:22:18
Link to this Comment: 12500

Chapter 7
Why did the women go to the beach?

| Serendip Forums | About Serendip | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 11:57:32 CDT