Hi, guys! It’s a good thing this month’s book club pick was so short because we’re mixing things up a bit for May. I’m about to head to the biggest work event of my life where I’ll sleep four hours each night, live off energy bars and coffee, and be responsible for way more than my 23-year-old brain can comprehend. In short, it will be amazing!
Since I won’t quite have my head in the literature game then, I figured it would be best to push our discussing a bit early, so let’s get into The Awakening, shall we?
Kate Chopin was born on February 8, 1850 in St. Louis, Missouri, a long way from the bayous of Louisiana in which she would set most of her fiction. Her father was from Galway, Ireland (a place that holds a fond place in my heart), but she was most heavily influenced by her mother’s side of the family, especially her French-speaking great-grandmother. It seems to me that growing up so close to three generations of women did a lot for her ability to portray the many facets of women’s lives and identities.
When she was only twenty, Kate married Oscar Chopin and moved to New Orleans where they became very involved in the local life of the area, and thank God they did because Chopin’s descriptions of the Louisiana culture feel so real and honest. She had six children before her husband died and left her with a pretty large amount of debt. In the next year, she had an affair with a married farmer, moved back in with her mother in St. Louis, and started writing short stories for a living. (You’ve probably heard of The Storm, and if you haven’t, you should go read it now!)
Chopin published The Awakening in 1899, and it garnered all sorts of negative publicity. We were originally going to read this book in September for Banned Books Week, but I realized that while it was censored, this novella was never actually banned. Why was it censored, you ask? Chopin focuses on the tension between women’s outward existences and their inner lives, and this didn’t always mesh with the ideals of polite society. Plus the whole women’s sexuality thing didn’t go over so well. In fact, when Chopin passed away from a brain hemorrhage in 1904, her novella wasn’t really considered at all thanks to all of the negativity surrounding it. Instead she was known as a writer of short stories, and her feminist masterpiece wasn’t acknowledged for what it was until later in the twentieth century. Luckily for us, Kate Chopin and her most well-known novel have since been given the respect that they deserve!
And as always, a few hot questions from my reading of The Awakening.
- What is the significance of how Edna earns her money?
- Is Edna a bad mother?
- Why do you think Chopin included a childbirth?
- Although it was never banned, why do you think The Awakening was censored?
- What did you think about Chopin’s portrayal of the various men in the book?
- Whose was the main love story?
- How did you feel about the ending of The Awakening?
Join me back here on Wednesday for Book Club Classics, and don’t forget to bring all of your friends! Also, there’ll be a link up for all of you bookworms to get some eyes on your posts about The Awakening or any other classic books you’re currently loving.