The Awakening

Chopin, Kate

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela
  • Date of entry: Feb-18-1997


Edna Pontellier, an aristocrat from late nineteenth-century New Orleans, goes on vacation with her husband and children. There she meets and falls in love with Robert Lebrun. She also learns to swim, returns to her painting, and listens to the passionate piano playing of eccentric Mademoiselle Reisz. For the first time, Edna feels alive.

When she returns to New Orleans, she is unable to fit herself back into her social role. She defies her husband and ignores her friends. When her husband leaves town, she sets up her own house with money she has earned from her increasingly adept painting. She has an affair with the town seducer.

When Robert returns from a trip abroad, they passionately embrace. But Robert can not bear the stigma of adultery. He leaves her again. Edna returns to the vacation site and drowns herself.


The novel is a commentary on the restraints faced by women at the turn of the century. Edna is expected to play dead and when she refuses, she has no option but to kill herself. She is opposed to characters like Madame Ratignolle whose affection for her children is renowned, as is her perfect female passivity.

It is worth noting that Edna does not face any explicit oppression. She is merely expected to run the house, care for the children and do her best to please her husband. Nevertheless, she finds the role unbearable. She can not give her life, her identity, to others. It is better to die.


First published: 1899


W. W. Norton

Place Published

New York




Margaret Culley

Page Count