Friday, March 25, 2011


Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane’s father was a Methodist preacher in Newark, New jersey, Crane's birth¬place. His mother was a social leader and temperance crusader. Both parents exhibited a characteristic nineteenth-century faith in the benevolence of God, in the existence of free will, and in the significance of man in the universe—ideas that their son, in the course of his short and tempestuous life, would attack with humor and savage irony.

Crane had originally hoped to be a soldier, but in 1890, after two and a half years at a military prep school in New York, he entered Lafayette College to study mining-engineering. After one term he left Lafayette and transferred to Syracuse University. There he devoted most of his efforts to playing varsity baseball, working as a local correspondent for the New York Tribune, and writing his first short stories. After less than a year at Syracuse, Crane withdrew and moved to New York City. There he mingled with Bohemian art students living in tenements, and. he struggled to earn his way as a freelance journalist contributing items to New York newspapers.
Crane's observation of life on New York's Bowery and his reading of exposés of New York slum life provided him with much of the background material for his first novel, “Maggie, A Girl of the Streets” (1893). It was the first naturalistic novel written by an American, and its stark description of squalor and immorality was so shocking for its time that Crane, unable to find an interested publisher, was obliged to publish the novel at his own expense. In 1895, he published his first book of poems, The Black Riders, which were short, caustic, free-verse parables of the absurdity of the human condition. In the same year “The Red Badge of Courage” was published in book form, bringing Crane international acclaim.

His travels as a reporter for a newspaper syndicate took him through the American West, to Mexico, and to Florida where he joined in the unsuccessful gun-running expedition to Cuba that led to his most famous short story, "The Open Boat." In 1897, Crane settled in England, became friends with Joseph Conrad and Henry James, and labored mightily at writing fiction and doing editorial hackwork in an effort to pay for his extravagant style of living. The next year, in spite of ill health, Crane went to Cuba as a war correspondent reporting on the Spanish-American War for the New York World. When he returned to England early in 1899 he was suffering from tuberculosis, and in June 1900, after traveling to a German sanitarium to seek a cure, Crane died. He was twenty-eight.
His early writing had been burlesques and satires, expressions of ironic detachment. Crane had announced that his ambition as a writer was to achieve personal honesty—to deflate romantic idealism, and portray men battered and alone in a hostile world. He has been viewed as an uncompromising determinist, a literary naturalist who saw human beings as wholly controlled by their environment and heredity. At the same time he has been seen as a Christian symbolist expressing faith in the ultimate understanding and redemption of people. Crane was a pioneer of a new literary realism that was impressionistic in its vivid imagery, in its characterizations, and in its narrative style. And he was a master of irony, scrutinizing the persistent illusions of people and the disparity between their buoyant expectations and their doom.

“The Works of Stephen Crane”, 12 vols., ed. W. Follett, 1925-1927, 1963
“The Works of Stephen Crane”, 10 vols., ed. F. Bowers, 1969-1975
“The Correspondence of Stephen Crane”, 2 vols., e0. S. Wertheim and P. Sorrentino, 1988
J. Berryman, “Stephen Crane”, 1950, 1962, 1980
D. Hoffman, “The Poetry of Stephen Crane”, 1957
E. Cady, “Stephen Crane”, 1962, 1980
E. Solomon, “Stephen Crane: From Parody to Realism”, 1966
R. Stallman, “Stephen Crane”, 1968
D. Gibson, “The Fiction of Stephen Crane”, 1968
M. LaFrance, “A Reading of Stephen Crane”, 1971
“Stephen Crane in Transition: Centenary Essays”, ed. J. Katz, 1972
“Stephen Crane's Carrer”, ed. T. Gullason, 1973
F. Bergon; “Stephen Crane's Artistry”, 1975
J. Nagel, “Stephen Crane and Literary Impressionism”, 1980
C. Wolford, “The Anger of Stephen Crane”, 1983
J. Colvert, “Stephen Crane”, 1984
M. Fried, “Realism, Writing, Disfiguration”, 1987
“Stephen Crane”, ed. H. Bloom, 1987
Stephen Crane's “The Red Badge of Courage”, ed. H. Bloom, 1987
B. Knapp, “Stephen Crane”, 1987
C. Wolford, “Stephen Crane: A Study of the Short Fiction”, 1989
D. Halliburton, “The Color of the Sky: A Study of Stephen Crane”, 1989
C. Benfey, “The Double Life of Stephen Crane”, 1992
S. Wertheim and Sorrentino, “The Crane Log: A Documentary Life of Stephen Crane”, 1993
P. Dooley, “The Pluralistic Philosophy of Stephen Crane”, 1993
“Recovering Crane: Essays on a Poet”, ed. R. Kelly and A. Lathrop, 1993
M. Robertson, Stephen Crane: “Journalism and the Making of Modern American Literature”, 1997
L. Davis, “Badge of Courage: The Life of Stephen Crane”, 1998
R. Morris, “Stephen Crane: A Biography”, 2005

The Poems of Stephen Crane, ed. J. Katz, 1966
"The Open Boat," The Works of Stephen Crane, Vol. V, Tales of Adventure, ed. E Bowers, 1970
"The Blue Hotel," The Monster and Other Stories, 1899

Jack London Biography II

Jack [John Griffith] London

John Griffith London (1876-1916) was born in San Francisco of an unmarried mother of wealthy background, Flora Wellman. His father may have been William Chaney, a journalist, lawyer, and major figure in the development of American astrology. Because Flora was ill, Jack was raised through infancy by an ex-slave, Virginia Prentiss, who would remain a major maternal figure while the boy grew up. Late in 1876, Flora married John London, a partially disabled Civil War veteran. The family moved around the Bay area before settling in Oakland, where Jack completed grade school. Though the family was working class, it was not so impoverished as London's later accounts claimed.

As an adolescent, the boy adopted the name of Jack. He worked at various hard labor jobs, pirated for oysters on San Francisco Bay, served on a fish patrol to capture poachers, sailed the Pacific on a sealing ship, joined Kelly's Army of unemployed working men, hoboed around the country, and returned to attend high school at age 19. In the process, he became acquainted with socialism and was known as the Boy Socialist of Oakland for his street corner oratory. He would run unsuccessfully several times on the socialist ticket as mayor. Always a prolific reader, he consciously chose to become a writer to escape from the horrific prospects of life as a factory worker. He studied other writers and began to submit stories, jokes, and poems to various publications, mostly without success.

Spending the winter of 1897 in the Yukon provided the metaphorical gold for his first stories, which he began publishing in the Overland Monthly in 1899. From that point he was a highly disciplined writer, who would produce over fifty volumes of stories, novels, and political essays. Although The Call of the Wild (1903) brought him lasting fame, many of his short stories deserve to be called classics, as does his critique of capitalism and poverty in The People of the Abyss (1903), and his stark discussion of alcoholism in John Barleycorn (1913). London's long voyage (1907-09) across the Pacific in a small boat provided material for books and stories about Polynesian and Melanesian cultures. He was instrumental in breaking the taboo over leprosy and popularizing Hawaii as a tourist spot.

London was among the most publicized figures of his day, and he used this pulpit to endorse his support of socialism, women's suffrage, and eventually, prohibition. He was among the first writers to work with the movie industry, and saw a number of his novels made into films. His novel The Sea-Wolf became the basis for the first full-length American movie. He was also one of the first celebrities to use his endorsement for commercial products in advertising, including dress suits and grape juice.

Because he was an autodidact, London's ideas lacked consistency and precision. For example, he clearly accepted the Social Darwinism and scientific racism prevalent during his time, yet he seem troubled that the "inevitable white man," as he called him, would destroy the rich cultures of various native groups he had encountered over the years. Although he supported women's suffrage and created some of the most independent and strong female characters in American fiction, he was patriarchal toward his two wives and two daughters. His socialism was fervent, but countered by his strong drive toward individualism and capitalist success. These contradictory themes in his life and writing make him a difficult figure to reduce to simple terms.

London's great love became agriculture, and he often stated he wrote to support his Beauty Ranch in Glen Ellen. He brought to California techniques observed in Japan, such as terracing and manure spreading, and was accomplished in animal husbandry. He was far ahead of his time in conceiving of the ranch as self-sufficient and self-regenerating. His Wolf House, for example, was built of rock and lumber from his property. He was much influenced by the Arts and Crafts philosophy in these regards.

London's first marriage (1900) was to Bess Maddern, with whom he had two daughters, Joan and Bess. In choosing her, he followed the precept in a book he co-wrote with Anna Strunsky, The Kempton-Wace Letters, that mates should be selected for good breeding, not love. (Bess agreed.) Following an affair with "New Woman" Charmian Kittredge, five years his senior, he divorced Bess. In 1905 he married his "Mate Woman," who became the persona for many of his female characters and who avidly joined him on his many travel ventures. He encouraged her own writing career, and she wrote three books concerning their life (The Log of the Snark, Our Hawaii, and The Book of Jack London).

Often troubled by physical ailments, during his thirties London developed kidney disease of unknown origin. He died of renal failure on November 22, 1916 on the ranch. Because his writings were translated in several dozen languages, he remains more widely read in some countries outside of the United States than in his home country. Study of his life and writings provides a case through which to examine the contradictions in the American character, along with key movements and ideas prominent during the Progressive era.

Following London's death, for a number of reasons a biographical myth developed in which he has been portrayed as an alcoholic womanizer who committed suicide. Recent scholarship based upon firsthand documents challenges this caricature. But its persistence has resulted in neglect of his full literary ouevre and his significance as a seminal figure in turn-of-the-century social history.


Jack London
Jack London was the illegitimate son of a father who was a wandering astrologer and a mother who was a spiritualist and medium. Born in San Francisco, London was raised in Oakland, where he roamed the waterfront and attended school only occasionally, but, as he reported in his autobiographical novel, Martin Eden (1909), he read constantly, as much as nineteen hours a day. He "rode the rods" over the Sierras to the East, was jailed for vagrancy in Buffalo at eighteen, worked as an "oyster pirate" in San Francisco Bay, stealing from the oyster beds belonging to other fishermen. He sailed as a seaman on a sealing trip to Japan and in 1896 joined the gold rush to the Klondike, where found no gold but gathered ample material for the brutal, vigorous life he portrayed in The Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906), novels of man and beast struggling against the tremendous forces of nature.

