The Awakening by Kate Chopin Chapter Questions: Please type

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Chapter Questions: Please type your questions. Provide insightful thought as you respond to each question. Be sure to
include and integrate quotes for each response. Don’t spend a lot of time with lengthy concrete detail. Find Buzz quotes
and phrases that you are likely to retain for use with the Paper 2 essay. Remember this novel will be an option for your
IB Exam, and part of your assessment from the rubric evaluates your knowledge of the material.
1. Chapter I:
How in this opening chapter does Kate Chopin convey an air of comfortableness and complacency?
2. Chapter II:
Do any of the details in this chapter seem as if they may become significant later in the story? Why?
3. Chapter III:
What are the apparent shortcomings of the Pontelliers’ marriage relationship? Does Kate Chopin view either Mr. or Mrs.
Pontellier with more sympathy?
4. Chapter IV:
In what ways is Mrs. Pontellier isolated?
5. Chapter V:
How does Madame Ratignolle exercise power over both Robert and Mrs. Pontellier? How does Mrs. Pontellier, in
comparison, seem to lack presence?
6. Chapter VI:
How does this short chapter describe ‘the beginning of…a world’?
7. Chapter VII:
What differences, including physical differences and differences of dress, does Kate Chopin point up in the two women?
Do those differences make Mrs. Pontellier’s openness in speaking to Madame Ratignolle more, or less, surprising?
8. Chapter VIII:
In this chapter Kate Chopin gives Madame Ratignolle a ‘voice’ for the first time. What kind of voice is it? What detail
later in the chapter suggests that Robert has not altogether accepted what she has said?
9. Chapter IX:
How, once more, is Mrs. Pontellier seen to be different from those around her? What evidence is there, also, that she
herself is changing?
10. Chapter X:
What does Mrs. Pontellier’s swimming out to sea symbolise? How is that symbolism made clear in the remainder of the
11. Chapter XI:
What battle is fought here? Who wins?
12. Chapter XII:
What sense are we given here of things happening automatically? Against that background, how do we feel a movement
later in the chapter towards freer, less regularised behaviour?
13. Chapter XIII:
How in this chapter does Kate Chopin suggest that Mrs. Pontellier has stepped into a new world?
14. Chapter XIV:
Why, perhaps, do both Robert and Mrs. Pontellier choose to be alone, having been together for the whole day? What
effect does that decision have on the pace of the narrative?
15. Chapter XV:
What theatrical elements are present in the first part of the chapter (to Edna’s departure from the table)? How does
Kate Chopin reveal more about her characters through the different ways in which they react to the news of Robert’s
16. Chapter XVI:
In the previous chapter there is mention of Edna’s ‘infatuation’. What signs are there of that infatuation, in this chapter?
What connection is there between it and her new-found sense of ‘herself’?
17. Chapter XVII:
What contrasts does Kate Chopin establish between the house interior and the night-time garden? How does that
contrast find a parallel in the conflict between external routine and triviality on the one hand and disruptive inner forces
on the other?
18. Chapter XVIII:
What might surprise us in Edna’s view of Madame Ratignolle, as expressed in this chapter?
19. Chapter XIX:
Identify the contrasts, contradictions and conflicts in this chapter. What explanation for them does Kate Chopin suggest?
20. hapter XX:
Does this chapter take the story forward at all?
21. Chapter XXI:
What role in the story does Mademoiselle Reisz now take on?
22. Chapter XXII:
Does Kate Chopin want us to regard Dr. Mandelet’s advice as sound?
23. Chapter XXIII:
What is Edna’s state of mind in this chapter? Why might we feel anxious for her?
24. Chapter XXIV:
‘The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, familiar things new.’ (William Makepeace
Thackeray). How in this chapter does Kate Chopin take one of her characters, rather than her readers, through a similar
25. Chapter XXV:
What indications are there that an element of wildness has entered into Edna’s behaviour? How aware is she of it?
26. Chapter XXVI:
How in this chapter does Edna show herself to be both clear-headed and in turmoil?
