Vintage Vision: Affairs, Louisiana, and Swimming REVIEWING The Awakening

It has been 3 years and 8 months since I last did a Vintage Vision post. I think its time we bring that back and talk about some more classics. Every month, I'm going to aim to have at least one Vintage Vision post, so we can cover some classics, apart from Shakespeare, of course. 

Today, we're bringing back Vintage Vision with: 

The Awakening

Author: Kate Chopin
Genre: Classic
Year: 1899

The Awakening


The Awakening, originally titled A Solitary Soul, is a novel by Kate Chopin, first published in 1899. Set in New Orleans and on the Louisiana Gulf coast at the end of the 19th century, the plot centers on Edna Pontellier and her struggle to reconcile her increasingly unorthodox views on femininity and motherhood with the prevailing social attitudes of the turn-of-the-century American South. It is one of the earliest American novels that focuses on women's issues without condescension. It is also widely seen as a landmark work of early feminism, generating a mixed reaction from contemporary readers and critics. 

The novel's blend of realistic narrative, incisive social commentary, and psychological complexity makes The Awakening a precursor of American modernist literature...


I have read a lot of books for school, be it grade, undergrad, or graduate. This was not one of them. Last year, I was walking around Barnes and Noble with my boyfriend and happened to overhear a girl around my age say this to her companion: "THIS ONE. This is the WORST novel I have ever had to read for class. I hated it." Now, I overheard this and my curiosity was piqued, because I always wonder what books students hate and why. I wonder if it is because they didn't connect with it, if the teacher didn't teach it well (this has happened to me before), or if it was genuinely not a good book. I continued to listen until I was able to get the title and author and decided that I would read it myself to see what she was talking about. 

Having read this book, I can see how it could divide people in many ways. This is the story of a woman who is married with children, who finds she is becoming increasingly unhappy with her station in life. Edna Pontellier falls in love with a young man who is not her husband, she wishes to make more decisions for herself, and she rebels in the ways she's best able to, while still being restricted by the opinions of those around her, and strict societal expectations for women and couples. At times she wishes to pursue art, at others she seems to want to be on her own, and occasionally she just seems to not know what she wants. Ultimately, she does make a decision, and whether or not you agree with it, it is definitely a choice. 

So I won't spoil the ending for anyone who is curious about the book, but I will say that it is definitely controversial from different perspectives. One reason it is controversial is because of when it was written. This book does not abide by societal norms of the time, and even now similar constraints apply to it. Although, today, women are more free to seek their own pursuits and lifestyles and make decisions, so if it were told in a contemporary context, Edna would have had more options available to her. Additionally, the ending can be seen as a release, of sorts, in terms of the freeing of oneself, or it can be seen as a cop out. It can be seen as a bad decision or as the only decision she had. It all depends on how a reader perceives it. Personally, I disagree with it, but I can see how she thought it was the only choice left to her and I also understand that the state of my freedom as a woman is very different from hers and the author's, and therefore, so is my perspective. 

This brings me to what I like best about this book, which I already mentioned. That is: how many different ways it can be read. I think that this would be a great college read, because I think that the potential it has for discussion in a literary course is extremely high. There were so many points I found myself thinking and wondering about. I read different reviews and comments after completing it and I saw so many different opinions and views, and it was mentally exhilarating to me. 

Even people that disagree with the protagonist can find something to contemplate here. For example, what is it that led her to those choices and what other reasons are there to dislike her? Is she totally unlikable, or is she a character we disagree with but can sympathize and empathize with. I think that people get too carried away with if they LIKE a book because it agrees with them in all ways, that if something annoys them, they don't face it head-on as a means of thinking about why that is. I think Edna can be very childish and act immature at times. I think she is a bit rash, but I also think her story is an important one to tell and read. We can be uncomfortable or disagree, without hating a story. Once going a few years ago, I may have had the same opinion of this novel that the girl in Barnes & Noble had about it. Now though, I see that it is possible to like a story or book, without liking a character or the outcome, so long as it is written well. I truly liked this book, although I think Edna is a very unlikable character. We don't agree with villains most of the time, but their stories still fascinate us. Edna is by no means a villain, but my point is, agreement does not make a good story. 

This book provides a window to the past. It exists in a time where women are limited by their relationships to men and they have very little independence. It shows the difficulties women faced in older times that weren't so very long ago. It shows the strain on women unable to fully develop their own identities outside of their expected roles and social status. It is very insightful and is written beautifully. There is a lot of description, not just of the settings, but the people around Edna. We get to see portraits of these people in the ways they present and express themselves, as well as who they spend time with and what activities they do. I had fun exploring an older Louisiana and a getaway island. I recently went to Louisiana, so it was neat to see a new part of it and an older version of it through this book. 

Overall, this book is controversial and not always likable in its subject matter and main character. However, it's a great book for making the reader reflect and consider the difference in how things are from how they used to be. It is great if you want to spend some time in a different, though still relatively contemporary world, and don't mind lengthy descriptions about details that build the scene. I thought the writing was excellent and I enjoyed having so much to think about. This book won't be for everyone, but I do recommend it in general. I give The Awakening a Lone Star rating of  ✯✯✯✯

This concludes another review here at The Real World According To Sam, where I bring the books straight to your screen and even put in my own two cents about them. See you at the next review!