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Showalter’s Analysis of Chopin’s The Awakening Essay

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Showalter’s Analysis of Chopin’s The Awakening


In “Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book,” Elaine Showalter makes a compelling argument that “Edna Pontellier’s ‘unfocused yearning’ for an autonomous life is akin to Kate Chopin’s yearning to write works that go beyond female plots and feminine endings” (204). Urging her reader to read The Awakening “in the context of literary tradition,” Showalter demonstrates the ways in which Chopin’s novel both builds upon and departs from the tradition of American women’s writing up to that point. Showalter begins with the antebellum novelists’ themes of women’s roles as mothers—especially the importance of the mother-daughter relationship—and women’s attachments with one another and then moves to the local colorists of the post-Civil War who claimed male and female models but who wrote that motherhood was not a suitable partner for the true artist. According to these women writers, a woman had to choose to be either an artist or a wife and mother; one negatively affected the other. The literary history then delves...


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