Study Questions on
The Awakening by Kate Chopin

     

Written and adapted from various sources
by Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Associate Professor of English
Ferrum College


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. What features make The Awakening a "local color" story? What customs and beliefs of Edna Pontellier's society are significant in relation to her psychological development? What attitudes and tendencies in the Creole characters does Edna have trouble adjusting to?

2. Why did Edna marry Leonce? Is he a model husband? What incidents reveal that he may not be a good husband for Edna? How do her reasons for marrying compare to those of other characters we have studied who do or do not marry?

3. How do Mlle. Reisz and Mme. Ratignolle function in relation to Edna and the novel's view of women as mothers and artists? What kind of mother is Edna? What kind of artist is she?

4. How are the background characters, such as the young lovers and the lady in black at the shore, significant in Edna's story?

5. How do the flashbacks to Edna's past function? How does her father compare to the other men in her life?

6. How does the view of romantic love develop in the course of the novel? What is the doctor's view of marriage and childbearing?

7. How do the emotional attachments and romantic obsessions of other characters you have studied compare to Edna’s emotional and romantic relationships?

8. What are the main images and symbols in the novel? Pay attention to details emphasized at the beginning and end and other recurring objects.

9. How do the roles of birds compare in “A New England Nun,” “A White Heron,” Huckleberry Finn, and The Awakening?

10. Why does Edna get involved with Alcee Arobin?

11. How does this novel compare with other stories on the subject of gaining self-knowledge?

12. Why were critics outraged at this novel in 1899, saying it committed "unutterable crimes against polite society" and it should be labeled “poison” to protect “moral babes”? Why has Edna been condemned by more recent readers for her selfishness as much as for her sensuality?

13. How does Edna’s unconventional behavior compare to Bartleby’s (in Melville’s story “Bartleby the Scrivener”)? Do Edna and Bartleby have anything in common?

14. What is your reaction to the end of the novel? Do you agree or disagree with the reasons for Edna's final action?

15. Why do you think the poet Walt Whitman had such an important influence on Chopin? How does her exploration of female sexuality compare to his treatment of male sexuality?

16. How does Chopin's The Awakening compare to other stories you have studied as a realistic work of literature?  Why did Per Seyerstead (Chopin's editor) say the recognition her works finally received in the twentieth century served to “elevate her from the status of a regional writer to a pioneer realist”?

01/31/2007

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