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LeBlanc’s Analysis of Sexuality in Chopin’s The Awakening Essay

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LeBlanc’s Analysis of Sexuality in Chopin’s The Awakening


Definitions are tricky things. Such is the conclusion of Ross C. Murfin in his attempts to spell out the major literary theories discussed in our text: "attempts to highlight the difference between feminist and gender criticism are inevitably prone to reductive overgeneralization and occasional distortion"(footnote p.226). Such is the conclusion of gender theorists in general in their pursuit of critiquing the traditional definitions of male/ female, masculine/ feminine, and heterosexual/ homosexual. Such is my conclusion in reading Elizabeth LeBlanc's attempts at defining and utilizing the notion of the "metaphorical lesbian" in her analysis of Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Tricky as they may be, however, definitions, at least in our efforts to formulate them, constitute our lives, our thought processes, and our discourse: Who are we? What is our purpose? What does it all mean? With this in mind, what are we to make of the "metaphorical lesbian" or of the "real" lesbian? Although I found LeBlanc's essay to be exceptionally interesting in its formulations and insights, after reading it I am, nonetheless, left with the feeling that her definitions have become so broad as to seemingly negate any tangible, differentiated meaning.

Within the essay, LeBlanc uses Bonnie Zimmerman's concept of the "metaphorical lesbian," Adrienne Rich's concept of "compulsory heterosexuality," and de Lauretis' rejection of a biological definition of feminine gender in reevaluating The Awakening as a lesbian text. In doing so, she defines Edna Pontellier as this "metaphorical lesbian" in that the character repudiates the societal "myth of woman," fosters "women-identified" experience, crea...


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...nature. As the novel progresses, Edna seems to pull away from her female relationships in that she stops receiving her women callers and even visits with Adele less frequently. Edna seems concerned with her sole self and its enrichment more than with forming and/or maintaining bonds with anyone else, except for maybe the male Robert. Even in regards to her sexuality, she appears to be more interested in the sexual feelings themselves than in who is creating them for her, such as with her indifference towards Arobin after their sexual interaction. In this light, perhaps Edna is more of a "metaphorical masturbator" than a "metaphorical lesbian." Regardless of Edna's metaphors, however, LeBlanc's metaphors in describing her are extremely inclusive in a way that leaves telling gaps. LeBlanc's "metaphorical lesbian" can thus be seen in actuality as a metaphorical nebula.


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