27. Chapter XXVII:
What might surprise us in Edna’s behaviour here?
28. Chapter XXVIII:
What is it that Edna has discovered about ‘the significance of life’ – and about herself?
29. Chapter XXIX:
Comment on the pace and the mood of this chapter.
30. Chapter XXX:
How does the satire in the early part of this chapter prepare us for Edna’s ‘ennui’ in the middle of the chapter, and for
her behaviour later in it?
31. Chapter XXXI:
How does Kate Chopin suggest that Arobin is behaving with intent?
32. Chapter XXXII:
Why do you think Edna’s visit with the children has such a powerful effect on her?
33. Chapter XXXIII:
Explore the drama of the meeting between Edna and Robert. Pay attention both to the shifts in the dialogue and to the
movement and behaviour of the two characters.
34. Chapter XXXIV:
What is the significance of the chapter’s final sentence?
35. Chapter XXXV:
How does Kate Chopin convey a sense of Edna’s increasing vulnerability?
36. Chapter XXXVI:
How convincing are the explanations and outpourings in this chapter?
37. Chapter XXVII:
What effect is produced by the practical and rational attitude of both the nurse and Dr. Mandelet?
38. Chapter XXXVIII:
What sense are we given here of an opportunity missed?
39. Chapter XXXIX:
How are pathos and horror intermingled in this final chapter?
General Essay Prompts for The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Questions are ordered according to the SCASI structure (Setting, Character, Action, Style and
Ideas), with some overlap among the various areas.
1. What picture of the society of that time and place is painted by The Awakening? Does Kate Chopin take a cynical view
of it?
2. What do you find most memorable about the way of life described in The Awakening?
3. Two worlds are set against each other in The Awakening – ‘the world of reality’ and ‘the world of romance and
dreams’ (Chapter VII). Show how the interplay between those two worlds, in Edna’s life, helps bring about her tragedy.
4. ‘Nothing can happen nowhere. The locale of the happening always colours the happening, and often, to a degree,
shapes it’ (Elizabeth Bowen). Discuss the setting of a novel, play or epic poem. Show how the setting helps us to
understand what happens in the story, and identify ways in which what happens is affected by where it happens.
5. How far have novelists you have studied developed a sense of community in their novels? Why have they thought it
important to do that?**
6. Novels and plays often include scenes of weddings, funerals, parties, and other social occasions. Such scenes may
reveal the values of the characters and the society in which they live. Select a novel or play that includes such a scene
and, in a focused essay, discuss the contribution the scene makes to the meaning of the work as a whole.*
7. ‘The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think’ (Edwin Schlossberg). How successfully, in
The Awakening, has Kate Chopin created such a context?
8. ‘Literature is the denunciation of the times in which one lives’ (Camil Jose Cela). Does The Awakening support that
9. Early in the novel (Chapter VII) we read of Edna’s awareness of ‘the dual life – that outward existence which conforms,
the inward life which questions’. Show how in the course of the story Edna struggles with that duality.
10. ‘I don’t want anything but my own way’, says Edna (Chapter XXXVIII). How accurate and how complete is this
assessment by Edna of her own character and behaviour?
11. Can we describe Edna as the ‘heroine’ of The Awakening?
12. ‘In some way you seem to me like a child, Edna’ says Madame Ratignolle (Chapter XXXIII). How fair is that
judgement? How does Edna’s immaturity (such as it is) contribute to her tragedy?
13. ‘I’m going to pull myself together for a while and think – try to determine what character of a woman I am,’ says
Edna in Chapter XXVII. Examine her attempts, throughout the novel, to understand both herself and what is happening
around her. Has she made any progress in either of those attempts by the end of the story?
14. ‘In literature, as in love, we are astonished at the choices made by other people’ (Andre Maurois). Are we at all
astonished by the choices Edna makes in the course of The Awakening?
15. ‘The artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies’ says Mademoiselle Reisz in the novel’s final
chapter. Has Edna shown herself to be an artist, as judged by that criterion?