From 1900 to 1916, London wrote more than fifty books, earning a million dollars, which he spent (as quickly as he earned it) in a frantic search for contentment. From social Darwinism London had absorbed the idea that to survive, people must adapt to irresistible natural forces and to "the stress and strain of life, its fevers and sweats and wild indulgences." Although his writing is often categorized simply as literary naturalism, the sources of his ideas were complex. London was most deeply influenced by the seemingly irreconcilable opposites of Nietzsche and Marx. From Nietzsche he borrowed the idea of the super human beings, evident in its most destructive form in Wolf Larsen, the predatory hero of London's “The Sea Wolf” (1904). From Marx he took the idea of the need for social reform and of the power of economic determinism, concepts he embodied in his socialistic treatises; “The. War of the Classes”, (1905); and “The Human Drift”, (1907); and in his terrifying vision of the coming of totalitarianism; “The Iron Heel”, (1907).

London was a storyteller of great emotional power and excitement, a master of tempo and pace whose adventure stories continue to fascinate a large reading public. As a writer, he was bold; sensational, tragic and, like his characters, a champion and a victim of the "wild indulgences" of life and nature.

Letters from Jack London, ed, K. Hendricks and I. Shepard, 1965
The Letters of Jack London, 3 vols., ed. E. Labor, R. Leitz, and M. Shepard, 1988
Complete Short Stories of Jack London, ed. E. Labor, R. Leitz, and I. Shepard, 1993
C. London, The Book of Jack London, 2.vols., 1921
J. London, Jack London and His Times, 1939; 1968
I. Stone, Sailor on Horseback: The Biography of Jack London, 1938
P. Foner, Jack London: American Rebel, 1947
R. O'Connor, Jack London: A Biography; 1964
F. Walker, Jack London and the Klondike, 1966
A. Sinclair, Jack: A Biography of Jack London, 1977,1983
R. Kingman, A Pictorial Life of Jack London, 1981
J. Perry, Jack London: An American Myth, 1981
J. Hedrick, Solitary Comrade: Jack London and His Work: 1982
J. McClintock, White Logic: Jack London's Short Stories, 1975
C. Watson, The Novels of Jack London, 1983
Critical Essays on Jack London, ed. J. Tavernier-Courbin, 1983
J. Lundquist, Jack London, 1987
C. Stasz, American Dreamers: Chairman and Jack London, 1988
J. London, Jack London and His Daughters, 1991
R. Kingman, Jack London: A Definitive Chronology, 1992
T. Williams, Jack London-The Movies:-An Historical Survey, 1992
The Letters of Jack London, ed. K Labor, R. Leitz, and I. Shepard 1988
Complete Short Stories of Jack London, ed. E. Labor, R. Leitz, and I. Shepard, 1993
E. Labor and J. Reesman, Jack London, 1994
J. Auerbach; Male Call: Becoming Jack London, 1996
Rereading Jack London, ed. L. Cassuto and J. Reesman, 1996
A. Kershaw, Jack London: A Life, 1997
J. Reesman, Jack London: A Study of the Short Fiction, 1999
K Stefoff, Jack London: An American Original, 2002

"The Law of Life," Children of the Frost, 1902
"To Build a Fire," Lost Face, 1910; The Red One, 1918

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Class Notes March 08, 2011

From page 7 in the text.

The arbiter of nineteenth-century literary realism in America was William Dean Howells. He defined realism as "nothing more and nothing less than the truthful treatment of material,"

Norman Vincent Peal – his approach to America

“But at the end of the century came a generation of writers whose ideas of the workings of the universe…”

Notice the phrase the “workings of the universe”; something you will have to understand about the Naturalism, they have a different conception of the universe.

Realists are realists, they still believe that God is in charge over the universe; this is not the case with Naturalism.

“…and whose perception of society's disorders led them to naturalism, a new and harsher realism.”

“America's literary naturalists scorned the idea that literature [that would] present comforting moral truths. Instead, naturalist writers attempted to achieve extreme objectivity and frankness, presenting characters of low social and economic [status]”

In some ways we will see; in a way not some much in “The Blue Hotel”, but we are certainly going to see it with Jack London’s; we’ve got like tribal societies… you’ll see that.

“…low social and economic classes who were dominated by their environment and heredity.”

Now these are the two key things I will talk more about them in a minute… but you don’t have any will of your own to make your life; no your will is dominated by heredity and by environment, in other words, genetics and what you are taught and what is your condition; now this is the Naturalists view. Naturalists emphasized the world was a-moral if you act against morals, you are immoral. Amoral means there’s just no morals, no God, no morality. That men or women had no free will. That religious truths were illusionary. That the destiny of humanity was the misery in life, oblivion in death.

Destiny of humanity was misery in life; you were born; you suffered; you died. Naturalism like realism came from Europe; In America it had been shaped by the Civil War; and the teachings of Charles Darwin. Darwinism suggested that people are dominated by irresitable forces of evolution.

“…pessimism and deterministic ideas of naturalism pervaded the works of such writers as Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Jack London, Henry Adams, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Theodore Dreiser. They wrote detailed descriptions of the lives of the downtrodden; they offered frank treatment of human passion and sexuality; they portrayed men and women overwhelmed by the blind forces of nature–all of which had a powerful influence on modern writers. Realism and naturalism remained popular with writers at the turn of the century. Writers of the early 1900s…”

We’ll pick it up with Faulkner; we’ll pick it up with Steinbeck;

Jack London Biography

He we have Charles Darwin; a British Naturalist; in 1859 wrote “The Origins of the Spicies”. You would think that the book was published in 1859 and everyone would have had a chance to read it and talk about it… no! It really wasn’t widely disseminated until almost the end of the century. What happended was it almost got put aside completely, it almost just sort of faded out.

Herbert Spencer who coined the phrase “Survival of the Fittest”. He helped to popularize eveolution; he was one of the founders of sociology.

Carl Marx, of course came along too. In 1883 he is writing “The Communist Manifesto” It’s called “The History of all Hitherto Existing Society, The History of Class Struggle”; Communism.

Fredrick Niche – The three most famous words he ever spoke… “God Is Dead”. He’s a German philosopher and is writing in a way that is earth shaking. He had a tremendous affect on people.

Now this is a time when tre

He is also influenced by the Communist Manifesto.

At this time, it was generally thought that the world was created in 4004BC. Along comes Darwin in 1859 and says that the Earth is millions of years old. All species had evolved from a common beginning.

In the 1600 _____ said that the Universe went on forever & ever, and that meant that there was no room for Heaven, which meant that he was a heretic; then burned at the stake.

Now science begins to dominate; theorists, and of course there is outrage. He is denounced, Origin of the Species is denounced and considered complete heresy. If Darwin was the of evelotion, then Herbert Spencer was its philosopher.

He spent _____ years writing “The Synthetic Philosophy”; It’s a huge work with all of these volumes, what he’s trying to do is

A fundamental law of social as well as physical.

Evolution of society,
His general intent is from simple and general uniform intent
Involving increasingly complex social

The simple ____ to the complex; now the complex is going to be
Society is going to be more stable.

Now Darwinism has come under a lot of fire, a lot of scientists, especially biologists, tend to

Now what Stephen Crane and Jack London saw was… they tried to apply these laws to individuals as well as social organizations. There is a social struggle for existence. If you apply evolution to society evolving, well you are going to get remember the Darwinian principal, the strong are going to survive and the weak are going to be weeded out. In our society you can have child labor poverty war, which was rampant at the time, because that’s all okay, the strong will survive and overcome that.

Now to have this figure social struggle, remember,

This ruthless quest for power, this giant of a man, selection of the fittest by crushing the weak and the helpless. Superman appeals so much to acerian thinking that of course the german Philospepher ed to

Niche; most of the times they are portrayed as ferocious Vikings; the Germans portrayed them as the Airien race. We they talk about heredity, they are talking about race. At the same time you’ve got the communist manifesto, and at the same time you got evolution of society.

It’s being challenged by the society of communism; Communism says that the working man of the world, helpless downtrodden weak victims, should unite and over through the exploiters and the oppressors; the industrial ruling class. Now they didn’t look at the ruling class as people with money as being the fittest, they looked at them as having the money; so if we unite we’ll have more power to fight them off.

According to the followers of Marx, not the super man individualist, but the socialist must be the instrument of socialist evolution. This guy had complex ideas; and youknow, these things are just developing, people are dealing with these things for the first time and.

We’ll look at Jack London and see how he uses it; and we are going to see about Crane, we will focus more on Crane, London we will see.

Now I want to talk to you at the bottom of the page Literary Naturalism; its and outgrowth of Realism; Naturalist writers were influenced by evolution; they believe heredity and surrounding defines ones character. Realism seeks to describe subjects as they really are. Naturalism attempts to determine scientifically the underlying forces, the environment, the heredity influencing these individuals’ actions. Now you might think that generally our educational system; you are a blank slate; you are born; you are taught stuff; you develop on your own; you have your own ideas. In the 19th century, heredity was looked upon, if your father was a murderer, then you don’t want to marry someone who’s father is a murderer, because then they
Bad person it’s a hereditary thing; well you know, then… over the last twenty-thirty years they did a whole host of tests of identical twins. One goes to California, one goes to New York; they don’t know each other, they are reunited in there twenties or thirties; there is a whole series of

Guess what, these people married women with the same name; they had dogs, they had the same kind of dogs, they named the dogs the same. They smoked the same brand of cigarettes; they do this they do that. It’s endless, its frightening. This is statistically impossible. What are you going to say, something to do with genes. Its inherited, so how much do you
How much is working out of your genetic makeup. They may not have been that wrong with what they were saying. There’s more to it tan what we think other

These are the two things that Naturalists are going to push.

