Wolff’s View on Feminine Sexuality in Chopin’s The Awakening

Wolff’s View on Feminine Sexuality in Chopin’s The Awakening

Length: 676 words (1.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Wolff’s View on Feminine Sexuality in Chopin’s The Awakening


In her essay “Un-Utterable Longing: The Discourse of Feminine Sexuality in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening” Cynthia Griffin Wolff sees the lack of a language—for Edna Pontellier’s sexual desires in particular and female sexuality in general—as the main theme in Chopin’s novel. She particularly looks at how issues of sexuality remain unsaid in the novel, or how they are expressed in a different way, because of the lack of a language of feminine sexuality. As Ross C Murfin points out in his introduction to this essay, Wolff combines several theoretical perspectives such as feminism, gender studies, new historicism, psychoanalytic criticism, and deconstruction (376). Wolff introduces her thesis in her initial discussion of the opening passage of The Awakening stressing the fact that the parrot has no language of its own. She remarks that “there is a sense of enigma (or fraud) about this bird who seems able to communicate but is not” (376). Similarly the main character Edna Pontellier can’t communicate her needs.

The first part of Wolff’s essay is a six-page assessment of the image of women current at the end of the nineteenth century showing the lack of a language for intimacy and sexuality. She looks specifically at the work of William Acton, an author widely read at the time. According to him women didn’t have sexual feelings of any kind; hence he saw no reason to talk about those issues. Wolff criticizes that this false image of women as a-sexual beings created by writers such as Acton also mislead the men of that time in their perception of women. Wolff argues that a “vernacular of ‘motherhood’” (386) replaced the missing language of intimacy and sexuality. In this context she refers to the passage when Léonce comes home, Edna rejects his advances, and instead of reproaching her of neglecting her marital duties, he blames her for not taking care of the children. Léonce turns the disappointment of the rejection into a reproach of neglected motherly duties.

According to Wolff, the true subject of Chopin’s novel, “may be less the particular dilemma of Mrs. Pontellier than the larger problems of female narrative that it reflects; and if Edna’s poignant fate is in part a reflection of her own habits, it is also, in equal part, a measure of society’s failure to allow its women a language of their own” (388).

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Wolff’s View on Feminine Sexuality in Chopin’s The Awakening." 123HelpMe.com. 10 Dec 2018
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=25998>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

What Is God 's View Of Sexuality Essay

- Like many people in our time, Christians are studying and discussing issues related to human sexuality over many years. What is God’s view of sexuality. How are the pressures from a broader culture and the development of technology affecting God’s role in regards to human sexuality in tomorrow 's society. These questions arise from our own desires as Christians to reflect a biblically sound attitude towards sexuality and relationships. That same desire to act according to biblical scriptures is subject to opposition from today’s culture and views about sexual relationships, gender, and roles....   [tags: Sexual intercourse, Human sexuality]

Research Papers
1940 words (5.5 pages)

Feminine Sexuality in The Storm Essay

- Kate Chopin's short story 'The Storm'; describes an encounter of infidelity between two lovers during a brief thunderstorm. The story alludes to the controversial topic of women's sexuality and passion, which during Chopin's time no one spoke about much less wrote about. So controversial was 'The Storm,'; that it was not published until after her death in eighteen ninety-nine. The story is broken up into five sections, each filled with small clues and hints that reflect her message. In short, Kate Chopin's 'The Storm'; is about a confirmation of feminine sexuality and passion and a rejection of the suppression of it by society....   [tags: Kate Chopin]

Research Papers
710 words (2 pages)

A History of Sexuality Essay

- Unlike sex, the history of sexuality is dependant upon society and limited by its language in order to be defined and understood. In his paper which is called Is There A History of Sexuality, Halperin drew a distinction between the topics of sexuality and of sex. He claimed that the two concepts are separate ideas. In Halperin's view, sex is a natural function that has not changed in many years, if ever at all. He says that sex “is a natural fact, grounded in the functioning of the body, and as such, it lies outside of history and culture” (Halperin 416)....   [tags: Sexuality ]

Research Papers
1957 words (5.6 pages)

Powder by Tobias Wolff Essay

- Powder Powder, a short story written by Tobias Wolff, is about a boy and his father on a Christmas Eve outing. As the story unfolds, it appears to run deeper than only a story about a boy and his father on a simple adventure in the snow. It is an account of a boy and his father’s relationship, or maybe the lack of one. Powder is narrated by a grown-up version of the boy. In this tale, the roles of the boy and his father emerge completely opposite than what they are supposed to be but may prove to be entirely different from the reader’s first observation....   [tags: Powder, Tobias Wolff]

Research Papers
814 words (2.3 pages)

