The Awakening is one of those classics that many of us read in high school, but unlike many of the others that made our eyes gloss over, this one stayed with us. Not only that, but it burrowed into our hearts and became a lens through which we saw the world.
Edna’s awakening to the patriarchal societal restraints she was wrapped in brought injustices to the forefront of our own minds as well. Though we’re living over a century after Edna, many of the same themes are relevant today (on different and more modern levels of course).
Discussion Questions for The Awakening
We’re so grateful to everyone who ordered a New Chapter Box and we hope you enjoyed analyzing the text and diving into the symbolism as much as we did!
Below are some discussion questions to get us thinking about the many messages Chopin was trying to share. Please feel free to email us or drop a comment below to share your perspective.
What does it mean to be a woman (to you)?
Chopin spends a lot of time discussing womanhood and the concept of individuality in The Awakening. At times, Edna feels reduced to a mother and nothing more. One of her first acts of “rebellion” upon return home from Grand Isle is to send her children to live elsewhere so she has the freedom to focus on herself.
How have the expectations of motherhood evolved in our lifetime, and how has that played into how society views us as women? In general, what does it mean to be a woman?
How is water (and swimming) a metaphor in The Awakening?
In the beginning of the book, Edna starts learning to swim from the man who has turned her head. The more she learns to swim, the more she starts to question her happiness. What does water symbolize in this text and why does she return to it at the end?
What do you think about the ending of the novel? How do you interpret it?
The ending is left purposely vague but we can deduce what happened. Do you think it was a good ending, or would you have preferred to see a different resolution?
Here are a few more topics to consider in the context of The Awakening:
- How does race play a role in this story?
- What does the Grand Isle represent?
- Is Edna’s choice to be an artist courageous or selfish? Maybe both?
- What is it about Robert that draws Edna in? Could it have been any man, or was it something specific about Robert?