Select one of the following topics. Compose your response to the topic as a short essay of no fewer than 700 words. Begin by identifying specific events in the novel to support your response.

Your essay should have a clear thesis statement, and body paragraphs should have a main idea that supports/proves the thesis statement. Details from the story, in the form of paraphrases or quotations, will develop each supporting paragraph.


1.Why did Edna marry Leonce? Is he a model husband? What incidents reveal that he may not be a good husband for Edna? What kind of marriage do Edna and Leonce Pontellier have? Point to scenes, actions, or statements to support your view. How does their marriage change during the course of the novel?

2.How do Mlle. Reisz and Mme. Ratignolle function in relation to Edna and the novel’s view of women as mothers and artists? For what purpose does Chopin include minor characters such as Adele Ratignolle and Madamoiselle Reisz? Is Edna similar to them? If so, how? Is she different? If so, how? What kind of mother is Edna? What is Edna’s attitude toward her children? What kind of artist is she?

3.Note that, beginning with the first page, birds are a recurring image in the novel. Look at examples. Why does Chopin use these examples? Note any other images that refer to nature. What is the role of birds in The Awakening?

4.What significance does swimming have for Edna? Look carefully at Chopin’s descriptions of the sea, for example. What does the word choice here suggest?

5.Edna Pontellier is caught in the contradictions between the way others see her and the way she sees herself. Identify several moments in which this becomes apparent, and show Edna’s growing awareness of the contradiction.

6.Some critics view Edna’s suicide at the end of the novel as a failure to complete her escape from convention—an inability to defy society once stripped of the motivation of a man by her side. Others view her suicide as a final awakening, a decision to give herself to the sea in a show of strength and independence that defies social expectation. Which interpretation do you find more compelling, and why?

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