Kate Chopin

The Awakening

Themes & Essay Topics Chapter Points
Characters Realism

Themes and Essay Topics:

Feminism: click here for some characteristics of Feminism on our American literary history web page.

Realism: click here for the characteristics of Realism


Mrs. Edna Pontellier, Main character

Robert Lebrun: Edna’s lover

Madame Lebrun and Victor: mother and brother of Robert
Mr. Leonce Pontellier, Edna’s husband

Adele Ratignolle: Confidant
Raoul and Etienne: Edna’s children

Mademoiselle Reisz: Artist Friend
Alcee Arobin: Town flirt

Doctor Mandelet: Family doctor who is concerned with the psychological as well as the physical condition of Edna.

Mariequita, beautiful, shoeless girl, who foils Edna's condition.

Important (macro/micro leading to macro) Points by Chapters. Use your notes for Chapters 1-11; here are important points for Chapters 12-20.

Chapter 1:

What is the significance of Mr. P. considering Edna personal property? Why is the sunburn such a big deal in the era?

Chapter 2

How is Edna described in the opening of the chapter?

Why can't Robert smoke cigars?

Chapter 3

What overall effect does Mr. P achieve by his gift of chocolates?

Chapter 4

The third paragraph and the other parts in the beginning of his chapter explain well the difference between Mrs. P and Mrs. R. Who is the mother-woman?

Chapter 5

How does Chopin use nature in this chapter?

Chapter 6

What is the role of nature in this small chapter?

Chapter 7

What scene on page 546 inspires a significant memory for Edna? Why is this memory significant?

Chapter 8

What does Madame Ratignolle request of Robert? What is his reaction to the request? What do you make of Victor as a character?

Chapter 9

Page 554 has a great scene with music. How does Chopin artfully show us great depths of her main character, Edna, by showing us her reaction to great art?

Chapter 10

Describe the confidence Edna feels when she swims. Explain the drama and tension between Robert and Edna in the second half of this chapter.

Chapter 11

What causes the drama and tension between Mr. and Mrs. Pontellier in this short chapter?

Chapter 12

Note how Mariequita's naked toes capture Edna's attention. Why?  What effect does Chopin create by contrasting these two characters?

Chapter 13

What is so important about the word infatuation?  What do you make of the fact that Chopin describes the slumber and awakening of Edna in this chapter?  Where is her husband during this awakening?  

Chapter 14

What does Edna realize about herself at the end of the chapter?

Chapter 15           
What is the impact of Robert's travel news?  How does Edna learn of the news?

Chapter 16

What does Edna think of swimming?  Also, Edna chats with a few characters about Robert.  In terms of dramatic irony, the readers follow Edna’s collection of stories about Robert.  What does she learn and from whom?

Chapter 17
Good fight scene between Leonce and Edna.  Why does the Tuesday visiting day set off Leonce so much?  What’s it to him?  What is Edna’s reaction to his anger about this issue?

Chapter 18

Why is the word ennui so important in this chapter?  Look it up as it will be on the SATs and the test of life.

Chapter 19

What is important about the word caprice on the first page?  What is important about the word pandemonium on the last page?  Also follow the footnote about Edna rebelling against the cultural pressure of being a good housewife.  This point of the chapter leads to great drama and tension!

Chapter 20

Victor is really being Victor here; what a punk!  Follow how Chopin describes him while he tells his lurid story about a girl winking at him.  Is this a real story?  The answer to that is another story.  Regardless, why does Chopin use the word, “scintillant” on page 581?
What is important about the use of the word “ravishing” on page 582?

Chapter 21

Wow, Chopin creates a great atmosphere here: fading light, music, etc. As you would learn in any creative writing class, a good writer does not tell; he/she shows! What does Chopin show us about this event and this intimate letter?

Chapter 22

Who is Doctor Mandelet? Describe his practice. What advice does he give Leonce?

Chapter 23

This chapter is a great juxtaposition to Chapter 22 because Edna's father enters the picture; why does Chopin introduce him into the narrative now?

Chapter 24

Why do you suppose Edna does not like the idea of attending her sister's wedding? How does Edna's decision create an opportunity for the Colonel to criticize how Leonce treats his wife?

Chapter 25

Explain how Edna is able to articulate authority in Alcee's company at the track. Also explain with specific words from the text Alcee's kiss and its effects on Edna.

Chapter 26

Chopin deploys an interesting narrative design in this chapter. Explain the letter that opens the chapter as well as the letter that closes the chapter.

Chapter 27

Mademoiselle Reisz just hit the reader--that's you baby--over the head with poetic language that enhances Edna's character. What is the poetic device that she uses? How does this device illuminate aspects of Edna's character?

Chapter 28

How does Chopin use an element of nature in this small chapter?

Chapter 29

Why do you think Chopin uses the name "pigeon house" in this text?

Chapter 30

On the middle of page 604, explain how Edna's "old ennui" and how it overtakes her.

On page 605, explain how the song, Ah, si tu savais, creates a powerful moment at the dinner party.

Chapter 31

In your opinion, what is the most important gesture that Edna makes in this chapter? And Alcee's?

Chapter 32

What specific example from this chapter shows that Edna had a good time visiting her children. Does the memory of her children last when she returns to the city? In your opinion, can you explain the lasting effects of this memory?

Chapter 33

Here is a great moment of Chopin capturing the drama and tension of ordinary life. How often in life we have expectations for an event and the reality of that event is so different. Remember how Winterbourne expected Daisy to be waiting for him daily looking out a window wondering where he was? In this chapter, what is the difference between what Edna expects of her reunited scene with Robert and the reality of the scene.

Chapter 34

When and why is Edna jealous in this chapter? How does this emotion add the other complex emotions of Edna that Chopin has been showing us throughout the novel?

Chapter 35

What is happening with Edna's relationship with Alcee?

Chapter 36

What does Edna mean when she tells Robert it was he who awoke her from a dream?

Chapter 37

Who admonishes Edna to "think of the children" in this chapter?

Chapter 38

Explain why a character writes (in contrast to a verbal communication) "Good-by, because I love you."

Chapter 39

We have noticed many uncanny moments this year; how is Edna's appearance in front of Victor and Mariequita uncanny?

The big question: how are we supposed to interpret the ending?