Monday, April 1, 2013

Feminist Book Club - The Awakening.

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I really didn't know what to expect of The Awakening, I was very pleased to see that it was a free download on the Kindle store though! Usually when I am about to read a book I have at least read the blurb so I know what I am in for. But with this one I saw it on the Feminist Book Club and just decided to give it a go. This book was first published in 1899 and I can really see how it was ahead of its time but I found it a little disappointing after it being tagged with the 'feminist' label.  

I did like this book, to some degree and it did hold my attention. The Awakening is about the main character, Edna Pontellier's journey towards self actualising to find her real potential in the world. After reading some reviews online some people say that it is far from self actualisation and that she just shows herself as a selfish, egocentric, sex kitten who doesn't really know what she wants. But that is part of self actualisation. In humanistic counselling theory if someone is in therapy and they start to move from a place of subservience towards self actualisation it is usually the case where people close to the client won't understand the reasons why they are acting the way they are, or think that they are selfish. This is just because the client will usually swing too far into their ego for a while, until they find their balance. I really believe that Edna had just started along this road and that if she would have decided not to end her life maybe she would have eventually reached a place where she truly knew herself. 

I love all the different women that were around her and how they all seemed to be the embodiment of female stereotypes in society, my two favourites were Mademoiselle Reisz who was unmarried and childless and devoted her life to her beloved music. To me she really seemed to be a linchpin when it came to Edna's steps towards self actualisation. Then there was Adele Ratignolle who symbolises the Victorian female ideal, whose whole world revolves around her children and husband. I really enjoyed the way that Edna's life seemed to pinball against these two characters and I think they were sometimes unfortunately overshadowed by Robert and Arobin. Which is where my feminist hackles start to rise. Why should the male roles be the obvious pivotal roles for Edna changing? I found the ending a little disappointing if I'm honest, but maybe taking in account the time it was written it was the only metaphor to end such a controversial novel.    

I'm really looking forward to reading the next book in the Feminist Book Club which is The Whole Woman by Germaine Greer.



  1. A great review -- surely much better than my jumbled thoughts :)

    You should go put this post on the link up so others can see what you have to say.

    I love that you pointed out Edna's pin-balling between the Victorian ideal and the Subversive woman... two women on either ends of the spectrum. I kind of wish Edna would have survived so that we could have seen her (hopefully) reach some kind of happy middle ground.

  2. Ahh I didn't think your review was jumbled at all, I could really relate with you saying about how you think women still have to run a household, be kind, beautiful etc. I think that is very true even in this modern society. Sometimes it's a very difficult concept to try and juggle.

    Can't wait to read the next book :)