THE AWAKENING BY KATE CHOPIN Approaches to Reading the Novel CHARACTERIZATION As you read the novel, look at the characters in relation to the protagonist, Edna Pontellier. Question and look for how the characters are constructed. Questions to think about: What are Edna’s predominant character traits? Which of these are flaws and why? Which are virtues and why? What is Edna’s predominant struggle? Ultimately, how is Edna depicted and what is the message? SOCIOLOGICAL – FEMALE ANGLE Through this angle, the focus is on female characters in the novel and their views of other females during the Victorian time period. Questions to think about: • According to this text, what options were there for female “roles” in Victorian times? • How is Edna defined in relation to the female characters around her? • How do these female characters represent the roles for women at this time? SOCIOLOGICAL – MALE ANGLE As you read The Awakening, how are the men portrayed in this “feminist” novel? Some questions to guide you in reading this novel from a male angle: How are the men of this text portrayed? How are the cultural roles of the Victorian culture limiting for men, in a sense, as well? Regarding Leonce, how is he seen by you? As reprehensible, or a victim? SYNTHESIS-GENDER ROLES How are the gender roles that are presented by other authors (that you read on Schoology) present in Chopin’s novel? Focus on 2-4 texts that you read on Schoology that you found interesting. Questions to consider: How do the preliminary texts inform Chopin’s points? How has the issue of gender roles evolved over time? What issues are still present today, and which supplementary texts support this? THE MUSICAL ANGLE In The Awakening, Edna finds solitude, peace, and truth in music in this novel. Edna’s mentor, Mademoiselle Reisz, assists her finding this solitude. When reading the novel using this angle, you can focus on the moments in which music is played, or focus on the Edna/Reisz dynamic as a metaphor for music . Questions to ponder while reading: Which music effects Edna, and which does not? Specifically, how does it affect her? How do other characters’ understandings of music reveal their characterization? What can music do for a person that words cannot? THEMATIC A theme is a life lesson (given in a sentence) that can apply to other stories. Use your past knowledge of searching for life lessons in literature while reading the novel. Questions to consider while looking for themes: What, ultimately, does Edna learn? What doesn’t she learn? What is the “answer” and how does she miss it ? Most importantly, how do you relate to what she (or other characters) are experiencing here? THE MOVEMENT-REALISM Using what you learned about Realism, you will read the novel keeping the guidelines and aims of the Realism movement in mind. Remember to refer to your Realism handout and active reading notes about the movement! Questions to think about: o How does this novel show “a slice of life in a realistic way”? o Are there naturalist elements? o How does Chopin’s writing style show signs of typical Realist writing? SETTING If you are interested in travel, this is a great angle to use while reading The Awakening. Kate Chopin uses setting and the device of local color to communicate the “where” of the novel. Questions to think about while reading the novel using this angle: How does place inform mood, tone, and message in this story? How does Chopin make her reader feel her setting? What specifically allows us to travel to Grand Isle and New Orleans so easily in this book?