This week I am using The Awakening by Kate Chopin and yes, I shamelessly used a picture of my own copy for this post because it's stunning. If ever a cover design was perfect, then this is it. All the praise goes to Rafaela Romaya for that.
First published in 1899, this beautiful, brief novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banished for decades afterward. Now widely read and admired, "The Awakening" has been hailed as an early vision of woman's emancipation. This sensuous book tells of a woman's abandonment of her family, her seduction, and her awakening to desires and passions that threated to consumer her. Originally entitled "A Solitary Soul, " this portrait of twenty-eight-year-old Edna Pontellier is a landmark in American fiction, rooted firmly in the romantic tradition of Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson. Here, a woman in search of self-discovery turns away from convention and society, and toward the primal, from convention and society, and toward the primal, irresistibly attracted to nature and the senses "The Awakening," Kate Chopin's last novel, has been praised by Edmund Wilson as "beautifully written." And Willa Cather described its style as "exquisite, " "sensitive, " and "iridescent."I knew I would find this book interesting but I didn't know it would be quite as moving and stunning as it was.
'A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over: "Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That's all right!" He could speak a little Spanish, and also a language which nobody understood, unless it was the mockingbird that hung on the other side of the door, whistling his fluty notes out upon the breeze with maddening persistence.
Mr. Pontellier, unable to read his newspaper with any degree of comfort, arose with an expression and exclamation of disgust. He walked down the gallery and across the narrow "bridges" which connected the Lebrun cottages one with the other. He had been seated before the door of the main house. The parrot and the mockingbird were the property of Madame Lebrun, and they had the right to make all the noise they wished. Mr. Pontellier had the privilege of quitting their society when they seized to be entertaining.' p.1-2What I love about this beginning is that Chopin decides to confront the archetypal image of the caged bird from the very beginning. The parrot's words, roughly, means 'Go away' while 'Sapristi' means something like 'Goof heavens!'. The beauty of using parrots in books is that the reader knows that this bird will have picked up those phrases in and around the house. What I enjoyed most myself is the 'maddening persistence' of the mockingbird. He will keep whistling his tune until he can't anymore and doesn't stop for anyone. Although it's not exactly foreshadowing, it is definitely a theme in the book.
'He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.' p.142-3I know I shouldn't really pick a teaser but rather find one at random, but I simply love the quote above. One of the things that was interesting about The Awakening was that Chopin didn't pretend that Mrs. Montpellier would find "herself" or even find any kinds of answers once she started to discover herself. Rather, there is a constant struggle within Mrs. Montpellier and within the novel, and it is for this very reason that The Awakening is utterly fascinating.
The review for this book will be something along the lines of this post as well since I really loved this novel. I can totally see how it has remained one of the classics for so long. So, what are you teasing with?