Commentary on The Awakening
The Awakening is an early novel by Kate Chopin that depicts the personal enlightenment and growth of Edna Pontellier. Adopted by the feminist movement as one of the earliest examples of feminine awareness, The Awakening has been open to numerous analyses and interpretations.
As McCoy states in her commentary, clothes and nakedness have social significance in the novel The Awakening. The clothes Edna wears symbolizes the mundane traditional roles she has during her married life. She transforms and becomes aware of her own needs and desires. As a result, she sets aside her traditional roles and welcomes the new sensations she has discovered. Like changing her clothes for newer ones, she is liberating herself from a mundane traditional to a more fulfilling identity. “She has begun to consciously perceive the ‘mantle of reserve’ and has let it fall away to see her being revealed” (McCoy 27). Nakedness, on the other hand, signifies complete freedom, an invigorating autonomy that she has not found in her domestic life. In spite of the influence of two women, Mademoiselle Reisz and Madame Ratignolle, on her metamorphosis, Edna refuses to be identified with either.
Church and Havener, focus on The “Lady in Black” in Chopin’s The Awakening. The lady in black character is examined in the context of the character of Mademoiselle Reisz who has successfully integrated independence and self-fulfillment. Reisz buries herself in her artistic passion and through her music forms a connection to Edna. Similarly, the lady in black, professes a life committed to morality and righteousness but allows herself to vicariously experience the earthly existence of the lovers. She spends her waking hours in prayer and abiding by the Holy rules, but is seen stalking the lovers. “This shadowy, unnamed woman…usually engaged in religious activity, and most often juxtaposed with a pair of lovers” (Church 196). These characters are...