University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Kate Chopin’s The Awakening can be read as a courageous piece of fiction as it promoted values that conflicted with standards of accepted “lady-like” behavior. The novel rejected social conventions and contradicted many 19th century expectations of women and their “supposed roles.” Chopin wrote at the height of the first wave of the women’s movement struggle, a time in which the demand for “rights” for women was still in its infancy. The Awakening is radical in its treatment of motherhood as it questions the assumptions that childbirth and childcare are a woman’s principal vocation. By shattering the illusion that giving birth is a glorious experience, Chopin attacks the patriarchal structure which denies women control over their bodies. The Awakening can thus be classified as a “feminist” novel written by an author who is considered to be a forerunner of the feminist authors of today. The protagonist, Edna Pontellier’s rejection of the institution of motherhood and family signal moments of aporia in the novel, and highlights the status of the female individualist who tries to break free of entrapping society. Thus the present paper is an endeavor to study The Awakening as a bildungsroman, and examine how the myth of individualism accommodates the aspirations of women. This paper will attempt to interrogate issues of this emerging female (feminist) individuality and self-definition. An attempt will be made to redefine the birth motif as a metaphor for the “rebirth” of Edna Pontellier (and by extension Kate Chopin) as an artist, who is progressing towards a new self-definition.
Births, Artists, Women, Individuality