Kate Chopin's The Awakening is an undisguised look at a woman's life at the turn of the 19th century. Published in 1899, Chopin's novel shocked critics and audiences alike, who showed little sympathy for the author or her main protagonist, Edna Pontellier. Chopin wrote a powerful novel about a woman who questioned not only her role in society, but the standards of society.
Critics condemned The Awakening when it was first published in 1899. They criticized Chopin's point of view of such moral issues as extramarital affairs and female sexuality.
In reading through several critical commentaries, many recent critics of The Awakening fail to see Edna's growing sense of power and control as signs of progress toward a new self-discovery. They view her as a woman deluded by romanticism who is unable to make a conscious choice.
Carole Stone examines the growth of Edna's artistry and autonomy. In her essay, Stone argue that “Edna's memories of her childhood, her immersion in the sea, and her search for a mother figure are emblems of regression in the service of progression toward an artistic vocation”(Stone, 1986). Rather than returning to the dependency of childhood, she goes forward to a new conception of self, a definition of herself as artist. Stone suggests that Edna's romanticism is positive because it brought out her imaginative power.
Stone concludes that Edna's final moment is one of autonomous sexuality. Chopin’s description of the sea where Edna took her first swim, "The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace," and with this symbolic closure portrays Edna becoming whole in the only way she can, by immersion in the universal sea of love. But how can Edna's death be positive? Many critics have a different view. Nevertheless, “ Pontellier succeeds in giving birth to a new self even though the fact that she cannot live on earth as this new self is tragic”.(Stone, 2006)
On the contrary, Sean Heuston has...