I Wanna Be Literated #254

I Wanna Be Literated #254

Sunday, 17 April 2022

The Awakening
by Kate Chopin

God bless those free libraries you see around town. Not only is it a perfect way to spread culture and joy throughout the community, it’s a haven of opportunity. This is the year I’m trying to read more classics, and lo and behold, my local free library had a copy of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. A classic if there ever was one. The summary on the back made it sound like a prude gets horny one day and mayhem ensues. I am a fan of Flaubert’s Madam Bovary (having just read it) and was happy to delve into another book dealing with the same subject.

However, The Awakening is a disappointment. Especially for a book that was banned upon its release, and basically drove Chopin out of literature. It’s like going from an espresso to diner coffee. I’m disappointed not because it’s not horny enough, but because so little happens. It’s like a worst Madam Bovary in almost every way. While Madam Bovary slowly relents to her inner desires and brings everyone down with her, Madam Pontellier has a switch turned inside of her that helps her realize she’s led an empty life. While we see Madam Bovary gorge on her desires and keep wanting more, Madam Pontellier has singular desire which she just sort of fulfills. Madam Bovary builds to a climactic end, while The Awakening kind of whimpers at the end. Even the setting of New Orleans supplants for Flaubert’s France and boy oh boy, if haughty creole culture isn’t the most laughable. And, the short stories at the end of the book (except for Desiree’s Baby) are pointless and forgettable.

I see the Awakening as homework. I don’t have to like it, but it’s good to know. If you’re interested in a book dealing with such topics, you already know what I would recommend instead. And thanks again to my local free library! This book is going right back in.

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