Naturalists work off of uncouth or sorted subject matter. Now the French writer Neil Zola the great French naturalist writer. He was writing all this time, he was writing about uneducated people working down in coal mines, and all the things that were happening about prostitutes and all this stuff. The French is very descriptive of all this stuff. Now of course Stephen crane; who I am going to talk to you about in a few minutes, wrote the first American Naturalistic novel called “Maggie, the Girl of the Streets” Its about a prostitute who dies of syphilis.

Determinism is the theory that here in actions are controlled by antecedents. Cause that will not let you exercise freewill. Causes that happen before you do something. Your heredity, your genetic causes or the environment has conditioned you. That’s pretty limited; its so limited that naturalism couldn’t go on for very long. There is a limit as to how many low life characters you can write about.


Page 786
The guy is 28 years old; he died very young. His father was a Methodist preacher in Newark, New jersey. His father shifted from one parish to another ~every two years. He is the 14th child in the family. He was the fourteenth and last child born to the couple. His mother was a elected President and a popular spokeswoman for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Asbury Park.

Crane didn’t like it very much, he eventually left the church.

At the age of 14 he left Asbury Park, and

Crane was considered a rebel and was hostile toward formal education and decided that he wanted to get out and study humanity by itself. Part of this was a rebellion against his mother spending all of this time with ______ he didn’t like it. Stephen Crane is very candid regardless of any conventions; he will attack.

He likes low life people; he went to New York and wrote Maggie; it was the first American Naturalist novel. He went to the slums; hung out in the slums; they call it the slums, there was a big Irish; at this point in time the immigration came from Ireland; they had the potato famine and all this stuff; and uneducated Irish people, he went in to the east side of Manhattan. The the stories about ; all the drinking bouts, and all this stuff that happens, this family called the Johnsons it’s a scene of fight for survival. She is somebody that blossoms in a mud puddle; she is a pretty girl, she is affected by her surroundings; she later works in a factory and this guy she meets he is a bar tender, he is her knight in shining armor; he ends up seducing her and then he gets her pregnant. He seduces her; gets her pregnant and abandons her; and of course the family throws her out. She has to become a prostitute to survive. It’s a pretty grim novel.

“The environment is a tremendous thing in the world, because she herself is romantic and weak, (that’s her nature, her heredity, her back ground), also because nobody is interested in her fate and how she redeems herself by committing suicide, her only possible escape from a life of moral degradation. She drowns herself in the East River. Anyway, this is the first Naturalistic novel, it’s about prostitution and this sort of thing.

Crane writes about what he knows; he sort of does some research on this.

He writes a famous civil war story “The Red Badge of Courage”. It was considered the most realistic account of the war ever written by a realist Union Army. The surprising thing was that Crane was never in the army. But actually what he did was he interviewed a whole lot of people about the war and as a result, most people thought he had been in the war. He did go to the Spanish American War, there he wrote the “Open Boat”; and he said, “

Crane died of Tuberculosis at 28. He ended up in the sanitarium for rest; they didn’t have any penicillin at that time.

Part of this thing with researching “Maggie” he became familiar with prostitutes; the police in NY at the time were very corrupt; you did not want to mess with the police. He wrote an article exposing the police treatment; shaking down the prostitutes and all this other stuff, and the corruption of the police. They were going to kill him. They would have killed him; he left NY and went down to Florida, and writing all this stuff, he wore himself out. He was writing so much that when he went to Cuba for the Spanish American war, he began to get this lung disease.

“…in June 1900, after traveling to a German sanitarium to seek a cure, Crane died. He was twenty-eight.”

“…He has been viewed as an uncompromising determinist, a literary naturalist who saw human beings as wholly controlled by their environment and heredity.”

P.790 Poetic Quote


First published in 1898

The effect that the frontier has had on the

Turner was more concerned than Crane by “The process by which American society evolved from savagery to civilization”. Out in the west it was still going on. The phenomenon of the western frontier. He writes about it; Turner’s theory of the relationship of the American character (what makes you an American), and the harsh environment that shaped it. He’s thought
He’s like and economist in some ways. There is a legend of frontier individualism. Rested on what people thought should be true; rather than what was true. The west was in truth an area where cooperation was just as essential as the inevitable conflict between unrestrained individualism and the moral complex needs of

You don’t think of that; a lot of people don’t think of that, every man for himself, western individualist. But... he points out that there was a lot of cooperation going on there too.

Now we see that there is a conflict in the Blue Hotel.

Social economic eveloution; even more basic, commercial evolution, from a primitive society ranging up to farming. We’ve got an example of that in the Blue Hotel; it’s Scully. Scully is on his way to achieving this, He wants to achieve ______ civilized. And he is going to be at the heart of this story, you are going to see.

Someone hired Crane to go out to Nebraska and write brochures to come out and settle there. When Crane goes out there, they just had a severe draught. This began in the summer of 1894, he went out in 1895. There was a condition of despair; there had been no rain fall. Between 1880 & 1890 the population of Nebraska had increased 180%. The population went from over 450,000 to over a million. In January of 1895 the process of exodus; eastward. All people were leaving; they were fleeing Nebraska because of all this drought, and these severe winters.

He is in a rooming house in Eddyville; which is where we believe the Blue Hotel was located. He sees this light blue hotel. It was painted so loathsum that some dire action has to take place.

It was in economic depression. Crane get’s in the middle of a fight, and is arrested on charges of interfering with a barroom fight. Crane pushed himself between a very tall man who was pounding a rather small one. This was a local custom; these men fought each and every night. Their friends expected it. I was a darn nuisance with my eastern scruples and all that, so first everybody cursed me fully then they took me off to the Judge who told me that I was an imbicile

Violence plays a big part in this story;
Page one in the opening;

“Pat Scully, the proprietor, had proved himself a master of strategy when he chose his paints.”

He painted the Hotel Blue to attract people’s attention.

And the second paragraph down;

“…it was Scully's habit to go every morning and evening to meet the leisurely trains that stopped at Romper and work his seductions upon any man that he might see wavering,…” “One morning, when a snow-crusted engine dragged its long string of freight cars and its one passenger coach to the station, Scully performed the marvel of catching three men. One was a shaky and quick-eyed Swede, with a great shining cheap valise; one was a tall bronzed cowboy, who was on his way to a ranch near the Dakota line; one was a little silent man from the East, who didn't look it, and didn't announce it. Scully practically made them prisoners.”

Now remember I told you there was a great divide among the east and the west. The guys been a salesman for a long time, he’s accustom to this but he’s not the new guy. There is one new guy and that’s the Swede. Look how he set the stage for it…

“At last Scully, elaborately, with boisterous hospitality, conducted them through the portals of the blue hotel. The room which they entered was small. It seemed to be merely a proper temple for an enormous stove, which, in the center, was humming with godlike violence.”

Even the stove has violence. And look at this game; I don’t know if you paid any attention to initially to the game that is going on. This game is going on between Scully’s son Johnny and this old farmer. And if you notice, when they come in, they were quarrelling. There’s a little bit of violence going on here too.

“They were quarreling. Frequently the old farmer turned his face toward a box of sawdust—colored brown from tobacco juice—that was behind the stove, and spat with an air of great impatience and irritation.” With a loud flourish of words Scully destroyed the game of cards,…”

Scully brings all these people in and gives them this basis of cold water. The other people throw cold water on themselves, but the Swede…

“…merely dipped his fingers gingerly and with trepidation. It was notable that throughout this series of small ceremonies the three travelers were made to feel that Scully was very benevolent. He was conferring great favors upon them.”

He’s showing them how civilized he is. The whole process; Scully’s whole motivation is to convince these people that they are in a civilized place. He’s the proprietor of the hotel. When he goes up stairs he going to talk about civilization and how the place is civilized.

“Afterward they went to the first room, and, sitting about the stove, listened to Scully's officious clamor at his daughters, who were preparing the midday meal.”

“The Swede said nothing. He seemed to be occupied in making furtive estimates of each man in the room. One might have thought that be had the sense of silly suspicion which comes to guilt. He resembled a badly frightened man.”

Now he’s the outsider, and he’s afraid. When we go on we see that he is very much afraid. He’s scared that he is going to be killed. He’s conditioned; he’s conditioned by his heredity and environment in a different way. He’s not one of the westerner’s, he’s from the outside.

What Crane is doing in the Blue Hotel, (one way of looking at it), he is unmasking this kind of social cultural situation. Significant economic forces operate beneath the social surface.
If you look at Scully, he is doing everything he can to show how this place is economically prosperous. There is a powerful assumption that a peaceful order is going on now. It’s not the Wild West anymore.

Think about Scully, he’s like a priestly entrepreneur. He has the most to gain and the most to lose in this fragile economic situation. Now for Scully he works the hardest in both language and act to ____ were not incarnate here, we are peaceful; we are civilized here. We are a civilized society; everything he is doing he is trying to reach out.

Now that he captured the cowboy the easterner and the Swede at the railroad station, he ushers them in and begins all this hospitality. With this God=like violent stove going on. When he came in, Johnny and the Old Farmer are in a pretty violent game of High Five. He sort of destroyed it. When you look at the Swede, the Swede merely dips his finger gingerly with trepidation. His acts represent a mythical view of the west. The west is a violent place, a bad place.

The Easterner will say “Why is he so afraid?”

They can’t understand why the Swede believes that

The Swede he’s an outsider; he’s not part of the group. Even the Easterner has been in the West for a long time, he’s not an outsider. It’s reinforced by a narrative voice.

“He seemed to be occupied in making furtive estimates of each man in the room. One might have thought that be had the sense of silly suspicion which comes to guilt. He resembled a badly frightened man.”

It’s clearly coming out this way.

They can’t figure him out; he has a different ideology and a different view point.

“…he said that some of these Western communities were very dangerous; and after his statement he straightened his legs under the table, tilted his head, and laughed again, loudly. It was plain that the demonstration had no meaning to the others. They looked at him wondering and in silence.”

Immediately following this there are many failed attempts to coop the Swede into getting him to play the game. Be for the Swede joins the game of high five; look what’s going on; there is a storm outside, the fury of the game that he is getting into. Before the Swede goes upstairs, it is pretty obvious that he is scared to death.

