The Awakening

Privileged Motherhood in Anna Karenina and The Awakening College

In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, the concept of privileged motherhood is introduced fairly early in the narrative: ““She stood watching the fair woman walk down the long line of galleries with the grace and majesty which queens are sometimes supposed to possess. Her little ones ran to meet her. Two of them clung about her white skirts, the third she took from its nurse and with a thousand endearments bore it along in her own fond, encircling arms. Though, as everybody well knew, the doctor had forbidden her to lift so much as a pin” (27). Emphasis mine. In the nineteenth century, the essentialist perspective in gender relations was prevalent. The best evidence for the dominance of the essentialist perspective can be seen in the fact that the first wave of feminism led by luminaries like Elizabeth Cady Stanton used the view that women were naturally more spiritual, generous and maternal as their main argument. This perspective idealized motherhood as the quintessential role for women. The “privileged mother”, the maternal figure in the most romanticized form, occupied a special place in nineteenth century literature.

The concept of the privileged motherhood required two factors – children and wealth. In the absence of both...

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