A Kate Chopin, The Awakening Essay - Thoughtful Analysis

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The late 1800’s in America was not a time of equality for women. In fact, the ideas of Victorian society of England were quite predominant, especially among the wealthy. The role of a woman in a marriage was almost that of an object, as opposed to a partner. In “polite” society, the wife had no opinions other than her husband’s; she existed to support her husband and to bear children. She was considered frail and dependent. This is how Edna lives, and she is content until that fateful summer of “awakenings.”

The Awakening of Edna

Meeting Adele during the summer at the resort begins Edna’s “awakening” to her self-identity and her desire to break with tradition in many ways. She became, in fact, and early feminist, but one who had little support other than from Adele, who ultimately believed she had gone too far. And yet, Edna’s independence was not quite complete, because once Robert left her, she really did feel quite alone, not liberated. So, in many ways, the conflict within Edna is not truly resolved, except perhaps by her death.

Topics for The Awakening Essays

This is more complex a novel than may be understood upon initially reading. Its complexity comes from the fact that there are several conflicts to be resolved, lots of symbolism, and some pretty important themes that are universal. Here are some ideas as you think about a potential topic for your The Awakening essay.

  1. There are at least 3 conflicts in this novel – man vs. man, man vs. himself, and man vs. society. Which of these is the most important conflict?
  2. What is the significance of the lady in black who continues to appear? What does she represent?
  3. Describe the relationship between Edna and Leonce.
  4. What is the symbolism of the ocean? Would this novel had been as effective if it were set somewhere else?
  5. Describe each of Edna’s “awakenings.”
  6. Chopin uses birds to depict certain ideas. What ideas are depicted by mockingbirds, pigeons and parrots?
  7. Is Edna’s suicide due to failure and defeat or is it a final act of independence? Consider her method of suicide as you think about this.
  8. Discuss the role of Adele in Edna’s liberation. Is Adele somewhat responsible for Edna’s death?
  9. In what way is Robert still steeped in Victorian social mores?

The Awakening by Kate Chopin is a common choice for study by instructors of American literature. Chopin always deals with themes that are universal to the human condition. The themes in the work relate to self-identity through independence and the solitude that may come when one’s independence defies conventional society. There are always consequences of freedom and self-expression, both good and bad. Another great essay topic might relate to those good and bad consequences for Edna and her ultimate inability to “fit” anywhere once Robert is gone and the thought of returning to her former life is out of the question. She is, essentially, utterly an outcast.

There are plenty of critical analyses of this work, and it might be a good idea to read a few of them before you select a topic for your essay. If you need help, the pros at Essay Thinker are certainly ready for you.