Book Review: The Awakening
The Awakening is a novel based on the life of a suburban woman, who is answerable to her husband for any and everything. Kate Chopin specifically relates to the feeling of being used as a possession (Chopin). A senseless, emotionless possession, which must be answerable to her spouse for any and every decision she makes. Below the various themes of this novel have been dissected in a piece by piece in order to fully analyze Ms. Chopin’s inspirational novel.
In times of old, women were simply thought of as ornamental decorations, which were present at various societal functions to add to the décor and stay out of meaningful conversation. They were made to be treated as possessions and had to conform according to the rules set out for them by their guardians or spouses alike.
When submitted to treatment like this for the whole of one’s life, one becomes dependent on this sort of dominance, and in turn becomes powerless to make one’s own decisions. The inability to perform of one’s own accord recedes in face of dependency and extreme lack of control. Free will fades into performance like a puppet adhering to the decisions of the puppeteer. The result is that the victim of dominance snaps and defiance emerges. The ultimate liberation is in the acts of disobedience. Defiance is a normal symptom of induced suppression. A common example would be the stretching of a rubber band, it’ll only go as far as its limit and then there will come a time when it is no longer flexible and must snap as the tension is too much for it to bear. The same goes for a victim of suppression she will only bend to the oppressor’s will as far as her limits allow, the minute that invisible line is crossed, her ability to obey recedes in face of a new composure, that is defiance and the will to disobey.
Ms. Chopin has referred to the fact that after defiance sets in, the victim looks for a way out, and the only outlet she finds is art, it is only here that she can escape to a world of utter freedom, passion and emotion. These were the sensations of which she was devoid before. Art provides temporary respite from the utter isolation imposed on her by the society and her spouse for her misdemeanors. She is left alone, with no one to turn to and the only escape is through the various colors of the Art world that entertain her, and fill her empty life.
The degree of isolation imposed on the victim is due to the fact that she fails to conform to the societal expectations, this may emerge from the need to rebel or simply from the lack of enthusiasm to submit once again to the biddings of an outsider, in this case the society as compared with the spouse in the first instance (Wyatt). Isolation at first leads to hopelessness, disregard and despair, however along with feelings of utter desolation a ray of light emerges at the end of what seems to be the longest tunnel on record. This ray of light is solitude that the woman embraces in order to cleave her mind of the attitude of disregard from her spouse and the society at large.
Finally an instance of fate triggers the affect of a complete awakening, like a butterfly from a cocoon; she finally realizes that the life she has been leading is devoid of any personal feeling of self respect and self care. She has always been devoted to her family while she herself falls into the depths of disrepair. It is only then that she realizes that life is too short to spend all of it in the happiness of others while completely ignoring her own needs and wants and desires. From this awakening arises a woman with new found hope, passion and the ultimate desire to live life to the fullest degree of happiness.
Chopin, K. The Awakening. Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
Wyatt, N. Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, and Local Color: The Literary Context of The Awakening. 1995. 24 March 2009 <http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/eng384/katemove.htm>.