Physical Vs. Spiritual in The Awakening and Anna Karenina

Essay by spaceyedHigh School, 11th gradeA-, February 2003

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We often find ourselves staring into the dark abyss of the recesses of our minds, only to come to the conclusion that our lives have distinguished no significant progress; however, there is that exquisite day on which we take the path less frequented, the day that decides the delineation of new and outrageous changes to our character. Humanity is distinguished by the ability to draw on these newborn revelations, and to make them a central piece of our character. These manifestations of the human existence may take the form of a physical nature, like those found in The Awakening, or of a spiritual quality, not unlike those found in the novel Anna Karenina. Both novels are essential accounts of the human existence, wherein characters are embraced by a growing sense of either their spiritual or physical being.

In Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening, there is a physically defined presence of desire and change lurking within the character of Edna Pontellier. Edna is married into the Creole society, a society "in which people are virtuous because they satisfy its expectations, not because they defy or elude them" (Robinson). The differences in sexual norms between Creole society and a more modern society are apparent in The Awakening. Edna's age in the novel places her as a contemporary of the generation of New Women who were educated in the 1890s: "they placed more emphasis on self-fulfillment, ...moved into creative and artistic fields, and ...fused their challenge of gender conventions with a repudiation of bourgeois [Victorian] sexual norms" (Smith-Rosenberg 177). Edna embodies this description so perfectly in her aspirations to a more fulfilling physical life are physically "awakened" within her character.

Chopin's style relates so well the transformation taking place within Mrs. Pontellier, as her descriptions and symbols revolve around a physical...