Wendy (here_be_dragons) wrote,

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Further Thoughts on "The Awakening"

A few people over on 50bookchallenge expressed an interest in discussing this book a bit more when I posted a short review here, so I decided to share a few more of my thoughts, and see what others have to say.

I wrote: I was not happy about the ending, but also realised its inevitability fairly early on. I'm not sure what made me sadder - that there was no choice (in terms of the story) but for her to die, or the fact that I completely disagreed with the reason, ultimately, that her life ended.

First of all, it was clear to me, as soon as she "consumated" her relationship with Arobin, that she would not survive the book. I couldn't see any way that a book written at that time could have a woman express herself sexually like that and not be "punished" by death. ::sigh:: So, I considered that a given. However, I guessed that she would die as a result of something her husband did - that he would kill her, or have her committed and she would die as a result of treatment there (or something).

I was very disappointed at the way she ended up dying - taking her life in the way that she did. Well, not the way she did, but for the reason she did. I found her reasoning to be utterly skewed. Yes, I could understand that she felt there was no way she would ever be able to love and be loved in the way she wanted; in a way that would last. However, I think her reasons for believing this were built upon a fairly shaky foundation. She'd had some fantasies that didn't go anywhere in her youth, and one real fantasy/infatuation (perhaps even love) as an adult (with Robert) . . . and she was ready to throw in the towel? ::sigh:: That's being a bit overdramatic, I think. Yes, she was not in a great situation in terms of her options. And chances are she was right - she never would be able to experience a love that would last.

However, what really disturbed me is that *this* isn't the reason she gives for killing herself. She kills herself because of her *children*. This, I simply don't understand.

The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul's slavery fothe rest of her days. But she knew a way to elude them.

This really bothers me. I completely agree with her determination to not "sacrifice herself" for her children. I think that's an admirable goal, and one which requires the setting of boundaries. I'm a parent, and yes, my son has often seemed to want to take me over and "own" me completely. Of course he does, he's a child, and he doesn't have a worldview that's broad enough yet to see me as an individual distinct from himself. (He's just now starting to develop that, but I think it will still be a few years before he really "gets" it - that I don't "belong" to him). It's my job to make sure he doesn't take me over, deprive me of myself. (And there have been times when I really did feel "threatened," that his demands really were going to be "too much" for me to handle; that feeling always passes, though). The important thing here is to realise that just because he might *want* to at this stage of his life doesn't make him an antagonist seeking to drag my soul into slavery. (It also doesn't mean that I need to give in to his demands or risk depriving him in some way). It seems to me that in having this thought, Edna shows herself to be completely separated from reality.

Of course, there's also the fact that she wasn't even being "dragged" anywhere by her children most of the time; they were in the care of a governess or away with their grandmother for long periods of time. She was out doing pretty much what she wanted to do (within the opportunities available to her, that is). So, in addition to the fact that I think her whole line of reasoning about the children as "antagonists" is faulty, I don't understand why she feels so threatened by children whom aren't even that much of a burden to her, in terms of time and energy. I am sympathetic regarding her situation. She is in an unsatisfying marriage, living in a culture which put huge restrictions upon her freedoms and options. But from what we saw in the book, she worked within her boundaries in ways that seemed to bring her pleasure. As I said above, she spent much of her time doing exactly as she pleased. I just don't see the progression from this to the state of mind where she drowned herself because her children were trying to enslave her soul. I just don't get it.

Now, this doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book. Far from it - I find it fascinating, even though I can't really fathom the thought-process that motivated her. I have read only one other thing by Chopin; I don't recall the title, but it was a short story about a woman who is told her husband has died, and she soon finds herself enjoying a marvelous sense of freedom only to discover that he's not dead after all. (And here again, the fleeting freedom she felt kills her, IIRC). I am trying to put myself into the mind of a woman who lived in the Victorian era, and I think I can get part way there. But with Edna, I just can't make it all the way. If it was true love she felt she'd never find, well, that's melodramatic, IMO, but somewhat understandable. But I find it very hard to believe that a sane woman (especially one in her station of life) could feel that threatened by her children.

I'd love to hear what others think about this (or anything else about the book, really). :-)
Tags: books

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