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According to Benjamin, or at least according to my Benjamin, as translated then taken from secondary sources that probably used him to their own ends, the novel is constructed along a trajectory he calls “homogenous, empty time” referring to the contiguous relation of characters and their activities to each other as a way of connecting their place in the narrative. There are quite a few examples of this in Kate Chopin’s Awakening, but the best is found on page 87 of Chapter XXII as the doctor is introduced into the text. And in one sentence, describing the doctor, Chopin outlines a way of reading her novel.
While in his garden reading, Doctor Mandelet is interrupted by Mr. Pontellier, who promptly reports his wife’s troubled mind, indicating that Mr. Pontellier himself has a troubled mind through lines like “it isn’t easy to explain” or “She’s making it devilishly uncomfortable for me”(88). These disclosures help to add a few more stenciled lines, deepening Mr. Pontellier, who is, through the course of the novel, made most noticeable by his absences. His character is marred by a dependency on social conventions and aristocratic pride that he cannot push the logic of the facts toward a conclusion that would require a rethinking of his way of life.
On page 87, when the doctor is first introduced he comes out of homogenous, empty time to enter the narrative. That is to say, his history and life are written into the novel as it collides with the drama of Edna Pontellier’s suicide. Thus the doctor supports the teleological structure of the novel that each character was there for a purpose in carrying out the book’s eschatology—the end of the narrative.
The doctor, the reader of the body, and as we find out the reader of the unconscious, enters the text reading. Before we find him reading, we are given a few details about his life: “He bore a reputation for wisdom rather than skill—leaving the active practice of medicine to his assistants and younger contemporaries—and was much sought for in matters of consultation”(87). As a character that facilitates a disclosure, the doctor—the reader— comes to know what we already know, as if the character in the book sought the reader’s help but the reader could not say. And it is very generous of Chopin to put her “reader” in such high regard.
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"The Role of the Doctor in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening." 123HelpMe.com. 15 Aug 2018
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