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Catherine O’Flaherty (Kate Chopin) was born in St. Louis on February 8, 1850, to an Irish father and a French mother. Chopin’s father, Thomas, had one son, George, who was 4 years old when his mother died. When The Awakening was published in 1899, it was condemned by critics and much of the public. The reviews focused on one central issue: the suggestion that a married woman could or should engage in a sexual affair with a man who was not her husband.
The Awakening is the story of Edna Pontellier, a young mother in her late twenties who, over a period of several months, awakens to her own sexuality. The story opens in the midst of a summer holiday on Grand Isle. Edna is an emotionally and sexually repressed outsider, with little understanding of the Creole society into which she has married.
The Awakening embodies many of the themes that interested the New Women,women’s creativity, marriage, motherhood, and a woman’s place in society.
The novel opens on a Sunday in summer, in the late nineteenth century .This Sunday tableau is typical of many American and British novels of that era. Chopin’s structure for The Awakening fits this scheme, but she embellishes her narrative skeleton with a multitude of details that her enthusiastic, early critics labeled as “local color”. Chopin begins her novel with a stylistic flourish:”A green yellow parrot, which hung in a cage putside the door, kept repeating over and over:”Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi!” (Carey 11)
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