The Awakening

Passing for Privilege: Exposure of the true self in Chopin's "The Awakening", Twain's "Pudd'nhead Wilson", and Chesnutt's The Wife of His Youth College

"This above all- to thine own self be true, /And it must follow, as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man” (Hamlet, 1.3.154-56). As Shakespeare so eloquently wrote, finding oneself is the key to truth. This idea is a prominent theme in Kate Chopin's "The Awakening", Mark Twain's "Pudd'nhead Wilson", and Charles Chesnutt's The Wife of My Youth through different facets of identity and society's reaction. Chopin's "The Awakening", Twain's "Pudd'nhead Wilson", and Chesnutt's The Wife of His Youth all address possibilities and limits of accepting aspects of one's gender, race, and class identity in relation to 19th century United States society.

In Chopin's "The Awakening", the main identity struggle is between sexuality and independence against traditional female roles in 19th century Louisiana. Exposed to female gender expression in Creole culture, Edna Pontellier realizes that expression and identity are not limited by social rules. Edna has suppressed her true self, conforming to the identity expected of her since childhood. "Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the...

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