16. ‘In our world of ordinary men and women – living ordinary lives, frittering away their time on petty activities, it raises
our spirits to read of individuals of intensity. They awaken our sense of the potential of humans.’ To what extent do the
major characters in a novel or play you have studied ‘awaken our sense of human potential’? Does the experience raise
our spirits?
17. The eighteenth-century British novelist Laurence Sterne wrote, ‘No body, but he who has felt it, can conceive what a
plaguing thing it is to have a man's mind torn asunder by two projects of equal strength, both obstinately pulling in a
contrary direction at the same time.’ From a novel or play choose a character or characters whose minds are pulled in
conflicting directions by two compelling desires, ambitions, obligations, or influences. Then, in a well-organized essay,
identify each of the two conflicting forces and explain how this conflict within characters illuminates the meaning of the
work as a whole. *
18. Literature often depicts individuals who are, or who see themselves as, different from the people around them.
Write an essay in which you explore some of the struggles that arise from such differences (real or imagined) in a novel
or play you have studied.
19. Explore the methods by which novelists have allowed us to see into the minds of their characters, and suggest, with
examples, which methods have been most successful.**
20. Explain, with reference to works you have studied, why writers are frequently drawn to tell stories about characters
who are rebellious towards or in some way alienated from society.**
21. Morally ambiguous characters – characters whose behaviour discourages the reader from identifying them as wholly
evil or wholly good – are at the heart of many works of literature. Choose a novel or play in which a morally ambiguous
character plays a pivotal role. Then write an essay in which you explain how the character can be viewed as morally
ambiguous and why his or her moral ambiguity is significant to the work as a whole.*
22. Examine the contribution made to The Awakening by its secondary characters (i.e. those other than Edna herself).
23. References to ‘the lovers’ and ‘the lady in black’ run through the novel. What do they contribute to it?
24. In a novel or play, a ‘confidant’ (male) or ‘confidante’ (female) is a character, often a friend or relative of the hero or
heroine, whose role is to be present when the hero or heroine needs a sympathetic listener to confide in. Frequently the
result is, as Henry James remarked, that the ‘confidant’ or ‘confidante’ can be as much ‘the reader's friend as the
protagonist's.’ However, the author sometimes uses this character for other purposes as well. Choose a ‘confidant’ or
‘confidante’ from a novel or play of recognized literary merit and write an essay in which you discuss the various ways
this character functions in the work. *
25. We have come to expect, of ‘good’ literature, that the characters in it should be unique. Some fine authors,
however, have made very effective use of stereotypical characters in their work. Write about one piece of literature in
which either the uniqueness of the characters or the fact that they are ‘typical’ is important to the success of the whole
26. ‘The artist should be in his work, like God in creation, invisible and all-powerful; he should be felt everywhere and
seen nowhere’ (Gustave Flaubert). How ‘unseen’ does Kate Chopin remain, in The Awakening?
27. ‘The action of The Awakening moves forward somewhat jerkily. That does not, however, lessen the sense of
inevitability we have as we read.’ Discuss both parts of that comment.
28. ‘Changes of pace in a novel or play – for instance, between episode and analysis – establish a rhythm that carries the
reader (or audience) forward but at the same time can allow respite from the intensity of the action.’ Illustrate the truth
of that statement from a play or novel you have studied.
29. A novelist has said of his work, ‘It is easy to begin and end a story, but figuring out how to hold up the middle is
tough.’ How has a novelist you have studied ‘held up the middle’ in one or more of his or her novels?**
30. ‘Among the most powerful tools at a storyteller’s disposal are suspense and surprise.’ Explain the difference
between those two features of novels and plays, illustrating your answer from literature of quality you have studied.**
31. How do separation and/or reunion provide heightened levels of intensity in works of literature you have studied?
What do the examples you have used suggest about human nature and human needs?**
32. ‘At every stage in the progress of his tale the novelist must rely on what may be called the illuminating incident to
reveal and emphasize the inner meaning of each situation. Illuminating incidents are the magic casements of fiction, its
vistas on infinity’ (Edith Wharton). Select an ‘illuminating incident’ from a novel or play of literary merit and explain how
it throws light both on the situation in which it occurs and on the meaning of the whole piece of work.*
33. Explore marriage as an important element in prose fiction you have studied. Pay some attention in your response to
the status of being ‘not married’, and to the pressures characters feel to marry.
