The Awakening Book Summary

The Awakening
Main Character
Set in 1890s Louisiana, The Awakening follows the progress of Edna Pontellier as she sheds the parts of herself that are dictated by societal expectations and uncovers her true self. Edna finds freedom in sexual passion and artistic expression, but she also finds that refusing to conform to accepted women's roles has a downside.
The moon is a traditional symbol of womanhood and romance.
Birds are used to symbolize women, who are caged or broken by societal expectations.
The seductive ocean symbolizes sexuality and self-expression as well as the solitude freedom can bring.
Edna's physical awakenings are often followed by a mental awakening.
Alcee Arobin
Womanizer; has a sexual affair with Edna
leonce Pontellier
Edna's wealthy, successful, concerned husband
Edna Pontellier
upper-class woman discovering her true self
Mademoiselle Reisz
Unmarried, solitary pianist
Robert Lebrun
Edna's romantic, dramatic love
Madame Ratignolle
Eda's neighbour; a devoted wife and husband
Year Chopin was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame on Delmar Street
Year The Awakening was challenged at a Georgia library because the cover showed a woman's bare chest
Times Edna and Alcee meet for a sexual encounter in the novel
Year the Supreme Court ruled the Louisiana "head and master" law giving husbands control over their wives' property was unconstitutional
Edna awakens to her sense of self, her sexual nature, and her ability to express herself.
Becoming a fully realized individual means resisting society's norms but also results in solitude that can be crushing.
Women in Society
Edna rebels against the specific and very limited roles women are expected to play in society.
KATE CHOPIN 1850-1904
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Chopin settled in New Orleans after her marriage in 1870. As a wealthy woman and mother, but also a writer, she understood the difficulty of reconciling the inner life with the outer image, a tension seen throughout her work.