Chopin’s The Awakening (1899) has distinctively achieved critical acclaim for its literary importance as well as for its thematic concerns, and it is celebrated for the specific emphasis on the issues concerning women. Though it took a long time to achieve public attention, The Awakening touched the nerve of many readers through the time, and the stimulating ending of the novel, along with the exceptionally sumptuous imagery, demands concentrated efforts of critical analysis and literary appreciation. In this paper, a profound analysis of the characteristic literary elements of the story such as the plot, characterization, style, symbolism etc is emphasized in order to conclude on Chopin’s concerns for women’s issues that are specific to her period.
In the modern literary analyses, various critics consider Kate Chopin as the precursor of feminist writers of the 20th century, and her novel The Awakening is able to point up this claim. A profound analysis of the novel in its various literary elements establishes the novelist’s particular concerns for the cause of feminist issues. Her protagonist Edna Pontellier is the best epitome of the novelist herself who puts forward categorical ideas of feminist issues and treats the issues of women in the most distinctive way. In the novel, one finds the harmony of feminist voices along with the most sophisticated ideologies through Pontellier’s voice. According to Bauer, Chopin’s novel simultaneously articulates the socializing norms of the Creole community and the conflicting gendered voices. She plays on the typical encoding of woman-as-mother in her relation to the hero. in fact, Chopin turns this romantic structure on its head, creating in Edna’s fragmented voice a denial of the ideologeme of the mother- woman. (Bauer, 1988, p 129-30). At the primary analysis of the novel’s feminist concerns, one notices the fragmented voice of the protagonist, and the faltering quality testifies to the strength of cultural code. The protagonist, opposing the cultural and social norms of the period, also contests the ideology of motherhood and creativity. In fact, Chopin is successful in playing out the difference in the orchestration of voices in the novel. Therefore, a reflective analysis of The Awakening substantiates the view that Chopin is the precursor of the modern day American feminist writers and the literary elements in the novel helped the novelist in the most effective conveyance of her ideologies.
It is deeply illumining in this critical analysis of the novel The Awakening to undertake an investigation of the important literary elements such as plot, characterization, style, symbolism. The plot of the novel deals with the life of the upper-middle class white woman Edna Montpellier who reflects Chopin’s feminist ideologies. The Awakening, as Justin Wintle suggests, is a story of both cultural and sexual conflict Edna’s romantic illusion is irrevocably linked with both sensuous awakening and with her discovery of will and identity. Wintle, p 118-9). She is married to the Creole elite of New Orleans, Lonce Pontellier, who provides the best contrast to her feminist spirit. Though Edna is the mother to two children