34. A character's attempt to achieve something he or she sees as important is central to many plays, novels, and poems.
Choose a literary work in which a character undertakes such an attempt. Show with clear evidence from the work how
the character's efforts are used to develop a theme in the work.
35. The breaking of ‘taboos’, or indulgence in forbidden behaviour, can be a source of tension and conflict in plays and
novels. Show how this is the case in one or two pieces of writing you know well.
36. Works of literature often depict acts of betrayal. Friends and even family may betray a protagonist; main characters
may likewise be guilty of treachery or may betray their own values. Select a novel or play that includes such acts of
betrayal. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the nature of the betrayal and show how it contributes to the meaning of
the work as whole.*
37. ‘The course of true love never did run smooth.’ Illustrate that saying from plays or novels you know well, showing
how the writer in each case makes use of love’s complexity and unpredictability to create a suspenseful narrative.**
38. In some novels and plays certain parallel or recurring events prove to be significant. In an essay, describe the major
similarities and differences in a sequence of parallel or recurring events in a novel or play and discuss the significance of
such events.*
39. ‘In the end is my beginning.’ This has been said by an author to explain how he organises his writing. Examine one or
more novels or plays to see whether their structure reflects a similar mode of planning.**
40. Choose a single episode from a novel that you think would work well on stage, as part of a play, or as a scene in a
film. Explain why you have selected that particular episode, and say what would make it an effective piece of theatre or
41. Discuss the ways in which writers you have studied prepare their readers or audiences for the conclusion of the
stories they are telling.**
42. It has been argued that the ending of a novel or play should offer ‘Not rounding off, but opening out’. Discuss that
idea in relation to one or more pieces of writing you have studied.**
43. ‘Nearly all novels are feeble at the end.’ How far can you defend the novels you have studied against this
44. ‘Story involves action. Action towards an end not to be foreseen (by the reader) but also towards an end which,
having been reached, must be seen to have been from the start inevitable’ (Elizabeth Bowen). How true is this of the
action of The Awakening?
45. ‘Given the novel’s subject matter, Kate Chopin has done well, in her writing style, to avoid such pitfalls as
sentimentality, outrage, prurience and sensationalism. She writes, in fact, with remarkable calm throughout.’
Discuss that comment.
46. Show how Kate Chopin’s style in The Awakening allows her to handle what at that time would have been called
‘indelicate’ matters with great delicacy.
47. Select a passage from the book (a longish paragraph or two) whose style you see as typical of the whole novel, and
analyse its stylistic features.
48. Show how in The Awakening characters’ differing personalities, attitudes and moods are reflected in the style of
speech they adopt.
49. ‘The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him
precisely as you wish’ (Robert Louis Stevenson). Discuss a novel you have studied (or a play or a collection of poetry),
explaining how the way it is written it has affected you.
50. ‘Vigorous writing is concise’ (William Strunk). Kate Chopin’s style is not concise; does that mean it is not vigorous?
51. ‘Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree’ (Ezra Pound). By that
definition, would you regard The Awakening as great literature?
52. ‘DIALOGUE Must (1) Further Plot; (2) Express Character’ (Elizabeth Bowen). Does the dialogue in The Awakening pass
that test -or challenge its validity?
53. ‘In literature the ambition of the novice is to acquire the literary language: the struggle of the adept is to get rid of it’
(George Bernard Shaw). How far, in The Awakening, has Kate Chopin avoided ‘the literary language’?
54. ‘The tone of The Awakening is consistently sombre, which matches the sadness of the tale told but becomes
wearisome at times. A few lighter moments would have given the novel some sparkle!’ Do you agree with that
55. Discuss how far the novel’s title is appropriate to the story told. How does it help us understand Kate Chopin’s own
view of what is important in the novel?