"They say they don't know what I mean," he remarked mockingly to the Easterner. The latter answered after prolonged and cautious reflection. "I don't understand you," he said, impassively.”

We’ll see, he was looking to the Easterner, because he thought, the Easterner is not one of the Westerner guy’s, he’s one of us, he’s from the East; he’s going to admit this is a dangerous place. He’s seeking his support, but he doesn’t get it. The Swede announced that he…

“…encountered treachery from the only quarter where he had expected sympathy if not help. "Oh, I see you are all against me. I see."

And then:

“… The Swede sprang up with the celerity of a man escaping from a snake on the floor. "I don't want to fight!" he shouted. "I don't want to fight!"

Everybody completely doesn’t understand what’s going on.

“The Swede backed rapidly toward a corner of the room. His hands were out protectingly in front of his chest, but he was making an obvious struggle to control his fright. "Gentlemen," he quavered, "I suppose I am going to be killed before I can leave this house! I suppose I am going to be killed before I can leave this house."

Scully comes in and says; “What’s going on…” The Swede says;

"These men are going to kill me." "Kill you!" ejaculated Scully. "Kill you! What are you talkin'?"

"Kill you?" said Scully again to the Swede. "Kill you? Man, you're off your nut."

They have this discussion and the Swede decides to go upstairs because his intention is to go up and get his bags and leave. Scully doesn’t want him to leave, he wants the customer.

Scully follows the Swede upstairs; look at what Scully talks about, look at how he tries to convince him that this is a civilized place. Scully is the guy who has the most to lose from this.

Look at section 4…

"Why, he's frightened!" The Easterner knocked his pipe against a rim of the stove. "He's clear frightened out of his boots." "What at?" cried Johnnie and cowboy together. The Easterner reflected over his answer. "What at?" cried the others again. "Oh, I don't know, but it seems to me this man has been reading dime-novels, and he thinks he's right out in the middle of it—the shootin' and stabbin' and all."

Now dime novels at that time were spread all through the east. They were novels about Billy the Kid; Wild Bill Hickok; and gun fights; the same thing you get in Western movies. They were killing everyone in these novels; the Swede was conditioned by that; he read them, and he thought that way. People in the East thought that’s what was going on.

In Section 5…

The Swede is now in the game and he calls Johnny a cheat; accuses him of cheating at cards.

Prior to this the old farmer and Johnny were playing High Five. The Old Farmer was mad and irritated at him too. Now here’s Johnny and he won’t fight. Now Scully doesn’t want him to fight; this is violence; it’s not what he’s there for. Finally he is going to let him fight. They go outside to have this fight; the Swede is afraid that they are all going to jump on him and

Not the attitudes of Scully and how it changes. There was a point where he didn’t want him to fight but now he is really into it. He wants’ him to be killed. The section where the cowboy talks about…

The Swede wins the fight.

Section 7… on to Section 8…

The Swede brings on his own demise. There is no question about it. Crane plainly attributes the Swede’s death to social cultural causes. The moral failure arising on those causes. The environment itself is what traps him.

The Swede aggravates the gambler; he pushes the guy provokes the guy and promotes violence.

The Swede’s views about violence turn out to be more accurate about his true convictions. At the end of the story, the easterner explains who was right and who was wrong.

It wasn’t just that the Swede was paranoid; it was more to it than that. The way things were and the way they thought.

This story is about violence.

Jack London

Go to page 873; jack London’s bio. He is reading the works of Darwin; Whitman; and also the works of Carl Marx. They are competing ideas. London was really a strong but untutored mind. He, He read Darwin, he read books on social Darwinism. He is torn between individual ism and socialism. He was inspired by the American dream of success. He had a strange life to say the least. His off spring
Flora was this Welch woman who had been stricken by typhus; to say that she was unstable and unbalance was being kind. And then Cheany who was this weird intellectual guy who remembered everything he ever read word for word. He always denied that he fathered Jack London; he said he wasn’t his father, even though everyone said that he looked like him; she was living with him. He inclined to believe he was his father. But, he believed in the use of astrology, with mankind improved social conditions; with Flora, was an ardent spiritualist; I mean she ran séances; she had this table _____ she did this for a living. She wanted to marry him because she wanted a father for the child. When she was pregnant with him, Chenney said that he wasn’t the father. She either attempted to commit suicide or pretended to do it. He leaves and she marries Jack London. She names the child John Griffith London. She married John London so she named him Jack London. Jack sort of lived hand to mouth. He had a spotty primary education because he was working one job after another; because he was heloing support the family. When he was thirteen; he bought a small boat and learned how to sail in San Francisco bay. When he was fourteen, he got a bigger boat and became an expert sailor. The reason he is doing this is because he is getting money by being an oyster pirate.

He had a gang of small boat oyster pirates that raided the beds and steal the oysters and sell them to the stores and markets. He made a lot of money that way. T fifteen he had a mistress, he bought a boat called the “Razzle Dazzle” and he began at the age of fifteen to drink very heavily. He seemed to thrive on it because he wrote an incredible number of novels. At the same time he was devouring books he read all the time; he got at the library. He moves from being an oyster pirate to becoming a member of the State fish patrol at the age of sixteen because he knew all the names of the pirates. So they hired him to work for the State to arrest illegal fishing.

At seventeen he ships out on a sailing vessel, he goes to the south pacific; there he returns to California. He joins this army that marches on Washington. Industrial army; he’s thrown in jail. He comes back because the march fails. He becomes a hobo. He served time in prison for vagrancy. He saw the seamy side of life. He does all this and comes back and goes to high school at the age of 19 after doing that. He helps publish a school magazine. He becomes a devote socialist; he gets thrown in jail for speaking in a park without a license. The newspapers reported on him as a combination of a devil and maniac.

He goes to the University of California; he was popular with a small group of students, who were sort of rebels. He would spend 15 hours a day writing manuscripts for college and afterwards to sell. He borrowed a lot of money from his step sister and embarked to the Klondike; up north to the gold rush. London came home a year later; didn’t have a single ounce of gold. He had a bunch of notebooks and plans in his head for stories. He begins writing and he begins to get things published in the Overland Monthly; and later in the Atlantic Monthly. Eventually the Atlantic Monthly accepted his long story of The Princess _____ for $120.00; which was a lot of money; which is like $10,000.00 today.

He does something which was unusual he’s always writing, he writes all the time; stories that first appear in a book called the “Sun and the Wolf”; these are stories about the gold rush in Alaska. Later he gets an advance for $125.00 to write his first novel. .

“Children of the Frost”; “The Cruise of the Dazzler”; “The Fish patrol”; his first novel is the “Daughter of the Snows”, he worked on this and began to make money with this stuff. The “Call of the Wild” is considered his greatest novel. He’s beginning in his home in California, and he wants to write a dog story; “Call of the Wild, a story about a dog. It started out as a short story and grew up into a novel. Now McMillan who is a big publishing house of the day; remember how Mark Twain was always bad with money and wanted to beat business men at their own game; it is true with London, McMillan gave London $2,000.00 to the whole rights to the book. London signed off and didn’t take any royalties. Huge mistake… McMillan published the book in over 2 million copies in English alone. London takes the money and buys a little ‘sleuth’ boat and disappears weeks at a time and wrote the “Sea Wolf”. He writes a number of stories; The Iron Heel.

He was never less than $25000.00 in debt. He built this house called the “Wolf House” that cost him over $100,000.00; the day before he moved in, the place burden down. During his last three years, he became more business man than artist. Here is what his biographer said… “He was gypped, hoodwinked, overcharged, and out bargained where ever he went. At the illusion of physical capability would not die. Not unlike mark Twain he along the same lines, He was tempted to beat business men at their own game, to make himself independent of the.

He unfortunately had problems with his weight. Hew would take certain things that would help him lose all the weight and it would affect his health. They believed he may have had this premeditative suicide, but most people didn’t think so; he had this “Urainea” which was painful. He was taking _____ and ____ and he overdosed on it.

I want you to think about this, the man died at 40 years old; and at 40 years old, he had written 50 books. It is astonishing. Some were just okay; but I mean they were still good books.


You have old Koskoosh he’s restricted to two things, his ears and how he hears, and his memory.

It makes sense from the point of view of the tribe; they don’t have a nursing home; they live off the land; the hunt; they can take care of somebody for so long its time, he has to go.

If you look at this you are going to see a little bit of social Darwinism in this, obviously, a little bit of London’s thinking; two things at the same time; he’s not really that happy that old Koskoosh is going to die. Koskoosh is not really that happy about it either. Now he can hear, and he lives in his memories. His life has going for it two things, his hearing and his memories. This is what we are going back and forth on.

“…his hearing was still acute, and the slightest sound penetrated to the glimmering intelligence which yet abode behind the withered forehead, but which no longer gazed forth upon the things of the world.”

Throughout the story you are going to have him hearing things. He will wonder off in his mind. Old Koskoosh says, “Ah! That was Sit-cum-to-ha”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

THE AWAKENING (Summary and Analysis)

Kate Chopin's The Awakening, published in 1899, caused a critical furor that ended her literary career. Readers were shocked not only by the portrayal of a young woman in rebellion against her husband, but also by the novella's frank treatment of sexuality and the protagonist's love for a younger man. Most of this short tale is told from the point of view of Edna Pontellier, the young wife, with the narrator providing occasional clarification. The effect of this limited point of view is impressionistic; that is, it presents subjective impressions rather than objective reality. The most prominent motif, or recurring thematic element, is of "awakening," an idea whose representation punctuates the novella.

Chapter 1
In chapter one, Leonce Pontellier is at the summer colony of Grand Isle to visit his wife and two children for the weekend. He departs for the evening to spend time gambling and socializing with other men of his class, leaving Edna in the company of young Robert Lebrun. The "utter nonsense" of the conversation between Lebrun and Mrs. Pontellier bores him Mr. Pontellier is a study in both complacency and impatience: Edna returns from the beach with a sunburn and he is disturbed that this "valuable piece of personal property [had] suffered some damage." He views Edna as his property and is comfortable with that relationship.

