by Kate Chopin To completely understand a novel and the author's point of view, it is extremely helpful to examine important aspects that scholars have noted within literary pieces. Readers may be given a better interpretation of characters, several minor themes, effects the novel had on society when it was first published, or other points the author is trying to convey. I found this to be true for Kate Chopin's, "The Awakening". By exploring comments made in Emily Toth's, "A New Biographical Approach," and contemporary reviews from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Book News, I was given a greater comprehension of the novel. Emily Toth shows the social significance of "The Awakening", for women in the 1890's. She briefly discusses the reaction of society and the criticism the novel received after being published. Toth explains that "The Awakening" was "condemned," mostly by "male critics, editors, and gatekeepers," eventually resulting in ending Kate Chopin's literary career. Female scholars however, saw Chopin's work in a positive light and "praised the book's artistry." This proves that the novel addressed powerful issues between men and women in society and served as a statement for women during the late 1800's. As a reader, it is obvious that the major theme of "The Awakening" is the main character's realization of life. Edna Pontellier goes through changes, in which she abandons all expectations from her husband and society in general. The fact that Edna is a women, ignoring her duties as a mother and a wife, to explore life and find herself, appalled the male critics of the late nineteenth century. This type of behavior was not allowed from women during this time. They were to be proper, loving wives, and good mothers to their children. By stating that Chopin's career was ended as a consequence of publishing The Awakening and presenting a women who challenges societal norms, Toth conveys the novel as a convincing piece, which frightened male critics and society as a whole. A contemporary review from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, by C.L. Deyo, published on May 20, 1899, is helpful in analyzing and tracing the main characters "awakening," from its beginning to end (Edna's death). The article states that Edna was aroused when Robert Lebrun "revealed her to herself." Edna was not treated like a person by her husband, but rather a decorative piece of property. After Robert leaves to Mexico, Edna continues to open her eyes to life. The review also mentions societies objections to Edna's experiences, and suggests a lack of courage in facing society as the reason Edna sacrifices herself to the sea. Edna realized her worth and passion for life. She also wanted passion in a loving relationship, but felt passion and love could not be provided by her husband, Robert, or any man. As result, Edna's unwillingness to sacrifice passion and wait for love, left her empty and more hopeless than before the "awakening." Edna could not function or survive in society, unfulfilled. Therefore, "she swam out into the sun kissed gulf" and lets herself drown. Lucy
mentions some minor themes within "The Awakening", in a review published March, 1899, in Book News. Monroe discusses the unity of women throughout the novel and how accurately it reveals life. It is true that the women characters have a bond. They give advise, hide secrets, and discuss their problems with each other. "The Awakening" also depicts Creole life, clearly and precisely. The novel displays leisure class activity and the abundance of free time such people posses. Total understanding of an author's messages or meaning is nearly impossible upon a first, or even second reading, of complex novels. There are a number of points a reader may overlook, misinterpret, or completely misapprehend. By reading what scholars have written about literary works, I was given a more intelligent view of "The Awakening". I learned about the opposition Chopin met because her book challenged the social norms of her time. I was also introduced to some minor themes and given an insightful reason for the main character's suicide.