Kate Chopin, The Awakening

In little touches so subtle that they could go unnoticed, Kate Chopin gives clues that will explain the story of the characters, especially that of her heroine, Ada: "Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions."
What I've been for thirty-three years, is here summed up in two lines! Well, that doesn’t seem like much, but it's a tower that we build ourselves and in which we lock ourselves up, and which it is very difficult to demolish. Why? Perhaps because we get so used to being locked up in ourselves, that we don’t realize it anymore that we are.
Why do we lock inside ourselves? The reasons are varied and personal to everyone.
How do we free ourselves? Not everyone does it. But those who do so, it’s above all because they have the desire, from the desire comes the will, from the will the strength to do it.
Mrs. Edna Pontellier has everything to be happy, at least that's what makes her believe the society in which she grew up, and the one in which she lives. She has a husband whom everyone likes and who seems to spoil her (materially speaking), two boys in good health, a well-off life.
What else could she desire when many women would like to have what she has, when Mrs. Ratignolle, who seems to have the same life as she, seems to be the happiest of women? Isn’t she an example to follow?

Yes, Edna has a husband that everyone likes; but does he love her, this husband? He likes the woman he wants her to be: a socially active woman devoted to his own image, a wife who is attentive to his own well-being, that is to say, to listen to him when he wants to tell her about his day at 11 pm although she’s already sleeping; a mother hen who should make clothes for her "little ones" in anticipation of the next season and spend her day watching their games on the lawn.
So why does Madame Pontellier cry? Wouldn’t it be because she wonders if she, Edna, has a life?
However, her husband offers her jewellery and sweets and makes her understand that he thinks she’s beautiful. But wouldn’t it be to buy her servitude?

This is certainly what Mary Wollstonecraft thought when she wrote:
« Ah! why do women, I write with affectionate solicitude, condescend to receive a degree of attention and respect from strangers, different from that reciprocation of civility which the dictates of humanity, and the politeness of civilization authorise between man and man? And why do they not discover, when "in the noon of beauty's power," that they are treated like queens only to be deluded by hollow respect, till they are led to resign, or not assume, their natural prerogatives? Confined then in cages, like the feathered race, they have nothing to do but to plume themselves, and stalk with mock-majesty from perch to perch. It is true, they are provided with food and raiment, for which they neither toil nor spin; but health, liberty, and virtue are given in exchange. But, where, amongst mankind has been found sufficient strength of mind to enable a being to resign these adventitious prerogatives; one who rising with the calm dignity of reason above opinion, dared to be proud of the privileges inherent in man? and it is vain to expect it whilst hereditary power chokes the affections, and nips reason in the bud.

The passions of men have thus placed women on thrones; and, till mankind become more reasonable, it is to be feared that women will avail themselves of the power which they attain with the least exertion, and which is the most indisputable. They will smile, yes, they will smile, though told that—

"In beauty's empire is no mean,
And woman either slave or queen,
Is quickly scorn'd when not ador'd."
But the adoration comes first, and the scorn is not anticipated. »

But Edna Pontellier wants maybe more than being her father’s daughter, then her husband’s wife, then her children’s mother : she’d like to be a woman, she’d like to be Edna.

But, let's leave aside, for a moment, the heroine and let's talk about author Kate Chopin and her little cultural references:
"At an early hour in the evening the Farival twins were prevailed upon to play the piano. They were girls of fourteen, always clad in the Virgin's colors, blue and white, having been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin at their baptism."
With such kind of allusions, one realizes that Kate Chopin had read François-René de Chateaubriand. For it is he who tells, in his Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe, that, as a child, he was dressed exclusively in blue and white because he had been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
Similarly, when one of the characters of reads the last book by the brothers Goncourt, it is doubtful that Kate Chopin, when she had gone to Paris, had certainly bought one or two books by Goncourts, in vogue at that time.

Personally, I don’t like the writing of the brothers Goncourt, nor the brothers Goncourt themselves ... besides, their novels have not passed to posterity! Hey, what! Telling what we think, from time to time, is acceptable, otherwise, instead of being called polite, one is called hypocrite.
Kate Chopin doesn’t only have literary curiosity, she also has humour, like when the aforementioned Farival twins play the piano, the parrot starts bawling:
"They played a duet from “Zampa,” and at the earnest solicitation of every one present followed it with the overture to “The Poet and the Peasant.”
“Allez vous-en! Sapristi!” shrieked the parrot outside the door. He was the only being present who possessed sufficient candor to admit that he was not listening to these gracious performances for the first time that summer."

Without transition, here is a passage that could never have been written by a male writer, and yet there are many that I admire; I will explain myself after the quote:
"She heard him moving about the room; every sound indicating impatience and irritation. Another time she would have gone in at his request. She would, through habit, have yielded to his desire; not with any sense of submission or obedience to his compelling wishes, but unthinkingly, as we walk, move, sit, stand, go through the daily treadmill of the life which has been portioned out to us."

That's what I talked about in my post blog To my Daughter. Edna Pontellier has always done what her husband wanted her to do, without question, by habit, it is a statement by Kate Chopin, it is a shade that a man rarely understand: the border between the obedience of the slave, and the will that we conceive little by little, day after day, to avoid big or small conflicts; but that brings with it a frustration of which we are not necessarily aware, but we drag this frustration sometimes a whole life and it prevents personal development, or it simply prevents us from being ourselves.

But back to The Awakening, the husband exhorts his wife, still in the garden, to come home, but:
"With a writhing motion she settled herself more securely in the hammock. She perceived that her will had blazed up, stubborn and resistant."
And here’s another excerpt that touched me like the first one:
"She had all her life long been accustomed to harbor thoughts and emotions which never voiced themselves."
When a woman starts asking herself questions, nothing can stop her, and Edna Pontellier won’t stop because "She began to look with her own eyes."
I have already said too much or not enough, but I still add that this novel touched me a lot, because I could say, reading this female author: I'm not the only one to experience certain things, others women also experience them, live them one way or another; and that's a good thing!

I just finished this novel by a woman who talks about women to women ... and men; he is magnificent!

The future is female.

Gabrielle Dubois©

#female #storyteller #women #word #thefutureisfemale


Link 2

Write a comment

Comments: 0