The Awakening by Kate Chopin is our fifth pick in the Read Great Books literature challenge. RSVP here to be a part of the discussion on this short novel on June 9. The Dover Thrift edition is just $3, and this kindle version is free.
The controversial novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin was published in 1899, to scandalous reception. Set in New Orleans, The Awakening is considered one of the first novels to deal frankly with the honest inner life of women, including their sexual desire. Upon publication, Chopin's hometown newspaper in St. Louis called the novel "poison" and "too strong a drink for moral babes."
At the time, women were still considered their husband's legal property in Louisiana. Divorce was rare, and infidelity wasn't talked about. People often reference The Awakening as one of the first true feminist novels, as the main character Edna suffocates and then rejects the societal norms of a "woman's place."
By the time she was 32, author Kate Chopin was widowed and the mother of six children. Her husband's death left her in debt and in charge of his small business in Louisiana. Falling into a deep depression, her doctor recommended that she should write stories as a way of healing. Chopin went on to write stories and essays and two novels, but was disappointed never to be fully accepted into the literary world.
After the initial outrage over the "un-ladylike behavior" in The Awakening, Chopin's work mainly faded away, and the novel fell out of print for decades. She died mostly unknown. In the 1960's, The Awakening was rediscovered and became a feminist landmark.