The Awakening

Edna's Victorian Womanhood

Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening, has borne a burden of criticism and speculation since its initial publication. While many past critics have chastised Chopin and condemned the novel for the portrayal of an adulterous heroine, modern responses are often inexorably concerned with drawing conclusions about the novel's inconclusive ending. Most modern critics have set aside moral considerations about Edna's adulterous behavior in favor of multitudinous considerations of the final scene of the novel: Edna's death. Readers want to know whether Edna's death was intentional. It is hard to escape dwelling on this point because the answer determines whether Edna has succeeded or surrendered. The reader seeks conclusion for satisfaction, yet this sought after conclusion is not given by Chopin. However, Chopin's failure to provide all the answers and her failure to give Edna lines of thoughtful explanation for her actions is not a fault, nor should it be a criticism of the novel. Whether Edna means to kill herself, whether she is reclaiming her authority over her life by taking it or whether she is simply giving up, is an important consideration, the author's simple answer to which would depress the...

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