The Awakening

"The Awakening: The Function of Two Contrasting Settings"

In Kate Chopin's controversial novel "The Awakening", the protagonist, Mrs. Edna Pontellier, experiences a personal rebirth, becoming an independent, sexual, and feeling woman, shunning the restraints of the oppressive society in which she lives. This awakening happens on Grand Isle, a luxurious island on which Edna vacations in the summer. Following her awakening, she must return to her permanent home in New Orleans. Through the two settings (The Grand Isle and New Orleans), Chopin shows the reader the rift between Edna and her husband Leonce; this disparity ties into a larger theme of the difference between love and possession, and the contrast between freedom and oppression.

In the first chapter, the reader is introduced to Edna's husband, Leonce Pontellier, who is sitting on the porch while his wife swims with her young admirer, Robert. Leonce, a New Orleans businessman, is obviously out-of-place in the lush, relaxing atmosphere of Grand Isle. He is irritated by the sounds and goings-on around him, such as the Madame Lebrun's parrot and the Farival twins playing piano, and hardly seems impressed by the beauty of the land; rather, the narrator describes the young people playing croquet and the woman...

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