Context: The first book I finished on my new Sony Reader. Read while the snow melted on the new housing estate foundations they’re building over the road. Thi
This is a novella that, if you’re a fan of Edith Wharton, would really appeal to you. In fact, it was this story that probably inspired her to begin her writing streak and take Chopin’s ideas a lot further. The title tells it all. In fact, it’s somewhat prophetic; it marks an awakening not just in the life of Edna Pontellier, the protagonist, but in the lives of women throughout the western world.
Pontellier is married to a man who’s idea of love is to provide for her materially and to prevent their name from being dragged through the mud socially. How they ended up married and how their married life has become as stale as it is when the novel opens Chopin leaves to our imagination. I’d like to have known more of that.
Edna comes to a realisation that she doesn’t need to conform to the social mores that she feels shackle her to a life of banal pointlessness. Thus, she begins to lay hold of various openings around her to explore her rising desires. In doing so, she removes her children completely from the picture by farming them out to a relative and she starts to compromise her husband through her actions. He deals with this better than I thought he would: he goes to a doctor friend for advice and doesn’t interfere with his wife’s continuing estrangement.
The novel ends appropriately I feel and I won’t spoil it for you. And it does a good job of asking a lot of questions of society. It can be viewed against the backdrop of its times of course but I found it a more enlightening text when read against the backdrop of the century of so-called enlightenment and freedom that has followed. When I read it in that context, the ending seemed almost prophetic and a perfect summary of our collective condition.
We reap what we sow.
A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over “Allez vous-en!”
It sometimes entered Mr Pontellier’s mind to wonder if his wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.
There was a hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air.
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