The Awakening and Selected Stories
edited and with an introduction by Sandra M. Gilbert.
The literary reputation and career of Kate Chopin were compromised after the shocked critical reception to her 1899 novel, The Awakening. The novel’s heroine, Edna Pontellier, wife of a New Orleans broker, leaves her husband and children for a life of greater independence, including extramarital sex. More than half a century after Chopin’s death, the author was “rehabilitated” by an appreciative re-evaluation of the importance and groundbreaking nature of her work. Edna’s story opens on Grand Isle, La., a Gulf Coast island devastated by an Oct. 1, 1893 hurricane that killed 2,000 people. The catastrophe forever changed the island as Chopin knew it. Before publication of The Awakening, Chopin had received positive reviews as a “local colorist,” capturing the regional qualities of 19th century Southern life in her fiction. More modern acknowledgment of her contributions to the literary genre of realism, as well as appreciative feminist interpretations of her work have brought Chopin into the pantheon of the most important American women fiction writers of the 19th century.
There are many different editions of The Awakening — some of which also include Chopin’s short stories, and others which include valuable criticism of her work. The Library has purchased additional copies of the edition entitled, The Awakening and Other Short Stories. The Awakening is also available at the Library as an audiocassette book as well as a downloadable audiobook.
Two collections of short stories, Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie, were well received as examples of “local color” fiction. Her next published novel was The Awakening. It offended critics with its themes of marital infidelity, sexual passion and female independence. The harsh reception did not, as some believe, completely end the author’s literary output. She again wrote about illicit sexual passion in The Storm well before D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Unfortunately, poor health finally resulted in her collapse from a cerebral hemorrhage. She died in 1904.
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