by Kate Chopin
|"How strange and awful it seemed to stand naked under the sky! how delicious. She felt like some newborn creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known."|
Chopin's story tells the narrative of Edna Pontellier, a mother of two sons, and a wife to a wealthy Louisiana business man. Edna's story begins at a summer resort in Grand Isle, where she and other well-to-do Creole families spend their holidays. This is where she is first "awoken". She spends her days with Mme Ratignolle, an elegant woman who becomes Edna's example of self-expression. As well, Edna spends a great deal of her time with resort owner's grown son, Robert LeBrun. They pass days together at the beach, while her husband is distracted with business. Upon returning home to the city, Edna finds herself a changed woman - she takes up painting again, cancels all of her social obligations, and thinks of Robert all of the time. She goes where she wants whenever she pleases, and does things that satisfy her needs and wants. She is a free woman, emboldened by her sexuality and driven by her desires.
It should be noted that this story was published in 1899, by a woman writer brought up in the ordered society of St Louis. Her themes of empowered women, sex, and potential suicide were shocking to readers, as well as the manner by which she presented them. Chopin does not condemn Edna for her lustful wishes, or for her actions. She sort of makes excuses for them with her themes of solitude in the middle/ upper class, and the effects of rapturous love.
By today's standards, I wasn't shocked by Edna. I loved her. After her awakening that summer, she was bold and alive. She was a woman driven by her passions. Placing her in the context of her own time period, I loved Edna even more. She went against societal norms to find out who she was, and again to act exactly as she wanted to act.
I can see why Chopin's work is canonized as Classic, and is recommended to young women readers today.
♥ Meg xoxo