Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Reading Adventure 2013 Part I: The Awakening

So one of the things that I'm required to do to keep in my honors level courses is read a book. Well, actually for English I need to read two books, write two rhetorical precis, two outlines, and two personal responses (one in each category due by July 15). For Social Studies I need to read a book, then read the first four chapters in my textbook and answer some questions.

So I test-drove the idea of book reviews last year with Withering Away Heights and I think I'm going to do it again. This contains plot spoilers, and may very well ruin the book for you. Sorry, but I am warning you now.

The first book I've read this summer was The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Where the heck do I start with this plot? It's about this woman who decides she is unhappy with her life as a married woman with children, and didn't marry for love, and wah.

It's set 19th century New Orleans and the whole aim of the piece is to highlight the lack of choices women had in the way of self expression, and what happens when they bow to social conventions and have to follow strict class expectations et cetera. 

The plotline follows Edna Pontellier experiencing a personal awakening that she didn't marry for love, and falls in love with a lovely younger gentleman named Robert. But, again: She is married to a guy already, and has two children. He loves her back, so he moves away to remove himself out of the equation.

I want to take a moment to appreciate the fact that her sons names are √Čtienne and Raoul. 

Anyway, she decides that she also wants to be an artist. Her husband is the breadwinner and she is expected by social conventions to serve as homemaker and loyal wife and downright dull stock character. So she sends her kids to her homeland of Kentucky, her husband off to make money in New York. And she moves out. And Robert comes back. 

And what Robert essentially tells her is: Lady, I love you, but I can't be with you because, you know, adultery and stuff. So what is the logical thing to do at this point. You guessed it - she commits suicide. The end. Because that 

Okay, so I get that class culture is something important here. So are gender roles, because together they essentially drive this Edna chick insane and she kills herself. But these are social constructs of the 1890s. 

I understand that gender gaps are still a thing. In fact, a much better (and expanded) argument can be viewed here: So we have a long way to go, but I am not sure I am getting out of this what I should. 

I saw gender roles, and Edna's struggle to be an artist to a world not kind to women wanting to be artists, not some tragic love story of a woman wanting what she cannot have. 

I think we've come a bit further than having to resort to suicide because your on the side lover wants to preserve the sacrament of the existing marriage. And I'm also trying to figure out its relevance to me personally. I guess it's cultural awareness of gender roles, but in the context of a 1890s tragedy. 

Honestly, I didn't like the book. I liked what I interpreted as the message, which really was only made clear through reading criticism. It was quite Dickens-y with the whole 'let's describe every detail of the dresses at parties' thing, but it's a short (200ish page) read. Wouldn't recommend it, but I would recommend this criticism on it. Which, I guess requires reading the book:


So this week I celebrated four years since the first post in 2009. I got bored and played with my image editor, and this happened (left)

But seriously, Thanks. No matter how long you've been reading, or if this is like the future and I'm in year like five or whatever, thanks for reading my nonsense week after week, despite how rambly these things get. 

Thanks for reading, because honestly, without people reading this, I would've stopped a long while back. 

Stay tuned for more (slightly comical, I hope) book reviews. Meh.

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