By Kate Chopin
Kate Chopin’s riveting, daring story of one woman’s search for personal freedom was so far ahead of its time that its publication in 1899 aroused a storm of controversy violent enough to end its author’s career.
With an effortless, sure-handed artistry, Chopin tells the story of Edna Pontellier, a young mother and model wife, whose romantic involvement with a young man during a vacation at a seaside resort allows her for the first time to imagine a new, freer life. Upon her return to New Orleans, Edna leaves her husband’s home for her own cottage and begins an affair, only to discover that the constraints of social custom may be more powerful than she thought. Contemporary readers and reviewers were shocked by the frank, unapologetic treatment of adultery in The Awakening. The fact that we have the book at all is the most convincing tribute to its enduring, irrepressible power.
It is one of the earliest American novels that focuses on women's issues without condescension. It is also widely seen as a landmark work of early feminism, generating mixed reaction from contemporary readers and criticism. The novel's blend of realistic narrative, incisive social commentary, and psychological complexity makes The Awakening a precursor of American modernist literature.
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