First published in 1899, this beautiful, brief novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banished for decades afterward. Now widely read and admired, The Awakening has been hailed as an early vision of woman's emancipation. This sensuous book tells of a woman's abandonment of her family, her seduction, and her awakening to desires and passions that threated to consumer her. Originally entitled "A Solitary Soul," this portrait of twenty-eight-year-old Edna Pontellier is a landmark in American fiction, rooted firmly in the romantic tradition of Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson. Here, a woman in search of self-discovery turns away from convention and society, and toward the primal, from convention and society, and toward the primal, irresistibly attracted to nature and the sensesThe Awakening, Kate Chopin's last novel, has been praised by Edmund Wilson as "beautifully written." And Willa Cather described its style as "exquisite," "sensitive," and "iridescent." This edition of The Awakening also includes a selection of short stories by Kate Chopin.
"This seems to me a higher order of feminism than repeating the story of woman as victim... Kate Chopin gives her female protagonist the central role, normally reserved for Man, in a meditation on identity and culture, consciousness and art." From the introduction by Marilynne Robinson.
Chopin's (1850-1904) The Awakening , whose heroine rejects her husband and children as she indulges in solitude and in an adulterous infatuation, was embraced by the women's movement 70 years after its publication. Although they pale in comparison to the novel, these stories, which comprise Chopin's third and last short-fiction collection, serve to flesh out the Chopin oeuvre and deserve a place on women's studies syllabi. As in The Awakening , the author's social critiques here demythologize women, marriage, religion and family. A women escapes ``the incessant chatter'' of other females at a party and retires to the male domain of the smoking room, where she puffs on hashish and dreams of a love affair torn asunder. The perverse Mrs. Mallard revels in her newfound freedom when informed that her husband is a casualty of a train accident and dies of a heart attack when he shows up alive. Her fiance is wasted by illness and reeks death, and a repulsed Dorothea bolts; elsewhere, a monk is lured by the voice of a woman, a former intimate. And in a twist on the plot of The Awakening , a husband, plagued by suspicions of his late wife's infidelity, casts himself in the river. Toth wrote the biography Kate Chopin. (Jan.)