In “‘A Language Which Nobody Understood’: Emancipatory Strategies in The Awakening,” Patricia Yaeger questions the feminist assumption that Edna Pontellier’s adulterous behavior represent a radical challenge to patriarchal values. Using a deconstructionist method, Yaeger argues that in the novel adultery functions not as a disrupting agent of, but, rather, as a counterweight to the institution of marriage, reinforcing the very idea it purports to subvert by framing female desire within “an elaborate code [of moral conduct] that has already been negotiated by her society.” A reading of The Awakening that can envision only two possible outcomes for its heroine – acquiescence to her role as good wife/mother or “liberation” from the marriage sphere through extramarital passion – suffers from the same suffocating lack of imagination that characterizes the most conventional romance tale. Thus, Yaeger contends, Edna Pontellier’s extramarital dalliances with Alcée Alobin and Robert Lebrun are hardly “emancipatory” or “subversive” as critics such as Tony Tanner would see them.
Yet, according to Yaeger, The Awakening does deserve to be read as “one of the great subversive novels” and for reasons entirely unrelated to the plot mechanics attending Edna’s adulterous urges. A “real transgressive force” animates this novel, Yaeger argues, gathering a narrative momentum through its successive attempts to articulate a language that corresponds to Edna’s interior landscape, “a language which nobody understood,” as Chopin’s narrator says. While Edna may never possess this language nor delight in sharing its spoken cadences with another, the reader of The Awakening experiences a gradual liberatio...
... middle of paper ...
... to mind works written by subsequent generations of women novelists. One sees Chopin’s text straining toward, among other elements, the narrative innovations achieved in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and The Waves. One is also reminded of the “lyric” novels of the American writer Carole Maso, whose so-called experimental works typically eschew plot and conventional linear narration. In a recent book of essays, Maso admits that her erotic novel Aureole was “shaped by desire’s magical and subversive qualities,” she notes; “[desire] imposed its swellings, its ruptures, its erasures, it motions.” (Break Every Rule, 115). If contemporary authors like Maso are able to access such boundless spheres of narrative play, it may be due in part to the pioneering efforts of writers such as Chopin, who first began to articulate the need for such liberating spaces in the novel.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- A Deconstructionist Critique of Chopin’s The Awakening The multiplicity of meanings and (re)interpretations informing critical studies of The Awakening reveal a novel ripe for deconstructionist critique. Just as Chopin evokes an image of the sea as symbolic of Edna’s shifting consciousness (“never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude,”138), likewise the deconstructionist reading of a text emphasizes fluidity over structure: “A text consists of words inscribed in and inextricable from the myriad discourses that inform it; from the point of view of deconstruction, the boundaries between any given text and that larger text we call langua... [tags: Chopin Awakening]
523 words (1.5 pages)
- Wolff’s Critique of Chopin’s The Awakening The critical case study to the novel establishes a definition of a type of critical response, and then gives as close an example that fits that mode of criticism—BORING. First, the book has these forms of criticism laid out contiguously, as if they occurred only spatially and not temporally. This flattened and skewed representation of critical approaches, taking an argument out of its context (an academic debate) and uses it as if it were a pedagogical tool.... [tags: Chopin Awakening]
1174 words (3.4 pages)
- The Metaphorical Lesbian in Chopin’s The Awakening In “The Metaphorical Lesbian: Edna Pontellier in The Awakening” Elizabeth LeBlanc asserts that the character Edna Pontellier is an example of what Bonnie Zimmerman calls the “metaphorical lesbian.” It’s important to distinguish between Zimmerman’s concept of the “metaphorical lesbian” and lesbianism. The “metaphorical lesbian” does not have to act on lesbian feelings or even become conscious of herself as a lesbian. Instead, the “metaphorical lesbian” creates a space for woman-identified relationships and experiences in a heterosexually hegemonic environment.... [tags: Chopin Awakening]
