The Awakening

The Dual Nature of Epiphanies and Independence in The Awakening College

In his Sources of the Self, Charles Taylor writes of the epiphany, by which he means the “notion of a work of art as the locus of a manifestation which brings us into the presence of something otherwise inaccessible” (419). Epiphanies occur in ordinary events that mean more than what they appear. Authors use these sudden moments of realization to reveal the significance of their stories. In her 1899 novel The Awakening, Kate Chopin centers her narrative on several epiphanic moments of the main character, Edna. Some of these moments inspire and empower Edna, but others drive her to hopelessness and despair, leading to her eventual suicide. By illuminating the dual nature of epiphanies, Chopin, in turn, illustrates the dual nature of independence, both its glittering possibilities but also its dangers. In terms of the novel, independence is not something to entirely embrace or reject: we must be aware of its dual nature.

Before Edna awakens to the possibility of gaining independence in her own life, she must first recognize the realities of her oppression. In the beginning of the narrative, Edna and her husband Leonce have an argument over whether one of their children has a fever. Edna believes that the child is fine, but Leonce...

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