.In celebration of Banned Books Week, I am jumping on the Banned Wagon and participating in a promotion hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. Visit her blog atwww.bookjourney.wordpress.com to check out featured posts from bloggers all around the country celebrating the freedom to read books of their choosing!
Author: Kate Chopin
Source: Freebooks App
This story of a woman's struggle with oppressive social structures received much public contempt at its first release; put aside because of initial controversy, the novel gained popularity in the 1960s, some six decades after its first publication, and has since remained a favorite of many readers. Chopin's depiction of a married woman, bound to her family and with no way to assert a fulfilling life of her own, has become a foundation for feminism and a classic account of gender crises in the late Victorian era.
I loved this book so, so much. It somehow escaped my reading it, even in college, although my minor is literature. I was blown away by how much I loved it - usually classics are something I slog through slowly, always feeling a little bored. (I know, this is terrible!) My experience with this book was different. Chopin's writing was so elegant and beautiful, that I was never bored.
When the book begins, Edna Pontellier is married with two kids, and seemingly content, although slightly reserved and repressed. They are vacationing on Grand Isle, where she meets Robert Lebrun, who is known to befriend and become an "attendant" to a certain woman all summer. He chooses Edna, and they spend hours and hours a day together, talking, walking, in companionable silence. Edna begins to realize her own independence and desires during this time, and falls in love with Robert. He in turn is in love with her as well, but these are unspoken feelings between the two of them, since she is a married woman.
At the end of the season, she returns to New Orleans with her family, and Robert leaves for Mexico. She pines over Robert, realizing she loves him and not her husband. She begins to slowly extricate herself from her old life, and eventually moves into her own little home. She strikes up a flirtation with another man, Alcee, and has a physical affair with him, although her heart belongs to Robert. She learns from a mutal friend that Robert is in love with her as well, but staying away out of her best interest and self-preservation. Finally, he returns home to New Orleans, confesses his love to Edna, and she to him, and you think finally, they are going to be together. Sadly, this is not the case. Robert changes his mind, not willing to buck the rules of society and drag her into a scandal. Edna feels like no one understands her, and that she will never truly be fulfilled. Rather than giving up a part of herself to a life that is false to her own desires, wants and needs, she commits suicide.
I don't condone extramarital affairs (or suicide!) - but I do think if you are in a bad relationship, then you should not have to be forced to stay in it. I don't think Edna had any other options in her life - she could stay in a marriage that was loveless, or have an affair with the man she loved, living on her own. Since the second option was not available to her, she chose not to live a false life, by not living at all. She was not very maternal, she didn't love her husband, and he really didn't love her too much either. When he heard that she had moved out, he was not worried that she loved another man, he was worried about how it might ruin his image and hurt him financially. I don't really blame her for wanting out of that relationship.
Why was this book banned?
I read online on the Kate Chopin website, that this book was called morbid, vulgar, disagreeable, trite and sordid. And this is when it was published in 1899! It has also been challenged twice that I can find in recent years.
This was on Amazon, from the publisher:
First published in 1899, this beautiful, brief novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banished for decades afterward. Now widely read and admired, The Awakening has been hailed as an early vision of woman's emancipation. This sensuous book tells of a woman's abandonment of her family, her seduction, and her awakening to desires and passions that threated to consumer her.
That is what gets me- I can see how in 1899 this book would have caused a havoc. The idea that a well born, high society woman with a husband and family, could just one day start having an affair and leave their family must have been shocking. But now? Not so much, especially when the wife is only valued as property, stuck in an unfulfilled marriage without love. But too risque for today? I hardly think so. This book is beautifully written, about a woman who defied the expectations of women in her era. I couldn't help rooting for Edna and Robert.
I love this book - and I hope you will too! I am giving away one hardcover copy to one lucky commenter.
Please comment on the post, tell me anything about banned books at all, whether you have read this book, what you think of it, and leave your email address to enter the giveaway. Must live in the US, and comment before October 13th. Winner will be chosen using Random.org.