Chapter 2
The atmosphere is languorous on the porch where Robert Lebrun and Edna Pontellier sit and talk during the summer afternoon (chapter two). They are well matched, both young and eager to talk about themselves, yet interested in each other's stories.

Chapter 3
The "awakening" motif first surfaces in chapter three, when Mr. Pontellier returns from dinner late in the evening and wakes Edna to tell her "anecdotes and bits of news and gossip that he had gathered during the day." He is discouraged that his wife, "the sole object of his existence," is too tired to be interested. In "a monotonous, insistent way" he reproaches Edna for her "habitual neglect of the children," claiming that one of the sleeping boys has a fever. She refuses to respond to her husband's interrogation; he finishes his cigar and falls asleep immediately. But Edna is wide awake. The contrast between the "tacit and self-understood" kindness of her husband and the "indescribable oppression" of their marriage "fill[s] her whole being with a vague anguish."

Chapter 4
Chapter four focuses on Mr. Pontellier's vague dissatisfaction with his wife: "It was something which he felt rather than perceived, and he never voiced the feeling without subsequent regret and ample atonement," as displayed in chapter three. Edna is not a "mother-woman," like the others who summer at Grand Isle, those who "idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels." The tone of this description is both the sarcastic observation of the narrator and the heartfelt sentiment of Mr. Pontellier. Madame Ratignolle is one such woman whom Leonce Pontellier deems "the embodiment of every womanly grace and charm." Frankness and familiarity, or "freedom of expression," are characteristic of the conversations conducted among the summer colony guests but alien to Edna's northern background. Vivid in her memory is the shock of hearing Madame Ratignolle relate the "harrowing story of one of her accouchements" (birthings) to a male guest. A narrative tension, or conflict, develops throughout the story between Edna's habitual reserve and the "freedom of expression" of the Creole culture into which she has married. This tension foreshadows and constructs the terms of her suicide.

Chapter 5
Robert Lebrun's position in the summer colony society is clarified in chapter five. Each summer he attaches himself to a woman guest—usually married—that he fancies. This summer he is the "devoted attendant" of Mrs. Pontellier. They share an "advanced stage of intimacy and camaraderie," sitting among the women on the porch on the summer afternoon. With mock seriousness, Robert mournfully comments on Madame Ratignolle's cold cruelty to one who had adored her the summer before. She recalls that he was "a troublesome cat," while he compares himself to "an adoring dog." More to the point, she claims that her husband might have become jealous. All laugh because, as both the narrator and Edna understand, "the Creole husband is never jealous; with him the gangrene passion ... has become dwarfed by disuse." Edna sketches Madame Ratignolle, who is "seated there like some sensuous Madonna, with the gleam of the fading day enriching her splendid color." As a likeness, her portrait of Madame Ratignolle is a failure, and Edna crumples it in her hands, an act significant in two ways. Her work emerges as untutored and inept. The act also suggests that, although the likeness fails in one sense, in another way the work may have succeeded as an impressionistic image. As yet, Edna has no knowledge or referents by which to define either her art or herself.

Chapter 6
Chapter six is a brief psychological sketch of Edna's moment of awakening to "her position in the universe as a human being, [recognizing] her relations as an individual to the world within and about her." She is twenty-eight years old and at "the beginning of things." The "voice of the sea" is seductive to her, its touch like a "sensuous ... close embrace." This is a disturbing and dangerous point for Edna, and her "contradictory impulses" mirror the contradictory outcomes possible from this place of beginning: She may gain wisdom, or she may perish.

Chapter 7
Edna's relationship with Adele Ratignolle is the subject of chapter seven. Edna, with her "sensuous susceptibility to beauty" is attracted by the physical charm and personality of this Creole woman. In the heat of the afternoon, they sit together on the beach, Edna fanning her companion and contemplatively watching the sea. Adele asks what she is thinking, and Edna makes an effort to respond to what is only a rhetorical question. Adele protests that it is "really too hot to think, especially to think about thinking " Edna confides in Madame Ratignolle that the sea reminds her of herself as a young girl, "walking through the green meadow again; idly, aimlessly, unthinking and unguided." Like a "first breath of freedom" Edna feels "intoxicated" as she reveals a small portion of her feelings to Madame Ratignolle. Adele seems sympathetic, holding Edna's hand "firmly and warmly" and stroking it "fondly." The physical affection startles Edna, who is unaccustomed to such displays of warmth. Her girlhood infatuations with young men had been distant, cerebral; her friendships with women have been earnest, her female acquaintances as "self-contained" as she. On her desk is a framed picture of an actor, a tragedian, which she sometimes kisses passionately when alone.

Chapter 8
Madame Ratignolle warns Robert of a potential threat or danger she perceives in Edna (chapter eight): "She is not one of us; she is not like us. She might make the unfortunate blunder of taking you seriously." Chastened by this warning, Robert assures Madame Ratignolle that there is "no earthly possibility" Edna Pontellier will ever take him seriously. Impressionistic authorial intrusions describe the atmosphere of the scene, as in the satirical description of Madame Lebrun at her sewing machine: "A little black girl sat on the floor, and with her hands worked the treadle of the machine. The Creole woman does not take any chances which may be avoided of imperiling her health."

Chapter 9
A few weeks after Robert's conversation with Madame Ratignolle, the families gather for dinner and casual entertainment (chapter nine). The scene is hectic and the atmosphere domestic and indulgent. After the children are sent to bed, Robert asks Edna if she would like to hear Mademoiselle Reisz play the piano. The introduction of this character, a well-known concert pianist and a guest with whom Edna is apparently acquainted, emphasizes Edna's self- containment and the reader's always limited knowledge of her. Mademoiselle Reisz agrees to play for the guests only because she likes Edna. We know only that Edna is "very fond of music" and that she "sometimes liked to sit in the room of mornings when Madame Ratignolle played or practiced." How this has earned Mademoiselle Reisz's affection remains a mystery. Edna is deeply affected by Mademoiselle Reisz's artistry. Although it "was not the first time she had heard an artist at the piano Merhaps it was the first time she was ready, perhaps the first time her being was tempered to take an impress of the abiding truth." The meaning of this may seem as obscure to the reader as it is to Edna.

Chapter 10
After the party the Pontelliers, the Ratignolles, and Robert Lebrun walk to the beach for a late-night swim (chapter ten). Edna has been taking swimming instruction all summer, without success. The water has terrified her, until now. On this evening, she swims "like a little tottering, stumbling, clutching child, who of a sudden realizes its powers, and walks for the first time alone, boldly and with over-confidence." She has a sudden desire to swim "far out, where no woman had swum before." The "space and solitude" of the gulf seem to enchant her, offering a place in which she might lose or transcend herself. For a moment, she is terrified by a "quick vision of death" that seems to kill her "soul." Afterward, she walks back to the house alone. Madame Lebrun later remarks to Mr. Pontellier that his wife seems "capricious." He agrees that she is, but only "sometimes, not often."

Robert overtakes Edna and she confides in him that this night has seemed "like a night in a dream," that "[t]here must be spirits abroad to-night." Robert whispers to her that there are indeed spirits abroad, that on this date, at this time, "a spirit that has haunted these shores for ages rises up from the Gulf.... [to] seek one mortal to hold him company ... [and] to-night he found Mrs. Pontellier." Edna is wounded by his banter, but "he could not tell her that he had penetrated her mood and understood." They reach the house where Edna rests in a hammock. Robert sits on the stairs near her and smokes a cigarette. Neither speak, but both are moved by the "first-felt throbbings of desire."

Chapter 11
In chapter eleven, an incident occurs between Mr. and Mrs. Pontellier that mirrors and contrasts the scene of companionable silence between Edna and Robert that marked the preceding chapter. The motif of awakening is thus juxtaposed with the power of unconsciousness, represented by the overwhelming need for sleep. Edna refuses to leave the hammock and come to bed, as her husband insists. She recognizes that "her will had blazed up, stubborn and resistant," but at the same time, she feels "like one who awakens gradually out of a dream, a delicious, grotesque, impossible dream, to feel again the realities pressing into her soul." Leonce draws up a rocker near her and smokes a cigar. At last overcome by the need for sleep, Edna enters the house, pausing to ask her husband if he will follow. "Just as soon as I have finished my cigar," he responds.

Chapter 12
After a "troubled and feverish sleep" Edna wakes early, moved by vague impulses, "as if she had placed herself in alien hands for direction, and freed her soul of responsibility." Impressionistic images of the day heighten the effect of Edna's disturbing dreams. Lovers stroll to meet the boat to the Cheniere Caminada, to attend Mass. A "lady in black, with her Sunday prayer-book, velvet and gold-clasped, and her Sunday silver beads" follows them. Monsieur Farival, in a straw hat, follows the lady in black, and a "young barefooted Spanish girl, with a red kerchief and a basket, follows Monsieur Farival." The "little negro girl who worked Madame Lebrun's sewing-machine" sweeps the gallery; Edna sends the girl to awaken Robert, to tell him to meet her. She has never requested his presence before; she "had never seemed to want him before." Mariequita, the Spanish girl, jealously asks Robert if Mrs. Pontellier is his "sweetheart." She is unimpressed to learn that she is "a married lady, and has two children." She knows of a man who ran away with another man's wife.

Chapter 13
Edna finds the atmosphere of the church at Cheniere Caminada oppressive (chapter thirteen). She leaves the Mass, and Robert follows her, provoking some gossip among those who remain. He takes her to rest at the cottage of Madame Antoine. Sensuous images convey connotations of beauty and strangeness: "the voice of the sea whispering through the reeds," a "jagged fence made of sea-drift," a "mild-faced Acadian" boy draws water for her that is "cool to her heated face." She notices, for the first time, the "fine, firm quality and texture of her flesh." She sleeps and wakes refreshed and "very hungry." She tears a piece of bread from a loaf "with her strong, white teeth" and downs a glass of wine. She goes "softly out of doors," plucks an orange from a tree, and tosses it at Robert, who did not know that she had awakened. The rest of the party had returned to Grand Isle hours before, but Robert reassures her that Leorice will not worry, since "he knows you are with me." As night commences, Edna and Robert sit in the grass as Madame Antoine tells them stories. Symbols of the world they have left behind and harbingers of the choice Edna will make for herself, the shadows "lengthened and crept out like stealthy, grotesque monsters across the grass."

