by Kate Chopin
“She missed him the days when some pretext served to take him away from her, just as one misses the sun on a cloudy day without having thought much about the sun when it was shining.”
“The years that are gone seem like dreams—if one might go on sleeping and dreaming—but to wake up and find—oh! well! perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.”
These, and many other quotations in The Awakening, are what makes the book so poignantly touching and beautiful to read. However, what interested me the most is the fact that Edna, the main character, has everything society said she should want in life: a doting husband, two beautiful children and a life free of worry, and yet she has nothing, no power, no liveliness, no independence in her life—she is going through life half-asleep. In fact, there are moments of Edna’s growth that parallel my own fears of living a half-life blindly following society’s rules, and I’m sure that as I grow older, I will find more layers in The Awakening about nature, desire, society and be able to connect more with Edna.
Another thing I enjoyed about The Awakening was that the book isn’t merely a story about a love affair or about romance at all—it’s about not letting society possess you and about living your life with your own rules and not merely sleeping through it. I found it a fascinating story about a woman’s own awakening, and I liked the fact that the love affair was merely a tool to showcase this.
For instance, this is why I didn’t enjoy A Room With a View by E.M. Forster, because I felt that the whole story was about going against society for love. I found it simply a sappy love story, and it didn’t help that I didn’t buy their romance for a second. In fact, throughout the book, I didn’t even want the two characters to end up together because I thought that would be a much more poignant ending to show that love does not always conquer all.
However, it’s clear from the beginning that what Edna has with Robert is an infatuation, which she herself remarks upon when saying that “there was no human being whom she wanted more than Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone.” Their romance is all about desire, which again illustrates that what Edna wants and is attracted to is to leave the boring façade of society (her husband Léonce, who only cares about the appearance of things) and to live as Nature intended, freely. And in the end, I finally got my poignant ending of Robert leaving Edna because of his love for her, and Edna left entirely alone, without society, swimming in the rolling, blue waves of the nature’s sea.