The Awakening: General Criticism

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The literary public described Kate Chopin?s most famous novel The Awakening as "Too strong a drink for moral babies, and should be labeled 'poison'." (Seyersted 174). This was not only the view of one magazine, but it summarized the feelings of society as a whole. Chopin woke up people to the feelings and minds of women. Many reviewers regarded the novel?s aggrandizement of sexual impurity as immoral, and thus they condemned the novel?s theme. Even though her ideas were controversial at first, slowly over the decades people began to accept them.

After the publishing of The Awakening, Chopin anxiously awaited the response of critics; unfortunately, while Chopin anticipated a warm reception in the days following the novel?s release, critics were already sharpening the literary knives with which they would dissect both the amoral disposition of Edna Pontellier and the prurient theme of The Awakening. During the weeks following its release, critics roundly condemned Chopin?s novel.

Both Chopin and The Awakening were bombarded with an onslaught of unfavorable reviews. Most critics regarded the novel as vulgar, unwholesome, unholy, and a misappropriation of Chopin?s exceptional literary talent.

Because Chopin?s earlier works had met substantial success, however, most critics acknowledged Chopin?s gifted writing style while at the same time utterly condemning The Awakening?s theme. For example, in the May 4, 1899, issue of The Mirror, Francis Porcher writes, ?And so, because we admire Kate Chopin?s other work immensely and delight in her ever-growing fame and are proud that she is ?one-of-us Louisans,? one dislikes to acknowledge a wish that she had not written her novel? (Culley 145). Appearing just twelve days after The Awakening was released; Porcher?s review set the pace for the avalanche of unfavorable reviews that sounded what appeared to be the death knell for both The Awakening and...