Chapter 14
On their return from Cheniere Caminada (chapter fourteen), as Edna waits for her husband to arrive from the hotel, she thinks about a song she and Robert sang as they crossed the bay: "The voice, the notes, the whole refrain haun[t] her memory."

Chapter 15
In chapter fifteen, Edna is stunned to discover that Robert is leaving for Mexico. He insists, unconvincingly, that this has been his desire for many years. Edna concludes that she is suffering again from "the symptoms of infatuation which she had felt incipiently as a child ... and later as a young woman." With Robert's departure, she is being "denied that which her impassioned, newly awakened being demanded." What "that" is seems as vague and as fantastic as Robert's fanciful stories.

With Robert gone and the summer at Grand Isle nearly over (chapter sixteen), Edna finds her "only real pleasurable moments" in swimming. In a heated conversation with a baffled Madame Ratignolle, she attempts to define her newly awakened sense of self: "I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me." This declaration will also mark the paradox of her ultimate awakening, her suicide.

Chapter 16
In chapter sixteen, Mademoiselle Reisz emerges as one image of the life possible for a single woman of artistic sensibility at the turn of the twentieth century. She mirrors and distorts Edna's emerging vision of selfhood. Although she warms to Edna, she is a disagreeable and solitary figure. Her aversion to swimming symbolizes the way she is different in temperament from Edna. She is also a malicious gossip who nonetheless satisfies Edna's need to talk about Robert, no matter the subject.

Chapter 17
In the six years that the Pontelliers have been married, Edna has "religiously followed" a social schedule centered in their "charming" and "conventional" home in New Orleans (chapter seventeen). Mr. Pontellier is "very fond of walking about his house examining its various appointments and details, to see that nothing was amiss. He greatly valued his possessions, chiefly because they were his." Edna is one of these possessions, and Leonce is unhappy with her household management; the dinner displeases him and, as has happened often before, he leaves for "the club." In the past, these familiar scenes caused her regret and a belated rebuke to the cook. This evening, however, Edna is enraged; she smashes a vase and throws her wedding ring to the floor, attempting to crush it under her heel. The alarmed maid enters and picks up the ring, which Edna slips back on her finger without comment.

Chapter 18
The morning brings no change in her mood (chapter eighteen). Edna no longer has any interest in her home, her children, or her surroundings. They are "all part and parcel of an alien world which had suddenly become antagonistic." Edna gathers her best sketches to bring to Madame Ratignolle, still her most intimate friend. The beautiful and efficient Madame Ratignolle looks at Edna's drawings and proclaims that her "talent is immense." Although Edna knows that her friend's opinion is "next to valueless," she wants her praise and encouragement. Edna had hoped to find comfort and reassurance amidst the "domestic harmony" of the Ratignolle household but is instead depressed after she leaves. Unlike Adele, Edna feels consumed by "life's delirium."

Chapter 19
By chapter nineteen, Edna has abandoned both household management and emotional outbursts, "going and coming as it suited her fancy, and, so far as she was able, lending herself to any passing caprice." The sense of her growing independence, though, is tempered by the knowledge that a penalty will be exacted for this freedom. Leone suspects that she might be "growing a little unbalanced mentally." Paradoxically, the less Edna seems to be "herself" in his eyes the more she is "becoming herself." Her mood alternates between happiness at simply being alive and depression, "when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation."

Chapter 20
Later, Edna is determined to visit Mademoiselle Reisz, to hear her play the piano (chapter twenty). Edna must see Madame Lebrun to find Mademoiselle Reisz's address. Madame Lebrun shares Robert's letters from Vera Cruz and Mexico City, but Edna is "despondent" that she can detect no message to herself in them. She departs with Mademoiselle Reisz's address; Madame Lebrun and Victor remark to each other how beautiful Edna looks. In some way, Victor observes, "she doesn't seem like the same woman."

Chapter 21
Mademoiselle Reisz lives in a small apartment crowded by a "magnificent piano" and little else. The "strikingly homely" musician is delighted to see Edna (chapter twenty-one), laughing with "a contortion of the face and all the muscles of the body." Edna is amazed when Mademoiselle Reisz reveals that she has received a letter from Robert that is "nothing but Mrs. Pontellier from beginning to end." Robert has told Mademoiselle Reisz to play for Edna his favorite piece, the Impromptu of Chopin (a small joke, most likely, on the author's part).

Chapter 22
Leonce Pontellier consults the family physician, Doctor Mandelet, about Edna (chapter twenty-two). "She's got some sort of notion in her head concerning the eternal rights of women; and—you understand—we meet in the morning at the breakfast table." Until this point in the story, Edna's struggle has been internal, psychological. In this chapter, Chopin attempts to supply a more obvious social and political frame for Edna's distress. The doctor responds accordingly, "[Hjas she been associating of late with a circle of pseudo-intellectual women—super-spiritual superior beings? My wife has been telling me about them." Edna's altered perceptions cannot be so easily diagnosed, however. She associates with no one. "[S]he goes tramping about by herself . . . getting in after dark," Leonce replies, "I tell you she's peculiar. I don't like it." The doctor advises him to leave Edna alone, that this may be just "some passing whim." A woman, he adds, is "a very peculiar and delicate organism." The doctor privately suspects that another man may be the source of Edna's behavior.

Chapter 23
Edna's father, the Colonel, comes to New Orleans to buy a wedding gift for his other daughter, Janet, in chapter twenty- three. Edna and her father are not close, although they have "certain tastes in common." Edna sketches him He takes her efforts most seriously, convinced that all his daughters have inherited from him "the germs of a masterful capability." It is his only charm. They attend a "soirée musicale" at Madame Ratignolle's where Mademoiselle Reisz plays. The little musician and the Colonel flirt, and Edna, herself "almost devoid of coquetry," marvels at the spectacle.

Doctor Mandelet dines with the Pontelliers a few days later. He observes Edna's behavior for signs of some secret she may be suppressing. Instead, he finds that there is "no repression in her glance or gesture." She reminds him instead of "some beautiful, sleek animal waking up in the sun." As part of the evening's entertainment, Edna tells a story about a woman who leaves in a small boat with her lover one night, never to return. She falsely claims that Madame Antoine had related it to her: "Perhaps it was a dream she had had. But every glowing word seemed real to those who listened," including the doctor. As he leaves the Pontellier household, he regrets possessing the insight he has into the inner lives of others; he is weary of it. Chopin suggests that a practiced insight may be best left to women novelists such as she.

Chapter 24
Edna and her father have an "almost violent" argument when she refuses to attend her sister Janet's wedding (chapter twenty-four). Her reasons are not revealed. Is Edna simply protesting the marriage? Following Doctor Mandelet's advice to allow Edna to do as she likes, Leonce refuses to intervene. The Colonel advises Leonce that he is too lenient with Edna. "Authority, coercion are what is needed. Put your foot down good and hard; the only way to manage a wife."

As if in imitation of Madame Ratignolle's domestic solicitude, Edna affectionately bids Leonce good-bye as he departs for New York on business. His mother takes the children to her home at Iberville, fearing that Edna might neglect them. Edna fully enjoys the "radiant peace" of her solitude. She assumes an easy authority over the servants, enjoys her dinner, thinks briefly and sentimentally about Leonce and the children, reads Emerson until she grows sleepy, and retires with "a sense of restfulness . . . such as she had not known before."

Chapter 25
In chapter twenty-five, Alcee Arobin emerges as "a familiar figure at the race course, the opera, the fashionable clubs." Charming, with a quiet though sometimes "insolent" manner, he is a frequent dinner companion for Edna. Arobin escorts Edna home on one such evening. She is restless, wanting "something to happen—something, anything; she did not know what." She regrets not having asked Arobin to stay and talk with her as she retires to a fretful sleep. A few days later, Arobin calls on Edna and the two spend the afternoon at the races. Edna enjoys Arobin's easy manner and frank conversation. He shows her a dueling scar on his wrist. Edna impulsively clutches his hand as she examines the "red cicatrice," then draws away suddenly, sickened by it. The incident, with its sudden intimacy, "drew all [Edna's] awakening sensuousness." In response, Arobin feels impelled "to take her hand and hold it while he said his lingering good night." Edna is not unaware of the seductive nature of this encounter, and she refuses to see Arobin again, though he insists that she allow him to return. Although Arobin is "absolutely nothing to her," the incident affects her "like a narcotic," and she retires to a "languorous sleep, interwoven with vanishing dreams."

Chapter 26
The drama of the incident with Arobin embarrasses Edna in the "cooler, quieter moment[s]" of the following day (chapter twenty-six). Arobin sends a note of apology and comes to her home with "disarming naiveté." He adopts an attitude of "good-humored subservience and tacit adoration" in order to remain in her presence. Despite her initial embarrassment, the candor of his speech appeals to "the animalism that stirred impatiently within her."

Edna visits Mademoiselle Reisz (chapter twenty-six) and announces that she intends to move out of her house into "a little four-room house around the corner.... I'm tired," she explains, "looking after that big house. It never seemed like mine, anyway—like home." Mademoiselle Reisz shrewdly discerns that Robert Lebrun is the cause of Edna's "caprice." She reveals to Edna that Robert is coming back to New Orleans.

Chapter 27
To complicate matters, and to put Edna's emotions into even greater turmoil, Arobin kisses her the next evening (chapter twenty-seven), "the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch that kindled desire."

Chapter 28
That night (chapter twenty-eight) she has an "overwhelming feeling of irresponsibility," disturbed that she experiences "neither shame nor remorse" over a kiss that did not signify love, but lust.

