The purpose of this paper is to look at the socio-political movements occurring during the time in which “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin was written and was set. Society naturally expects Edna Pontellier to behave as a “mother-woman” (Chopin, p. 701); mother-women are indicated by their behavior, wherein they are seen “fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their previous brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels” (Chopin, p. 701).
In addition to looking at the patriarchal views of women at the time of the novel, and societies views on women and the current movements occurring during the time, it will also focus on the literary traditions of women writers during the time period, paying specific attention to the reason that women as writers fell out of fashion shortly after Kate Chopin’s time. It will address the reception of the novella into the populace at the time of its publication and in doing so will work to address the reasons that the book went out of print.
By working to investigate the perceptions of motherhood and the views of women and their role within society during the late 1800s, it will be possible to see the societal structure during that time and understand why society viewed women the way that they did, the societal factors that influenced women writers and their careers, and why Edna’s course of action was perhaps the only one available to her in that time.