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Thread: The Awakening - Kate Chopin

  1. #1
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    Jan 2008

    The Awakening - Kate Chopin

    What do you think of the ending of the novel? Is it a "release" or a "cop out?"

  2. #2
    Registered User HotKarl's Avatar
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    Nov 2007
    While it's been a while since I read the novella (I can't even remember the protag's name), I do remember thinking that her death was kind of a cop-out. I can understand her resentment of male-restriction and the role of "mother woman," but her suicide is still irresponsible and selfish--kids need their mother, even if that mother likes to hand parenting duties off to the help (which I think speaks to her self-indulgence).

    Plus, I'm not so sure that I would call her suicide a "release." I thought her suicide made a different statement: women have little to no control over their own lives; therefore, suicide is the only true escape from male control. Talk about a despondent theme.

    Even though I think the protag's suicide is a cop-out, that doesn't mean I think the novella's ending is poor or that the text is bad. Sure, her suicide was a way to weasel out of her problems, and said suicide did leave her children motherless, but the protag never wanted the role of wife/mother in the first place. Obviously she longed for independence. But how likely was that in 19th century Louisiana, a place where women are supposed to be porcelain doll "southern belles?" The protag didn't have much agency--that's for sure. Did I agree with the protag's decision to whack herself? No. But was her return to the place of her "awakening" the correct ending for the book? Absolutely. Good book.

  3. #3
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    Oct 2007
    This is another book that I read many years ago and recall reading that it was considered pornographic in its time because of its feminist theme. Society was so prejudiced back then that it could not tolerate the idea of a woman who thought for herself and who attempted to live a free life. Thus, an unnatural death was probably the only ending that the audience would have accepted back then.

    May I recommend that you read Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets? Related theme with tragic ending --- perhaps the only type of ending society would have accepted in that era.

  4. #4
    fairies also read^^ Mrs. Dalloway's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
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    I don't think it's a cop out and I disagree with Hotkarl on saying that she's selfish because their kids need her. I don't think she's selfish. I see her as a very brave woman, who doesn't have another way-out. For me, the only possible ending to her situation was commiting suicide and precisely it is because of her children. It's for them that she does it and she reflects it very well at the end of the novel. Obviously they need their mother, but in what way? How can a woman without freedom and willing it, be really a good mother? She says at the end of the novel that she loves her children but they're an obstacle to her freedom ('antagonists'). Even if she separates from her husband, the children are still there.
    And I also see another aspect here. The aspect of nature and the way she suicides, and how it's described (from the very beginning there's the symbol of a bird). In chapter XXXVIII, she talks with the doctor and the topic of Nature comes up. She completely disagrees with Nature and with what nature has done with women, and curiously the Doctor supports her. Does anyone see a contrast here? A contrast between what they say about nature and the way she dies. She awakes, she's 'a new-born creature', she's able to challenge the sea now even if she dies doing it, which was something she was not able to do some time before!

    She may be selfish. But she's selfish with a society that has not taking into account her and women in general. She must choose between slavery and freedom and she definitely chooses freedom.

    I definitely love that character and that novel.
    "De primer van foradar-me les orelles
    i de llavors ençà duc arracades.
    No prengueu aquest bosc per una alzina."

    Maria Mercè Marçal

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