Chapter 29
Edna feverishly prepares to move into the little house (chapter twenty-nine), without waiting for a response to the letter she has sent her husband. Edna moves "everything which she had acquired aside from her husband's bounty" into the new house, "supplying simple and meager deficiencies" from the small allowance she receives from her mother's estate. Arobin visits her, perplexed and alarmed by her activities, but impressed at her "splendid and robust" appearance as she works alongside her housemaid. She assures Arobin that she will still give the dinner she has planned for two days hence. She tells him it will have "my best of everything" and wonders what Leone will say when he pays the bills; Arobin wryly titles the event Edna's "coup d'etat."

Chapter 30
Edna's dinner party, on her twenty-ninth birthday, is a "small affair and very select" (chapter thirty). Among the guests are Arobin, Victor Lebrun, Mademoiselle Reisz, and Monsieur Ratignolle, Madame Lebrun and Adele Ratignolle having characteristically sent their regrets. The table is "extremely gorgeous," and she wears a "cluster of diamonds that sparkled, that almost sputtered, in [her] hair," a present from her husband in New York. "[G]ood fellowship passed around [Edna and] the circle [of guests] like a mystic cord, holding and binding these people together with jest and laughter," until Victor, at the urging of the others, sings the song that Robert had sung to Edna on the boat that night. Edna cries out that he must stop, shattering her wine glass "blindly upon the table." He does not take her protests seriously, however, until she moves behind him and covers his mouth with her hand. He kisses her hand and becomes quiet; Edna finds that the "touch of his lips was like a pleasing sting to her hand." In response to this intense display, the other guests "suddenly conceived the notion that it was time to say good night."

Chapter 31
Arobin remains after the other guests depart (chapter thirty- one). He walks her home from the cottage, nicknamed "the pigeon-house." She is cold, miserable, and tired, as if "she had been wound up to a certain pitch—too tight—and something inside . . . had snapped." Arobin gently smoothes her hair, and touch conveyed to her a certain physical comfort. She could have fallen quietly asleep there if he had continued to pass his hand over her hair." He leaves only after Edna had become "supple to his gentle, seductive entreaties."

Chapter 32
Stern correspondence from Mr. Pontellier, still in New York, expresses his "unqualified disapproval" of Edna's resolve to abandon her home (chapter thirty-two). To circumvent scandal, he announces in the "daily papers ... that their handsome residence on Esplanade Street was undergoing sumptuous alterations, and would not be ready for occupancy until their return [from a trip abroad]." Edna is impressed with his resourcefulness in the matter of public opinion. She is more pleased with the "intimate character" of her new home. After a brief visit to her children, she is happy to return to the city to be "again alone."

Chapter 33
Edna meets Madame Ratignolle at Mademoiselle Reisz's apartment (chapter thirty-three) and learns that gossip has linked her romantically to Alcee Arobin. "Does he boast of his successes?" Edna asks, affecting disinterest. After Adele departs, Mrs. Merriman and Mrs. Highcamp, named as if characters in a Restoration comedy, arrive and ask Edna to attend dinner and a game of "vingt-et-un" (twenty-one). Arobin has agreed to escort her home afterward, they tell her, and Edna accepts in a "half-hearted way."

Edna waits for Mademoiselle Reisz to arrive. She is stunned when Robert Lebrun appears at the door. They exchange small talk, and Edna mistakenly believes that his feelings for her have changed. She decides to return home, and Robert, "as if suddenly aware of some discourtesy in his speech," offers to escort her. She asks him what he has been "seeing and doing and feeling out there in Mexico." He confesses being preoccupied with "the waves and white beach of Grand Isle," he tells her, "the quiet, grassy street of the Cheniere; the old fort at Grande Terre ... and feeling like a lost soul." He asks her the same question she has asked him, to which she gives the same reply; she, too, feels like "a lost soul."

Chapter 34
Edna and Robert dine together at the pigeon-house in chapter thirty-four. Their conversation becomes formal, with "no return to personalities." Afterward, once more alone, Edna is perplexed because he had "seemed nearer to her off there in Mexico" than he does in New Orleans.

Chapter 35
When she wakes the next morning (chapter thirty-five), Edna is certain that Robert loves her, and she regrets her "despondency" of the previous evening. She paints "with much spirit" for several hours, hoping that Robert will return; but three days later he has not. One night she goes riding with Arobin and they return to the little house to dine. His "delicate sense of her nature's requirements like a torpid, torrid, sensitive blossom" evokes a response in Edna. Although she awakes the next morning without "despondency," she has lost all sense of "hope."

Chapter 36
Chapter thirty-six opens in a garden in the suburbs of New Orleans. The garden, like Edna and her pigeon-house, is a "place too modest to attract the attention of people of fashion, and so quiet as to have escaped the notice of those in search of pleasure and dissipation." Edna's life and story are that of an ordinary woman. Later in the evening, Robert arrives unexpectedly. He admits that he left for Mexico to avoid her; he has been "fighting" his feelings for her since last summer at Grand Isle. Edna tells him that he had awakened her "out of a life-long, stupid dream." To add complication, Madame Ratignolle sends word that she is ill and asks Edna to come immediately. Robert begs Edna to stay there with him She promises to return: "I shall come hack as soon as I can; I shall find you here."

Chapter 37
The bedridden Adele concludes chapter thirty- seven with a melodramatic plea to Edna that she "think of the children!"

Chapter 38
Doctor Mandelet, aware of Edna's distress over Madame Ratignolle's remark, walks Edna home (chapter thirty-eight): "You shouldn't have been there, Mrs. Pontellier," he said, "That was no place for you. Adele is full of whims at such times. There were a dozen women she might have had with her, unimpressionable women. I felt that it was cruel, cruel. You shouldn't have gone." "I don't know that it matters after all," she responds. "One has to think of the children some time or other; the sooner the better." Doctor Mandelet is, apparently, a practitioner of the then new psychological precepts that would shape Freudian therapy. He urges Edna to consult with him at his office to "talk of things you never have dreamt of talking about before." Robert does not wait for Edna to return, but he leaves a note: "I love you. Good-by—because I love you." She remains awake all night.

In the final chapter of The Awakening, Edna returns alone to Grand Isle, which is deserted until summer. Victor, making repairs, is describing to Mariequita the sumptuous dinner he attended at the Pontelliers, when both are stunned to see Mrs. Pontellier walking toward them from the dock. He offers her his room, since there is "nothing fixed up yet." Edna tells them that she has come to rest and to swim in the cold gulf. In response to protests that the water is "too cold" to swim, Edna assures them that she will only "dip [her] toes in" and sends Mariequita to find her some towels. Her movements are mechanical. She notices nothing except that the sun is hot as she walks down to the beach. She has nothing more to think about now that Robert has abandoned her. In a paragraph that may be the key to the scandal this tale provoked when it was published, Edna reflects: "To-day it is Arobin; to-morrow it will be some one else. It makes no difference to me, it doesn't matter about Leonce Pontellier—but Raoul and Etienne!" She understood now clearly what she had meant long ago when she said to Adele Ratignolle that she would give up the unessential, but she would never sacrifice herself for her children." At the edge of the water, "absolutely alone," she takes off her clothes and, "for the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air . . . and the waves ... invited her." As the water "enfold[s her] body in its soft, close embrace," she recalls her terror of being "unable to regain the shore" last summer, but now she thinks of a place she had known in childhood and which she thought "had no beginning and no end." Fatigue overwhelms her as she swims past the point of return, awakened to the magnitude of her unconscious self while simultaneously unable to bear it.

THE AWAKENING (List of Characters)

Edna Pontellier, twenty-eight years old, is more handsome than beautiful, her face "captivating by reason of a certain frankness of expression and a contradictory subtle play of features." She is the daughter of a Civil War colonel of the Confederate Army, raised in Kentucky and married, perversely because of her family's protests, to a Creole New Orleans businessman, Leonce Pontellier. Her Protestant reserve contrasts with the risque familiarity present in the conversations of the married women in the Creole summer colony. Edna is without artifice and given to moments of "caprice," such as swimming beyond what others consider a safe distance from shore, acts that reflect her dissatisfaction with her unexamined, interior life. She is an "engaging" personality, neither very talented nor intellectually curious, and disinterested in Creole or any other domestic habits. In the space of a few months, she "awakens" to her "true" self. Hers is the "awakening" of an ordinary woman to love, the sensuous world, and her own spirituality. The ambiance of this social milieu at Grand Isle invites her to "loosen ... the mantle of reserve that [has] always enveloped her," but Edna does not understand the rules of Creole society which, although they allow for the language of personal freedom, demand as strict a propriety as any in the North. Hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake, shapes her self-discovery, with disastrous results.

Leonce Pontellier is Edna's husband. He is forty-one years old, a slender, nearsighted Creole with a slight stoop. A prosperous New Orleans businessman, he is conventional, snobbish, kind, and generous to his wife and children, though emotionally remote. Edna's marriage to Leonce "was purely an accident, in this respect resembling many other marriages which masquerade as the decrees of Fate." In her inexperience and infatuation she had mistaken the flattery of his devotion for a "sympathy of thought and taste between them." Her Protestant family violently opposed her marriage to a Catholic which, the narrator tells us, was enough to ensure that she would marry him as quickly as possible. Leonce values Edna as he does all of his finest possessions.

Raoul and Etienne are Edna's two young sons. They interest her in "an uneven, impulsive way. . . [S]he would sometimes forget them" entirely. Because they are in the constant company of their nursemaid, they cause no trouble and come to no harm, despite Edna's indifference.

Robert Lebrun is the instrument of Edna's "awakening" and the focus of her passion. The twenty-six-year-old son of Madame Lebrun, he devotes himself each summer to a young woman, widow, or married guest at Grand Isle, the summer colony on the Gulf of Mexico owned by his family. He is charming, idle, and in love with Edna Pontellier. Early one evening they enjoy a swim, and Edna becomes aware of a "certain light [dawning] dimly within her,—the light which, showing the way, forbids it." He travels to Mexico in order to end their love affair; his reunion with Edna, after his return, seems to fulfill her newly awakened desire. When he abandons her, she commits suicide.

