The Awakening Study Guide

The Awakening

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening follows the story of Edna Pontellier, a discontented housewife, who is vacationing with her family near New Orleans. While there she befriends Adele, whose womanly charm and contentment is in striking contrast to Edna, and Robert Lebrun, the man with whom she begins a romantic relationship. Through these relationships Edna begins to realize how deeply unhappy she is with her life as a wife and mother, but finds herself unable to find fulfillment because of society's constraints. A classic of modern literature, the novel explores women's role in society and the importance of self-expression.

  • Looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of property which has suffered some damage.
  • An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her with a vague anguish...like a shadow... a mist passing across her soul's summer day.
  • The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation.
  • Sometimes I feel this summer as if I were walking through the green meadow again; idly, aimlessly, unthinking, and unguided.
  • As she swam she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself.
  • She could only realize that she herself— her present self — was in some way different from the other self. That she was seeing with different eyes.
  • Edna wondered if they had all gone mad, to be talking and clamoring at that rate. She herself could think of nothing to say about Mexico or the Mexicans.
  • The present alone was significant; was hers, to torture her as it was doing then with the biting conviction that she had lost that which she had held, that she had been denied that which her impassioned, newly awakened being demanded.
  • She was moved by a kind of commiseration for Madame Ratignolle— a pity for that colorless existence which never uplifted its possessor beyond the region of blind contentment, in which no moment of anguish ever visited her soul, in which she would never have the taste of life's delirium.
  • "She says a wedding is one of the most lamentable spectacles on earth."
  • "Do you suppose a woman knows why she loves? Does she select? Does she say to herself, 'Go to! here is a distinguished statesman with presidential possibilities; I shall proceed to fall in love with him.' or, 'I shall set my heart upon this musician, whose fame is on every tongue?' or 'this financier, who controls the world's money markets?'"
  • "The bird that would soar above the plane of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth."
  • She had resolved never again to belong to another than herself.
  • There was something in her attitude, in her whole appearance when she leaned her head against the high-backed chair and spread her arms, which suggested the regal woman, the one who rules, who looks on, who stands alone.
  • "I've been seeing the waves and the white beach of Grand Isle; the quiet, grassy street of the Chênière Caminada; the old sunny fort at Grand Terre. I've been working with a little more comprehension than a machine, and still feeling like a lost soul."
  • All sense of reality had gone out of her life; she had abandoned herself to fate, and awaited the consequences with indifference.
  • There was no despondency when she fell asleep that night; nor was there hope when she awoke in the morning.
  • "You have been a very foolish boy, wasting your time dreaming of impossible things when you speak of Mr. Pontellier setting me free! I am no longer one of Mr. Pontelliere's possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. If he were to say, 'here Robert, take her and be happy; she is yours,' I should laugh at you both"
  • "And Nature takes no account of moral consequences, of arbitrary conditions which we create, and which we feel obliged to maintain at any cost."
  • "The years that are gone seem like dreams -if one might go on sleeping and dreaming- but to wake up and find -oh! well! perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all ones life."
  • She looked into the distance, and the old terror flamed up for an instant, then sank again. Edna heard her father's voice and her sister Margaret's. She heard the barking of an old dog that was chained to the sycamore tree. The spurs of the cavalry officer clanged as he walked across the porch. There was the hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air.
  • She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.

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