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Feminism In The Awakening

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The Awakening, a novel written in the late 19th century by an American woman named Kate Chopin, is about a woman who rejects the norms of society during her time and eventually finds herself lost in a world where there is no meaning. The novel received much contrasting criticism, over a period of around half a century. The Awakening was particularly controversial upon publication in 1899. Chopin's novel was considered immoral not only for its comparatively frank depictions of female sexual desire but also for its depiction of a protagonist who chafed against social norms and established gender roles. The novel received a large amount of negative criticism, saying the book was unrealistic, a rejection of social standards, and "an essentially…show more content…
Just as the social context and cultural confinements of the late nineteenth century worked against Chopin's artistry, the liberal and progressive social culture of the late 1960's worked in her favor. What was held in the field of literature as amoral and without literary value in 1899 was considered artistic and noble in 1969, and heavily praised for its rejection of patriarchal and social acceptances within our society back then, and also nowadays. Writers called the novel "flawless art" and "a remarkable novel". (The Awakening, Norton Critical Edition, 161,164) This mindset is also heavily influenced by the discourse of the era, being the feminist rights movement. Elaine Showalter writes, "The Awakening belongs to a historical movement in American women's writing, and Chopin could not have written without legacy of domestic fiction to work against..." (The Awakening, Norton Critical Edition, 311) As Chopin's popularity spread like wildfire, her novel also served as ammunition in the fight to bring insight and awareness to women's issues. The novel in this particular era could be read as an inspiration, a starting point to break free from patriarchy and to look at everything as art. "The Awakening's most radical awareness is that Edna inhabits a world of limited linguistic possibilities, of limited possibilities for interpreting, and re-organizing her feelings, and therefore of limited possibilities for action." (The Awakening, Norton Critical Edition,
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