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Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

19th century American author Kate Chopin wrote The Awakening, a kind of American version of Madame Bovary.

Book Review
The Awakening
by Kate Chopin
p. 1899

  The Awakening by Kate Chopin is often called the American Madame Bovary.  That makes her the fourth and last of the national Bovaries.  Let's see- you've got the original by Flaubert, the Russian Anna Karenina by Tolstoy and the German Effi Briest.  Although The Awakening is the only book of the four to be written by an actual woman there is nothing about it that marks off the presence of a female authorial voice.  The Madame Bovary of the awakening is Edna Pontellier, a bored New Orleans house wife of a wealthy Creole stock market guy.  Edna is unhappy, but she doesn't know why, oh, it must be her husband whom she decides that she no longer loves.

 It is impossible to read any of the quartet of national Bovary novels without reflecting on my own experience.  I have heard the words of Bovary/Karenina/Briest/Pontellier from the mouth of my own wife, and I've been through the marriage therapy sessions that these women lacked, so I am intimately familiar with the thought process that leads a woman from a "happy" marriage to an "unhappy" marriage without any assistance from a disrespectful or malevolent husband.  That is something that all of these protagonist's share in common:  A husband who doesn't "do" anything to merit abandonment.

After reading all four novels I am left with the abiding conviction that all four husbands make the same mistake of treating their wives with respect.  It seems like if all four of these characters had been treated with a bit less respect, they might have stayed married.  Perhaps they would have been unhappy, but they all seem to be pretty unhappy post separation as well, so it hardly seems like an unfair swap.

Guide to 19th Century American Literature

Book Review: The Awakening by Kate Chopin ,1899,  9/26/13
Book Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 1885, 10/15/13
Book Review: The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ,1880 , 7/16/13
Book Review; Ben Hur by Lew Wallace,1880  6/13/13
Book Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott,1869, 3/9/13
Book Review: The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne 1860, 9/19/12
Book Review: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 1852, 9/12/12
Book Review: The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne,1851, 5/30/12
Book Review: Moby Dick by Herman Melville 1851, 8/27/12
Book Review: The House of the Seven Gables,1851,  6/21/12
Book Review: The Pit and The Pendulum  1842, 3/28/12
Book Review: The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe, 1844, 3/27/12
Book Review: The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, 1839, 3/20/12
Book Review: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, 1826, 6/18/12

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