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The Awakening (Norton Critical Editions)

The Awakening (Norton Critical Editions) (Paperback) by Kate Chopin (Author), Margo Culley (Editor)

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This Second Edition of a perennial favorite in the Norton Critical Edition series represents an extensive revision of its predecessor. The text is that of the first edition of the novel, published by Herbert S. Stone in 1899. It has been annotated by the editor and includes translations of French phrases and information about New Orleans locales, customs, and lore, the Bayou region, and Creole culture. "Bibliographical and Historical Contexts", expanded and introduced by a new Editor's Note, presents biographical, historical, and cultural documents contemporary with the novel's publication. Included are a biographical essay by the acclaimed Chopin biographer Emily Toth, "An Etiquette/Advice Book Sampler" with selections from the conduct books of the period in which Chopin lived and wrote, and period fashion plates from Harper's Bazar. A comprehensive "Criticism" section, introduced by a new Editor's Note, contains expanded selections from hard-to-find contemporary reviews of the novel; two letters of mysterious origin written in response to the novel; and Chopin's "Retraction," which followed The Awakening's negative reception. These are followed by twenty-seven interpretive essays, twelve of them new to the Second Edition, that provide a variety of perspectives on The Awakening, including essays by Cynthia Griffin Wolff, Nancy Walker, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Paula A. Treichler, Sandra M. Gilbert, Lee R. Edwards, Patricia S. Yaeger, Elizabeth Ammons, and Elaine Showalter. A Chronology of Chopin's life and an updated Selected Bibliography are also included...


5 out of 5 stars quietly submersed, December 30, 2000

By Jonathan J. Casey (the twin cities) (REAL NAME)    

Kate Chopin's "The Awakening" is the classic novel about women that "Madame Bovary" purports to be but isn't. It's not just a "woman's" novel, though, it perfectly (and poetically) captures the inner life of a solitary person who is forced to live for the sake of others. And while this has been a distinctly female position for a large part of Western history, it is a position that can be identified with by just about anyone in our current age of employee internet-use monitoring. This is a twentieth-century tale of discomfort with and reaction to antagonistic surroundings. For those of us who don't feel the need to procreate in an overpopulated world, Edna's (and presumably Chopin's) discomfort with children will make sense. For those of us who may not always know exactly what we want out of life, this story will strike a chord.

Kate Chopin's writing is deliberate but not labored. She is particularly successful at depicting ambiguity in a way which is highly descriptive and communicative. This is a skill which I can't praise highly enough, and it culminates in an ending which is absolutely perfect. While criticism could be raised against "The Awakening" as another apology for the suicidal artist, Edna's literal and symbolic escape is less pretentious than Harry's in "Steppenwolfe," nor as indecipherable as that of any of Joyce's creations. Kate Chopin's novel is truly a classic in the sense that it should be a part of any survey of American literature. The Norton Critical edition is the best way to go, too, with helpful biographical information and literary criticism. If you want a more enriching experience with this novel, I'd highly recommend this version.

5 out of 5 stars Awakening Opens Eyes, May 17, 2004

By Saralee Terry Woods "" (nashville, tn United States) (REAL NAME)    

Saralee says

The Awakening is a part of many required reading lists and is also a fashionable choice for book club discussions. Why is this novel that was written more than 100 years ago relevant today?

During the 1890s, if you were a part of the well to do Creoles of New Orleans you spent your summers at Grand Isle - a resort for those who could afford it. Edna Pontellier is there with her husband, their children and their servants. As the story opens, Pontellier is on the beach with Robert Lebrun and her husband is deciding whether to dine with his family or if it would be more socially beneficial for him to spend the evening at his club. We soon learn that appearances and social position are what matters most to Pontellier's husband and as long as she abides by those rules, she will get along just fine. When she decides not to abide by the rules, the story becomes interesting and the book significant.

Kate Chopin was one of the first to write about women outside of their mandated roles as satisfied domestic companions. She boldly wrote about what a woman feels like who discovers sexuality and independence and it was courageous for her to write this book. Pontellier was raised as a Presbyterian in Kentucky and it was on a whim that she married her husband who was part of the Creole Catholic establishment. Her character enjoyed taking risks but was heartbroken with the consequences.

What did you think about Pontellier's relationship with her children? Was she selfish or bold by putting her needs first? What do you think she did that offended society most? At what age should someone read this book? How did you feel about Pontellier's last act of defiance? Did her character win or lose? Why did this book end Chopin's promising career as a writer? I recommend reading a text of The Awakening that includes both the context and criticism. The context will help you understand what all of the French phrases mean and also explain Creole society and the background in which the story takes place.

Larry's language

The Awakening is all about Edna Pontellier and her moral, sensual and personal growth and development. This 1899 novel by Kate Chopin is very modern in its tone and in its honest treatment of human feelings and emotions. While proper society in the 1890s was still very Victorian in its outlook and pronouncements, its citizens were human to the core, as Pontellier demonstrates.

She is trapped in a dull marriage in New Orleans in a social climbing, status seeking family where - instead of summering in the Hamptons or a mountain retreat - she and her husband and their servants vacation at Grand Isle. Like a good husband in that society, he leaves Pontellier each week to return to the city to make money. While he is gone, she enjoys the company of the other families in a social setting where rigid rules govern the proper behavior and emotions that may be expressed regardless of true feelings.

Pontellier's social rules instead are far more like a modern country club environment where certain manners are demanded, at least in public, until the lights are low, drinks are flowing or the spouses are absent. For Pontellier, these rules rapidly give way to her expression of her inner desires and thoughts.

What are the boundaries for an individual and for a society in the expression of personal desires? Was Pontellier only lusting in her heart or did she actually sin? Morally, is there a difference? Do you think modern authors like Erica Jong or John Updike treat sensuality and marital rules differently than Chopin?

This was a shocking novel in 1899 but today Pontellier's turmoil and dilemma would be neither unusual nor frightening and perhaps that is why modern man and woman usually succeed in handling these situations in a far better way than Pontellier.

5 out of 5 stars Perfect Edition, February 5, 2003

By Kerry B. Faler "kerrybee7" (Alberta, Canada) (REAL NAME)    

This edition of The Awakening is a beautifully compiled work. I found it incredibly insightful as I used it for research papers in high school and college. The essays and criticism from Chopin's era are priceless. It was so helpful to have those along with the text, they really gave insight one could not find elsewhere. The Awakening continues to be my favorite book, this my favorite edition. If you are going to write a paper on this book or Chopin there is no other book that will help you more.

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