The Rich Brother by Tobias Wolff Essay

- The Rich Brother by Tobias Wolff Works Cited Not Included Tobias Wolff's short story, "The Rich Brother", is a parallel story to the biblical fable of Able and Cain. The biblical story of Able and Cain is that of the first story that puts man against man. Cain and Able are children of Adam and Eve, where Cain is the eldest and Able the younger of the two. In the biblical story Cain and Able end up giving gifts (sacrifices) to appease to their God. This in turn, creates tension between the two because Able's sacrifice of the lamb is much favored by God than is Cain's offering of his crops....   [tags: Rich Brother Tobias Wolff Essays Papers]

Research Papers
873 words (2.5 pages)

Feminine Sexuality and Passion in Kate Chopin's The Storm Essay

- Feminine Sexuality and Passion in Kate Chopin's The Storm        In Kate Chopin's short story The Storm, the narrative surrounds the brief extramarital affair of two individuals, Calixta and Alcée. Many critics do not see the story as a condemnation of infidelity, but rather as an affirmation of human sexuality. This essay argues that "The Storm" may be interpreted as an affirmation of feminine sexuality and passion as well as a condemnation of its repression by the constraints of society.             If one is to attempt to interpret The Storm, it becomes necessary to examine the conditions surrounding the story's genesis....   [tags: Kate Chopin Storm Essays Papers]

Research Papers
2339 words (6.7 pages)

Hunters in the Snow by Tobias Wolff Essay

- Is society too egotistical. In Hunters in the Snow, Tobias Wolfe gives an illustration of the selfishness and self-centeredness of humankind through the actions of his characters. The story opens up with three friends going on their habitual hunting routine; their names are Frank, Kenny, and Tub. In the course of the story, there are several moments of tension and arguments that, in essence, exposes the faults of each man: they are all narcissistic. Through his writing in Hunters in the Snow, Wolfe is conveying that the ultimate fault of mankind is egotism and the lack of consideration given to others....   [tags: Tobias Wolff ]

Free Essays
871 words (2.5 pages)

The Rich Brother by Tobias Wolff Essay

- The short story, "The Rich Brother," by Tobias Wolff represents the same concept that everyday people all over the world encounter. This portrays how having siblings can be an enormous part of a persons life. The rivalry between siblings is often very competitive, but at the same time similar to magnets. When they are not connected it may seem they are independent and whole, but when examined closely it is obvious they are really relying on each other to function properly. Although Pete and Donald's life are separate and completely different, they are in fact very dependent on each other....   [tags: Sibling Rivalry, Rich Brother, Wolff]

Research Papers
1101 words (3.1 pages)

An Analytical View of Say Yes by Tobias Wolff Essay

- An Analytical View of Say Yes by Tobias Wolff "Say Yes" is an emotional sorry of love and its pitfalls. The husband loves his wife dearly but fails to really know that all she wants to hear is affirmation of her proposal of love despite the racial undertone involve. The Husband does not come to the realization of this concept until the end of the story when he accepts the proposal and puts forth the effort to "make it up" to Ann The story begins around dusk, one evening in a non descript kitchen on El Camino Street in some unnamed American ghetto....   [tags: Papers]

Research Papers
665 words (1.9 pages)

Essay about Tobias Wolff's Writing

- Tobias Wolff is a strange writer whose work is "so absolutely clear and hypnotic that a reader wants to take it apart and find some simple way to describe why it works so beautifully"(Tobias Wolff, This Boy's Life [back cover]). Although sometimes taking place in such foreign locations as Vietnam, Wolff's stories are predominantly based on banal situations and people. The magic in his writing though is the fact he draws the reader into the story at all times. He does so by connecting his characters and their conflicts to the reader, be it through quirks, qualities or quandaries....   [tags: Writer Author Wolff]

Free Essays
1400 words (4 pages)

Related Searches

This statement implies that Wolff thinks that women were forbidden (“not allowed”) a language of their own. In the course of her essay, however, it remains unclear if she argues that a feminine language of sexual feelings didn’t exist at the time or if it did, but was “forbidden.” Her initial argument that there is a lack of language for certain “things that can be neither thought nor spoken because they do not have a name” (377) implies that she believes such a language did not exist. However, when Wolff later argues that Edna “has gained the courage to speak a forbidden discourse” (391, emphasis mine)her statement indicates that there is indeed a language, a forbidden one. Edna finally claims this language for herself “in hope of inventing a new kind of narrative” (391. Thus Edna faces not a lack of language, but a lack of a narrative.

In my opinion a language, or vocabulary, to express feminine sexuality existed at the time, but it was indeed forbidden, or rather women had not yet claimed it as their own, so sexual feelings had to be expressed by a discourse of, in Wolff’s words: “denials, oversights, prohibitions, exclusions, and absences” (377). Wolff concludes saying that even if Edna Pontellier failed, Kate Chopin has succeeded in creating a female narrative: “Kate Chopin had invented a powerful […] discourse for female sexuality” (393). Chopin neither invents “names” nor a “language” to create this discourse (or narrative), she rather finds other ways to tell the story of a woman’s sexual feelings. Wolff’s argument, though informative, remains inconclusive in the end because of her imprecise use of the terms “language,” “discourse,” and “narrative.”

Return to 123HelpMe.com