617 words (1.8 pages)
- Understanding Wolff’s Analysis of Chopin’s The Awakening “Un-Utterable Longing” analyzes The Awakening from the diverse, yet overlapping perspectives of deconstruction, feminist/gender theory, new historicism, and psychoanalytic criticism. Much like Yaeger and Treichler, Wolff attributes Edna’s struggle and eventual demise to her failed search for a language that voices her (un)womanly desires. Wolff first adopts the new historicist viewpoint to situate Edna as a 19th-century southern woman, presenting a very real conflict between: the dominating values of her time and place; and her own innermost passions and needs.... [tags: Chopin Awakening]
857 words (2.4 pages)
- The Power of Painting in Kate Chopin's The Awakening The Awakening by Kate Chopin displays the struggle a woman goes through in order to break the current status quo. In this novel, Edna Pontellier releases herself to her deepest yearnings, plunging into an immoral relationship that reawakens her long dormant desires, enflames her heart, and eventually blinds her to all else. As she goes through these changes Edna involves herself in many different activities. Painting becomes one of her favorite pastimes and her artwork often depicts an important person in her life.... [tags: Chopin Awakening Essays]
1800 words (5.1 pages)
- Contradictory Impulses in Chopin’s The Awakening “Edna Pontellier could not have told why, wishing to go to the beach with Robert, she should in the first place have declined, and in the second place have followed in obedience to one of the two contradictory impulses that impelled her. A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly within her,--the light which, showing the way, forbids it,” (Chopin 34). The possibility of a life beyond the scope of motherhood, social custom, standards of femininity, and wifedom characterize Kate Chopin’s vision of her heroine’s awakening, but Edna’s personal growth remains stifled by her inability to reconcile the contradictory impulses pulling her in differen... [tags: Chopin Awakening]
532 words (1.5 pages)
- The Nature of Solitude in Chopin's Novel, The Awakening "The name of the piece was something else, but she called it ‘Solitude.' When she heard it there came before her imagination the figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the seashore. He was naked. His attitude was one of hopeless resignation as he looked toward a distant bird winging its flight away from him."(47) "All along the white beach, up and down, there was no living thing in sight. A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water...when she was there beside the sea, absolutely alone, she cast the unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and for the... [tags: Chopin Awakening]
828 words (2.4 pages)
- Edna and Conformity in Chopin’s The Awakening The passage of The Awakening which truly marks Edna Pontellier’s new manner of thought regarding her life revolves around her remembrance of a day of her childhood in Kentucky. She describes the scene to Madame Ratigonelle as the two women sit on the beach one summer day. The passage opens with a description of the sea and the sky on that particular day. This day and its components are expressed in lethargic terms such as “idly” and “motionless” and suggested a scene of calm sleep.... [tags: Chopin Awakening]
618 words (1.8 pages)
- Use of Imagery in Chopin’s The Awakening Several passages in The Awakening struck me because of their similar imagery—a bird, wings, and nudity. The first passage I looked at is in Chapter 9 where Edna Pontellier has a vision of a naked man “standing beside a desolate rock” (47) on a beach who is watching a bird fly away. This image was evoked by a one particular piece that Mme Ratignolle plays which Edna significantly calls “Solitude. ” Apparently Edna frequently envisions certain images while listening to music: “Musical strains, well rendered, had a way of evoking pictures in her mind” (47).... [tags: Chopin Awakening]
734 words (2.1 pages)
- Kate Chopin's Unorthodox Awakening The Awakening, written by Kate Chopin, was a book that was truly ahead of its time. The author of the book was truly a genius in her right, but yet she was seen as a scoundrel. At the time, it was "a world that values only her performance as a mother, whose highest expectations for women are self sacrifice and self-effacement." ( . ) The people of that era were not ready to admit or accept the simple but hidden feelings of intimacy or sexuality and the true nature of womanhood.... [tags: Chopin Awakening Essays]
603 words (1.7 pages)