56. Edna believes Robert may perceive her behaviour towards the end of the novel as ‘unwomanly’ (Chapter XXXVI).
How does the novel as a whole explore the concept of ‘womanliness’?
57. Mr. Pontellier is concerned that Edna has ‘got some notion in her head about the eternal rights of women’ (Chapter
XXII). How far is Kate Chopin concerned with a similar ‘notion’, and how does she seek to convey it in the novel?
58. While with Madame Ratignolle during the birth of her child, Edna experiences ‘a flaming outspoken revolt against
the ways of Nature’ (Chapter XXXVII). Draw on your understanding of the novel as a whole to explore the exact nature of
her revolt.
59. Discuss the writers’ treatment of one or more of the following themes in novels you have studied: love, deceit,
power, wealth, war, change, courage, illness and death, self-discovery, redemption.**
60. A symbol is an object, action, or event that represents something or that creates a range of associations beyond
itself. In literary works a symbol can express an idea, clarify meaning, or enlarge literal meaning. Select a novel or play
and, focusing on one symbol, write an essay analyzing how that symbol functions in the work and what it reveals about
the characters or themes of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.*
61.‘Because other people exist, total freedom is never possible.’ How is this statement borne out by the experiences of
characters in novels or short stories you have studied?**
62. Examine the ways in which novelists whose work you have studied present stories of failure or suffering. What do
you gather about the effect they are trying to produce in their readers?**
63. Elizabeth Bowen wrote of ‘The primary quality of the novelist – an all-embracing, Christlike compassion’. How far
does a feeling of compassion permeate The Awakening?
64. Many works of literature deal with political or social issues. Choose a novel or play that focuses on a political or
social issue. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the author uses literary elements to explore this issue and
explain how the issue contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.*
65. Some novels and plays seem to advocate change in social or political attitudes or in traditions. Choose such a novel
or play and note briefly the particular attitudes or traditions that the author apparently wishes to modify. Then analyze
the techniques the author uses to influence the reader's or audience's views.*
66. ‘The novel’s satire helps explain the novel’s tragedy.’ Discuss this comment on The Awakening.
67. The relationship between men and women, and the differences in their roles in society, are central considerations in
many works of literature. Discuss the part they play in one or more novels or plays you have studied.**
68. ‘A great literature is chiefly the product of inquiring minds in revolt against the immovable certainties of the nation’
(Henry Louis Mencken). What light does that quotation throw on Kate Chopin’s purpose in writing The Awakening?
69. ‘The answers you get from literature depend on the questions you pose’ (Margaret Atwood). What questions might
we pose of The Awakening? What answers might we receive?
70. The Awakening has been described as a book ahead of its time. What, in the way it is written, may have helped bring
about the ‘time’ it was ahead of?
71. What, in the opening pages of The Awakening, will make the reader want to continue into the novel?
72. ‘If love is judged by its visible effects, it often looks like hatred.’ How far is that comment borne out in The
73. ‘The writings of women are always cold and pretty like themselves. There is as much wit as you may desire, but
never any soul’ (Jean-Jacques Rousseau).
74. How far, from your reading of The Awakening, would you choose to defend Kate Chopin from that criticism?
75. ‘The important thing in writing is the capacity to astonish. Not shock -shock is a worn-out word -but astonish’ (Terry
Southern). In what ways is The Awakening likely to have astonished readers of the time? Does is still have
the capacity to astonish us, today?
76. ‘The most important thing in a work of art is that it should have a kind of focus’ (Leo Tolstoy). What would you
regard as the ‘focus’ of The Awakening?
77. ‘A story must be exceptional enough to justify its telling’ (Thomas Hardy). Does The Awakening meet this criterion?
78. ‘We do not live an equal life, but one of contrasts and patchwork; now a little joy, then a sorrow, now a sin, then a
generous or brave action’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson). How is that account by Emerson of the nature of ‘life’ reflected in the
structure and the action of The Awakening?
79. ‘All literature, however dark, has some light.’ Discuss that suggestion, illustrating your argument by reference to two
or more works of literary merit.**