Alcee Arobin is a sophisticated and accomplished escort for respectable, married New Orleans women of Edna's background. He frequently accompanies Edna to the horse races and to dinner when Leonce is away on business. Alcee's character both mirrors and contrasts Robert Lebrun. While Robert is in Mexico and Leonce is in New York, Edna succumbs to Arobin's practiced manner and approach. While he is attracted to Edna and not ungentlemanly in his conduct, his sensuous nature awakens the sexual passions she had previously focused on Robert. Her feelings for Arobin confuse her and finally convince her that, without Robert, she will be only promiscuous.

Madame Adele Ratignolle has been married seven years, has three children, talks constantly of her "condition," and has a fondness for candy. She has perfect hands. Edna, with her "sensuous susceptibility to beauty," is attracted by the physical charm and the personality of this Creole woman. She is a shrewd judge of the risks Edna takes in her affair with Robert and in the appearance of an attachment to Alcee Arobin. In many ways, she acts as Edna's best friend. Edna often visits the Ratignolles' apartment, above their prosperous drugstore.

Mademoiselle Reisz is an elderly concert pianist. She is a single, disagreeable woman with no family and few friends. She is one representation of the life possible for an independent woman in 1899. While a guest at Grand Isle, she develops a friendship with Edna and Robert. When Robert is in Mexico, he writes letters to her about his love for Edna. Edna visits her apartment in New Orleans to read these letters from Robert.

Madame Lebrun is the mother of Robert and Victor. Grand Isle had been the luxury summer property of the Lebrun family. Madame Lebrun maintains her comfortable life by renting cottages to "exclusive visitors from the `Quartier Francais'." Her efficiency and charm symbolize bourgeois Creole resourcefulness and respectability.

The Colonel is Edna Pontellier's father. He had been an officer in the Confederate Army and is still known by his military title. He is gruff and opinionated, but he loves his daughter. On a visit to New Orleans to buy a wedding gift for another daughter, he advises Leonce to be more firm with Edna, to allow her less freedom to neglect her domestic duties. Edna is happy to see him return to his Mississippi plantation.

Victor Lebrun is Robert's nineteen-year-old brother. He is youthfully infatuated with Edna, probably in response to the love his older brother feels for her. He is the last person to see Edna, at Grand Isle, before her suicide.

Doctor Mandelet is the kindly, paternal, and weary family physician to the Pontelliers and the Ratignolles. As an observer in the story, he notes both her sad confusion and her ebullient charm. What he cannot understand, as Chopin illustrates, is that Edna's, or any woman's, dissatisfactions are rooted outside stereotypes of mental weakness. Although he is well-meaning, the good doctor is of little use to his female patients.

Mrs. Merriman and Mrs. Highcamp are acquaintances of Edna's in New Orleans. They function as stock characters in the story. They enjoy parties and horse racing in the company of Alcee Arohin, all the while maintaining their respectability as married women. Their names are reminiscent of characters in a late-seventeenth-century comedy of manners.


Few novels can compete with The Awakening for generating critical responses so diverse as to seem uninspired by the same books. Published in Chicago in 1899 by Herbert Stone & Co. and selling for $1.50 a copy, the novel received the critical attention appropriately due a writer already acclaimed for her successful short stories.

At one extreme was the prepublication commentary of Lucy Monroe, a reviewer for the publisher, who praised the author's literary brilliance and promised that the novel would leave the reader with "the impression of being at the very heart of things" (Norton Critical Edition: The Awakening, 1994, 161). Another reviewer reacted as if she had been personally damaged by the novel's effect: "One would fain beg the gods . for sleep unending rather than to know what an ugly, cruel, loathsome monster Passion can be when .. it ... finally awakens" (Frances Porcher, ibid, 162). The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (May 20, 1899) praised the "complete mastery ... apparent on every page" and empathized with the heroine whose husband regarded her "as a bit of decorative furniture" (ibid, 164). The Chicago Times-Herald Gune 1, 1899) dismissed the book as "sex fiction" (ibid, 166).

Within these extremes was a range of mixed responses, generally more positive about Chopin's writing skills and more negative to the point of disgust and alarm about the character and behavior of her heroine. One novel reaction deserves special mention: Writing in 1909, Percival Pollard presumptuously claimed that Edna was not a credible human being. The issue of Edna's relative "awakeness," he opined, "would be an interesting question for students of sleep¬walking"; later he escalated his disdain with this mocking tone: "Ah, these married women, who have never, by some strange chance, had the flaming torch applied, how they do flash out when the right moment comes!" (Their Day in Court, Neale Publishing, 41-45). Although friends and many readers rallied in her support, Kate Chopin was troubled by the novel's unequal reception and dismayed by the damage it brought to her reputation. In the July 1899 edition of Book News she offered a tongue-in-cheek defense of her heroine:
I never dreamed of Mrs. Pontellier making such a mess of things and working out her own damnation as she did. If I had had the slightest intimation of such a thing [,] I would have excluded her from the company. But when I found out what she was up to, the play was half over and it was then too late. (Quoted in Critical Essays on Kate Chopin, Alice Hall Petry, ed., G. K. Hall & Co., 11.)

What resources did Kate Chopin draw upon to have so confidentially and clairvoyantly presented this betrayal of a woman in existential crisis and then not retract it after hearing her heroine maligned and disbelieved by so many? No evidence exists suggesting the story was autobiographical. After her husband died early and unexpectedly in 1882, she began her writing career, became a prominent member of the social and literary circles in St. Louis, and was rumored to have enjoyed a romantic fling with a younger male resembling her character Alcee Arobin. In 1894 she wrote:

If it were possible for my husband . . . to come back to earth, I feel that I would unhesitatingly give up everything that has come into my life since [then] . . . and join my existence again with [his]. (Quoted in Toth, Unveiling, 162.)

Biographers tell us that Chopin descended from eccentric and strong-willed women. She certainly displayed wit and imaginative thinking. To the question-4s Love Divine?— asked of prominent women by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1898, Chopin, a true novelist, gave an unconventional response highlighting the mysteries of love: It is as difficult to distinguish between the divine love and the natural, animal love, as it is to explain just why we love at all. (Quoted in Walker, Kate Chopin, 2001, 114)

Another clue to Chopin's (and Edna's) sensibility is a remark the author recorded in which she vows never to "fall into the useless degrading life of most married ladies" (Kate Chopin's Personal Papers, eds. Toth and Seyersted, 1998, 102).

Chopin conceived of Edna's story during the decade of Darwin and Huxley, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (and other "uppity women")—all in their way challenging the notion of a fixed and final truth. But despite these encouraging influences, the prevailing Victorian code for female behavior was too entrenched to condone a "shocking" display of female eroticism or to give center stage to a woman in the throes of self-liberation. After the first rush of attention and commentary, the novel went out of print. Chopin scholar Emily Toth has debunked the persistent myth that the book had been banned from the St. Louis library, but it did fall into such obscurity that it was not listed in Robert Spiller's 1948 edition of the Literary History of the United States, although other Chopin works were included.

French scholar Cyrille Arnavon's 1953 translation of The Awakening and Per Seyersted's 1969 biography revived interest in Chopin and her novel. The feminist movement in the sixties elevated Chopin's stature; since then, her work has achieved its prominent place in the American literature canon.

Published at the turn of the century, The Awakening is a fictional embodiment of the struggles that were ahead for women. Chopin scholar Joyce Dyer writes:

Chopin decides there will be no easy answers for Edna, just as there would be no easy answers for the women of the twentieth century who followed her. (The Awakening: A Novel of Beginnings, 1993, 17) Showing how far appreciation of Chopin has come, Peggy Skaggs praises The Awakening for demonstrating "that unless one's inner person is integral with one's outer roles and relationships a fully satisfying life cannot be achieved" (Kate Chopin, Twayne's, Indiana University, Bloomington, 1985).


Kate Chopin was born Katherine O'Flaherty in St. Louis, Missouri, on February 8, 1851. Her father, Thomas O'Flaherty, was an Irish immigrant who became a prosperous merchant before his death in a railway accident in 1855. Her mother, Eliza Faris, was descended from French Creole aristocrats. Chopin attended the St. Louis Academy of the Sacred Heart, where she read copiously, learned to play the piano, became fluent in French, and passionately supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. Chopin became more interested in literature and storytelling after the deaths of her father, great-grandmother, and half-brother during these years. She graduated from the academy in 1868 and became a belle in St. Louis high society. She soon became aware of feminist social issues and became rebellious, complaining of the parties a belle was expected to attend, and of the young men at dances whose "only talent" resided in their feet. She began to smoke cigarettes and wrote a feminist fable, "Emancipation." She read and admired the works of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, and George Sand.

In 1870 she married Oscar Chopin, a twenty-five-year-old cotton trader, New Orleans native, and Creole. They lived first in New Orleans and then, with the failure of Chopin's business in 1879, on a plantation at a place called La Cote Joyeuse. During her marriage she was an exemplary wife; according to her daughter, the "Lady Bountiful of the neighborhood," known as an engaging personality. During her marriage, Chopin explored New Orleans on foot and by streetcar, writing about what she saw, attending the theater and the opera, and spending her vacations engaged in reading at Grand Isle on the Gulf of Mexico, where The Awakening is set. After Oscar Chopin died of swamp fever in 1882, she returned, with her six children, to St. Louis and began to write sketches of Louisiana life for publication. In 1899 her first published poem, "If It Might Be," appeared in the magazine America. During the 1890s Chopin wrote more than one hundred short stories and hosted a salon in her home at 3317 Morgan Street. Her articles, poems, and stories were published in Atlantic Monthly, Criterion, Harper's Young People, Vogue, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Her books include At Fault (1890), Bayou Folk (1894), and A Night at Acadie (1897). In 1899 Chopin published her final novella, The Awakening. The book caused a critical furor that ended her literary career. The public condemned her candid treatment of a young married woman's sexual and spiritual awakening.

Kate Chopin died from a cerebral hemorrhage, on August 22, 1904, after spending the day at the world's fair in St. Louis.