Highlights from The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Up until now I left all my book highlights be as they are after I finished a book. I figured, however, to share my highlights could be a great way to solidify what I read and arouse your interest in books you might've not found otherwise.
I will only share books I found relevant, gripping, and worthwhile so every book-highlight post is a recommendation at the same time.
Here we go:
Kate Chopin's The Awakening is a sublime piece of early feminist literature. Even though it's set in the 19th century I found many parts of it to be frighteningly relevant today.
This book touches on several aspects of feminism: It's both about women's hard-to-break role in society as well as motherhood and women who are too often misunderstood and burdened by society's expectations about what it means to be a mother.
The main character is Edna, a fiercely independent spirit, wife, and mother of two boys. Her thoughts, feelings, and consequently, actions clash more and more against what her social circle expects of her and all we can do is watch how she both fights and suffocate. At the same time, she liberates herself during the process.
I got the ebook from Project Gutenberg - an online library of free ebooks.
He (Mr. Pontellier, Edna's husband) thought it very discouraging that his wife, who was the sole object of his existence, evinced so little interest in things which concerned him, and valued so little his conversation.
Mr. Pontellier returned to his wife with the information that Raoul (their son) had a high fever and needed looking after. Then he lit a cigar and went and sat near the open door to smoke it.
He approached his wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children. If it was not a mother's place to look after children, whose on earth was it?
She could not have told why she was crying. Such experiences as the foregoing were not uncommon in her married life. They seemed never before to have weighed much against the abundance of her husband's kindness and uniform devotion which had come to be tacit and self-understood.
An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish. It was like a shadow, like a mist passing across her soul's summer day. It was strange and unfamiliar; it was mood. She did not sit there inwardly upbraiding her husband, lamenting at Fate, which had directed her footsteps to the path which they had taken. She was just having a good cry all to herself.
And the ladies, selecting with dainty and discriminating fingers and a little greedily, all declared that Mr. Pontellier was the best husband in the world. Mrs. Pontellier was forced to admit that she knew of none better.
It would have been a difficult matter for Mr. Pontellier to define to his own satisfaction or any one else's wherein his wife failed in her duty toward their children. It was something which he felt rather than perceived, and he never voiced the feeling without subsequent regret and ample atonement.
It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.
Mrs. Pontellier's mind was quite at rest concerning the present material needs of her children, and she could not see the use of anticipating and making winter night garments the subject of her summer meditations.
Mrs. Pontellier had brought her sketching materials, which she sometimes dabbled with in an unprofessional way. She liked the dabbling. She felt in it satisfaction of a kind which no other employment afforded her.
During his oblivious attention he once quietly rested his head against Mrs. Pontellier's arm. As gently she repulsed him. Once again he repeated the offense. She cold not but believe it to be thoughtlessness on his part; yet that was no reason she should submit to it. She did not remonstrate, except again to repulse him quietly but firmly. He offered no apology.
In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her.
At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life - that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions.
(on why people around Edna are all of the self-contained, non-effasive type) "She never realized that the reserve of her own character had much, perhaps everything, to do with this."
Her marriage to Leonce Pontellier was purely an accident, in this respect resembling many other marriages which masquerade as the decrees of fate.
She grew fond of her husband, realizing with some unaccountable satisfaction that no trace of passion or excessive and fictitious warmth colored her affection, thereby threatening its dissolution.
She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would sometimes forget them.
Feelings secure regarding their happiness and welfare, she did not miss them except with an occasional intense longing. Their absence was a sort of relief, though she did not admit this, even to herself. It seemed to free her of a responsibility which she had blindly assumed and for which Fate had not fitted her.
She heard him moving about the room; every sound indicating impatience and irritation. Another time she would have gone in at his request. She would, through habit, have yielded to his desire; not with any sense of submission or obedience to his compelling wishes, but unthinkingly, as we walk, move, sit, stand, go through the daily treadmill of the life which has been portioned out to us.
She perceived that her will had blazed up, stubborn and resistant. She could not at that moment have done other than denied and resisted.
(Racism in earlier literature)"Madame Ratignolle hoped that Robert would exercise extreme caution in dealing with the Mexicans, who, she considered, were a treacherous people, unscrupulous and revengeful. She trusted she did them no injustice in thus condemning them as a race."
(Lovesickness) "Robert's going had some way taken the brightness, the color, the meaning out of everything. The conditions of her life were in no way changed, but her whole existence was dulled, like a faded garment which seems to be no longer worth wearing."
She had all her life long been accustomed to harbor thoughts and emotions which never voiced themselves. They had never taken the form of struggles. They belonged to her and were her own, and she entertained the conviction that she had a right to them and that they concerned no one but herself. Edna had once told Madame Ratignollethat she would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for anyone.
(Edna) "I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. [...]"
(about marriage and after observing another married couple) Edna felt depressed rather than soothed after leaving them. The little glimpse of domestic harmony which had been offered her gave her no regret, no longing. It was not a condition of life which fitted her, and she could see in it but an appalling and hopeless ennui. She was moved by a kind of commiseration for Madame Ratignolle, - a pity for that colorless existence which never uplifted its possessor beyond the region of blind contentment, in which no moment of anguish ever visited her soul, in which she would never have the taste of life's delirium.
Mr. Pontellier had been a rather courteous husband so long as he met a certain tacit submissiveness in his wife. But her new and unexpected line of conduct completely bewildered him. It shocked him. Then her absolute disregard for her duties as a wife angered him. When Mr. Pontellier became rude, Edna grew insolent. She had resolved never to take another step backward.
It sometimes entered Mr. Pontellier's mind to wonder if his wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.
The doctor was a semi-retired physician, resting, as the saying is, upon his laurels. He bore a reputation for wisdom rather than skill - leaving the active practice of medicine to his assistants and younger contemporaries - and was much sought for in matters of consultation.
(The Doctor) "[...]let your wife alone for a while. Don't bother her, and don't let her bother you. Woman, my dear friend, is a very peculiar and delicate organism - a sensitive and highly organized woman, sich as I know Mrs. Pontellier to be, is especially peculiar. It would require an inspired psychologist to deal successfully with them. And when ordinary fellows like you and me attempt to cope with their idiosyncrasies the result is bungling. Most women are moody and whimsical. This is some passing whim of your wife, due to some cause or causes which you and I needn't try to fathom But it will pass happily over, especially if you let her alone.[...]"
(Edna) "[...]I'm going to pull myself together for a while and think - try to determine what character of a woman I am; for, candidly, I don't know. By all the codes which I am acquainted with, I am a devilishly wicked specimen of the sex. But some way I can't convince myself that I am. I must think about it."
(Edna quotes Mademoiselle Reisz)"The bird that would sore above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth."
He (Mr. Pontellier) hoped she had not acted upon her rash impulse; and he begged her to consider first, foremost, and above all else, what people would say.
There was with her a feeling of having descended in the social scale, with a corresponding sense of having risen in the spiritual.
(Madame Ratignolle) "Monsieur Ratignolle was telling me that his attentions alone are considered enough to ruin a woman's name."
(Edna to Robert) "I suppose this is what you would call unwomanly; but I have got into a habit of expressing myself. It doesn't matter to me, and you may think me unwomanly if you like."
(Edna to Robert) "I always feel so sorry for women who don't like to walk; they miss so much - so many rare little glimpses of life; and we women learn so little of life on the whole."
The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul's slavery for the rest of her days.
She thought of Leonce and the children. They were a part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul.
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