The Awakening

- Kate Chopin
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This book opens with a young wife and mother, vacationing at a resort in the Gulf of Mexico with her husband and children. The resort is run by an elderly Frenchwoman, who manages the place along with her two sons. The young wife and one of the sons develop a deep and passionate attachment to each other, with devastating effects on both families and their circle of friends. When Kate Chopin's 1899 novel _The Awakening,_ originally titled A Solitary Soul, was first released, it evoked a storm of controversy. Though it was not actually banned, it received public censure across the United States. It was considered immoral and subversive, dangerous to the moral well being of “innocent” women and too frank in its depiction of female desires and physical needs. It challenged the existing gender roles and created a hitherto unrecognized space for a woman's requirement for self fulfillment, something which was seen as inflammatory and ruinous to society in general. Kate Chopin (formerly Katherine O'Flaherty) was an American short story writer and novelist who explored the landscape of New Orleans culture and the female mind. Brought up in a privileged background in St. Louis, she married Oscar Chopin, a wealthy French-Creole plantation owner and became a prominent member of St. Louis society. Her husband's financial troubles led them to leave the plantation and move to provincial Cloutierville, Louisiana, where Oscar owned a small estate. Following his sudden death, Kate and their six children moved back to St. Louis where she began writing in 1889. _The Awakening_ was her second and last novel, and evoked a great sense of outrage in conservative Missouri, where the feminist movement which was sweeping America was completely absent at the time. Chopin was hurt and mystified by this reaction and almost abandoned her writing career after this. _The Awakening_ is a deeply sensitive and insightful portrait of a woman and her conflicts. Many scholars have traced the origins of _The Awakening_ to an affair that Kate Chopin herself had with a married neighbor following Oscar's death. Readers will immediately identify with the questions and dilemmas raised in the book and it seems strangely contemporary today. Kate Chopin's writing style, with its rich imagery, full of local atmosphere and color, her compassion and the frank and fearless way in which she discusses the hitherto unexplored landscape of a woman's mind are what make _The Awakening_ a book that marked a shift in the moral universe of the time. Today _The Awakening_ is hailed as an early and a vivid portrayal of female independence, besides being itself an absorbing read.

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