The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, was published in 1899. It is the story of Edna Pontellier, a woman who disagrees with the social attitudes of her time.
The book begins with Edna, her husband, and their two boys vacationing on Grand Isle, at a resort managed by Madame Lebrun, and her sons, Robert and Victor.
More precisely, Edna and the boys are on vacation. Her husband, Leonce, a successful businessman, works in the city during the week and joins them only on weekends.
Edna spends much of her time with her friend, Adele, but eventually begins seeing Robert Lebrun more and more frequently.
She is shocked - and devastated - when she learns he is leaving for Mexico on the following day, and he has not told her.
When Edna and her family return to New Orleans after summer vacation, she begins moving more and more away from her traditional role, as she attempts to live life on her own terms.
The Awakening has been called "morbid, vulgar, disagreeable, and scandalous". It met with severe criticism at the time it was published, which resulted in the book being banished for decades. It wasn't until the 1960s that it became popular.
Unfortunately, because of the harsh reviews, Kate Chopin never wrote another novel.
In more recent years, the book has again been challenged. It was retained in an Arlington Heights high school in 2007 after a board member, who had promised to "bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making", complained about the book based on something she'd read on the internet.
In 2011, it was challenged at the Oconee County (GA) Library, because the book cover shows a painting of a woman's bare chest.
Buy the book here:
While reading The Awakening, I found myself wondering just how many women were as dissatisfied as Edna, or if most simply accepted their expected role in life and never stopped to think how it might be different.
Women have much more freedom today, of course, than they did when this book was written. However, even in our more modern society, many people still expect women to get married and have children (in that order!), and to not work outside the home.
Considering the divorce rate, I wonder how many people are really happy with that arrangement. Far too often, we are so accustomed to 'the way things are', that we simply accept them without bothering to question if it makes sense, or, more importantly, if it makes sense to us, for us, in our own lives.