Amelia E. Barr, *The Modern Novel*

It is the erotic-sensational novel which deserves unqualified
anger and disgust, for it is the representation, by genius, of a
society that lives for the gratification of its five senses, and
that only.
 Sensational novel: literary genre in 1860s and
 Sexual relationships...served as a social
criticism...supplant older paradigms and
challenge conventional theories.
 Merged exotic foreignness, which was the
Victorian assumption of where sensational
events took place, with the familiar, middle
class domestic settings
 ‘She is very smart and clever, but...she makes us
sigh for the girls...who yet had no higher
ambition than to be the dearly loved wife of a
noble-hearted man and the good housemother of happy children.’
 Societal Norms at the time
 Lust being a strong Emotion emphasised
throughout the novel.
 Women are distracted from their roles.
 The power of literature in relation to the
human condition
 Elvis Presley’s performance was a danger to the
US because his “actions and motions were such
as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged
 ‘...Mrs Pontellier was not a motherwoman...They were women who idolized their
children, worshipped their husbands, and
esteemed it a holy privilege to efface
themselves as individuals...Her name was Adèle
 ‘When it came her turn to read it...She felt
moved to read the book in secret and solitude;
though none of the others had done so...It was
openly criticised and freely discussed at table.’
 The moon was coming up, and its mystic
shimmer was casting a million lights across the
distant, restless water.’
 Chopin allows the readers to wonder and uses
sensual imagery to aid in their imagination.
 “drowsiness overcame Edna during the
service” “…seductive; never ceasing, whispering,
clamouring…inviting the soul to wander…the
voice of the sea speaks to the soul”.
 “she seemed to be reaching out for the
unlimited in which to lose herself”.
 -“…strange, rare odours abroad- a tangle of the
sea smell and of weeds…new-plowed earth…”.
 Voice, smell and touch of the sea: The ocean’s
link to Edna's awakening
 Nature: Warmth of the sun, the moonlight, the
 Food: Colours and luxury of feasts
 Music: Reisz’s playing aroused her soul, made
her tremble
 Affair with Arobin, passion with Robert
 Satisfaction from Awakening pushes women
away from their predetermined duties and
 In order for us to learn something we must first
be capable of experiencing it.
 For Edna, her senses are fundamental to her
world, they mediate between her mind and
body, and between herself and the
environment, as she relies on her senses to
interpret her changing surroundings.