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Edna Pontellier and Social Limitations in Kate Chopin's Awakening Essay

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         In discussing Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening, critic Susan Rosowski categorizes the novel under the heading of "the novel of awakening" and differentiates it from the bildungsroman, the apprentice novel, in which the usually male protagonist "learn the nature of the world, discover its meaning and pattern, and acquire a philosophy of life and ‘the art of living'" (Bloom 43). In the novel of awakening, the female protagonist similarly learns about the world, but for the heroine, the world is defined in terms of love and marriage, and "the art of living" comes with a realization that such art is difficult or impossible; the price for the art is often tragic endings. Rosowski calls this female awakening "an awakening to limitations" (Bloom 43). Rosowski's reading of the novel emphasizes the role gender plays in shaping a male narrative versus a female narrative. If read as a suicide, then Edna Pontellier's last swim is a consequence of her awakening to the limitations of her femaleness in a male-dominant society. But on a metaphysical level, especially from the Buddhist perspective, The Awakening's final scene can be seen as Edna's ultimate gesture in trying to grasp the essence of her being.
     In my research, I found no material that connects Buddhism with The Awakening. There are, however, some things written about the book based on Christian theology. The criticism is that Kate Chopin's novel glorifies extramarital sexual relationships, relegates humans to the level of amoral animals, and generally denies the supreme importance of Christian doctrines' role in one's life. While I shook my head at the idea that religion can be taken so seriously that literature is seen only under the narrow light that a god casts ...


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..., and first reincarnation. It is as if Edna is retracing her reincarnations to go back to the empty space from which her first attachments came and created her self. And thus we come to the end of Edna's spiritual journey.

Works Cited


Bercholz, Samuel, and Shearb Chödzin Kohn, eds. Entering the Stream: An Introduction to the Buddha and His Teachings. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1993.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Kate Chopin. Modern Critical Views. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening and Selected Stories. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.
"Nature." The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. 1993 ed.
Saddhatissa, Hammalawa. Buddhist Ethics: The Path to Nirvana. London: Wisdom Publications, 1987.
Schuhmacher, Stephan, et al., eds. The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1989.


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