The Awakening Chapters 1 to 16 Discussion Questions Where does the story open/the action take place? Describe the resort. Who vacations there? The story opens at a resort. The resort has a mockingbird and a parrot, is on a beach called Grand Isle, owned by Madame Lebrun, the families each live in separate cottages, and there is a beach and bridges connecting the cottages. The same families vacation there every summer. Describe Mr. Pontellier. Age, appearance, demeanor, work, etc. Mr. Pontellier is 40 years old, medium height, slender, stooped, has brown, straight hair, eye glasses, a neatly, closely trimmed beard, gets quite annoyed at the birds, seems very important reading his newspaper, and works as a brokerage. How does Mr. Pontellier view his wife? Her role as a mother? Give specific examples from the novel to support. Mr. Pontellier sees his wife as a valuable piece of property. He thinks she neglects her children, and her role as a mother is not well taken. ?He reproached his wife, with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children.? (p. 48) Describe Mrs. Pontellier (her appearance, background, etc.). Where does she spend her summers? Why? Mrs. Pontellier is a fresh, handsome woman, always in white, with quick, bright yellowish brown eyes, with hair to match, eyebrows a shade darker, and rather handsome than beautiful. She spends her summers at the resort with her family. Describe Robert. Who is he? Age? What does he do? Where does he spend his summers? Discuss his summer ?flings?. Mention the other women he has spent time with during previous summers. Does he have sexual relationships with them? Support your answers. Robert is a young man, 26 years old, and is the son of Madame Lebrun. He spends his summers on Grand Isle, following women and devoting himself to them. A specific example of one of the women would be the summer before Robert devoted himself to Madame Ratignolle. The women find him jest and ignore him, never allowing a sexual relationship to even possibly happen. How do other people view Mr. Pontellier (what does he do to elicit such thoughts/give examples)? They view him as the ?perfect husband?. He sends Edna boxes full of gifts and bon bons for the children and supports the family well. What was a ?mother woman?? Who is a good example of this? Why? What do these women do/how do they act? The mother woman followed her kids, protecting them from ANYTHING. They idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and were of angelic grace and charm. Adéle Ratingnolle was a perfect example of a mother woman. She devoted herself selflessly to her children, and had outstanding beauty and charm. What characteristics do Creoles have? What does ?entire absence of prudery? mean? Does this have a sexual connotation/why/why not? They were all one big family, had an incomprehensible freedom of expression, and a lofty chastity. The ?entire absence of prudery? meant they never had any sexual lust or urges. Obviously that leaves a sexual connotation. Why did Mrs. Pontellier feel her husband was note jealous of her relationship with Robert? What does it mean that ?with him (Mr. Pontellier) the gangrene passion is one which has become dwarfed by disuse?? She feels he is not jealous because Creole husbands are never jealous. ?With him the gangrene passion is one which has become dwarfed by disuse? means that his passionate love towards Edna to keep her his one and only has in a sense died off because his passion is so rarely used. At one point Edna begins to see herself as a ?human being?. Explain/give examples (do not refer to swimming yet!) ?A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly within her, - the light which, showing the way, forbids it.? ?In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her.?(p. 57) What does the sea symbolize? Discuss the 2 paragraphs on page 57 (beginning with The voice and the second one, The voice?) The sea symbolizes a rebirthing into sensualism, a forbidden baptism. The sea invites Edna to explore her inner soul and embrace her inner self. In the beginning, how does the husband feel about his relationship with Edna? Does he see her as a possession? Support with specific examples. Mr. Pontellier saw Edna as his property that he remained devoted completely to. ?He thought it very discouraging that his wife, who was the sole object of his existence, evinced so little interest in things which concerned him, and valued so little in his conversation.? (p. 48) On page 57, Chopin mentions (in the first 3 paragraphs) that a ?certain light was beginning to dawn.? Discuss, what is this ?light?? Does she fully realize at this point that a change is taking place/and what this change is? Support your statements with examples from the novel. This light is an epiphany about herself as an individual. Edna does not understand this light because ?At that early period it served but to bewilder her.? (p. 57) On pages 60 to 62, the author develops Edna?s childhood. Discuss. Make statements, what her life was like as a young girl (happy, controlled, rebellious, flirt, etc.) Edna grew up in Kentucky, by meadows of tall grass. She avoided church and would rather run through the meadow. ?Following a misleading impulse without question.? (p. 61) She quarreled with her sisters. She fell passionately in love with a handsome cavalry officer early in age, and again with a gentleman visitin a nearby plantation. Edna was rebellious and flirtatious right off the bat in her childhood. Discuss Edna?s early days of marriage. (62 and 63). Why did she marry Mr. Pontellier? Why not another suitor? Edna was flattered by Mr. Pontellier?s devotion when he first fell in love with her, and in the early days of her marriage she realized that her romantic fantasies of the cavalry officer had to be over and she had to face reality. Edna married Mr. Pontellier because of her father?s objection to her marrying a Catholic. Discuss Edna?s feelings toward her children. Give specific examples from the novel to support. She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes love them passionately, and other forget them. When they spent part of a summer with their grandmother, ?She did not miss them except with an occasional intense longing.? (p. 63) Why does Madame Ratignolle tell Robert to leave Edna alone? For who?s benefit? Why does Robert say ?you should have warned me against taking myself seriously.? Madame Ratignolle tells Robert to leave Edna alone because she is not like the other women and may take him seriously. She tells him this for Edna?s benefit, for an affair would ruin her reputation. Robert tells her ?you should have warned me against taking myself seriously? because he is actually falling for Edna and knows he should not. Who is Mademoiselle Reisz? Describe her. Why does the author develop such a character? How does her music affect Edna? Give specific examples from the novel to support. Mademoiselle Reisz was an unmarried, little old woman with no children, who had a temper and fought with everyone. She had a small wrinkly face and glowing eyes. She had no taste in dress, she wore black lace and fake violets in her hair. Chopin probably developed this character because Mademoiselle Reisz is the opposite of the social norm. Her music paints pictures in Edna?s head. ?When she heard it there came before her imagination the figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the seashore.? (p. 71) But, on this special night, Mademoiselle Reisz?s music did something different to Edna. ?The very passions themselves were aroused in her soul, swaying it, lashing it, as the waves daily beat upon her splendid body. She trembled, she was choking, and the tears blinded her.? (p. 72) Explain Edna?s learning to swim. What does this symbolize? How did she change after this incident? Give specific examples?read the paragraph to the class. Why does the author state ?a quick vision of death smother her soul? which she overcame? What does this mean/significance? Edna, after trying to learn to swim all summer, goes into the water by herself and swims. This symbolizes Edna?s complete independence, control over her own body, and a ?cleansing?. She feels more independent and stronger after learning to swim. ?A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given to her to control the working of her body and her soul.? (p. 73) The author states ?a quick vision of death smother her soul? because Edna overcame this fear, and like any other overcome fear, it made her even stronger. The night after Edna learns to swim, she lays in a hammock and refuses to abide her husband. Explain what takes place. What is the significance of her actions? What is Mr. Pontellier?s reaction? Would Edna have done this the night before(not obey her husband)? Edna is laying in a hammock and her husband asks her to come inside for bed. She refused. She stayed outside on the hammock even when he got irritated. The significance of Edna?s actions are that this is her first sign of doing what she wants, and rebellion against control of her husband. Mr. Pontellier refuses to go to bed without her, and drinks two glasses of wine and smokes cigars until she goes inside (unknown to him at her own will). Edna the night before would have listened to her husband and went inside the first time he told her to. Explain: ??her present self was in some way different from the other self. That she was seeing the different eyes and making the acquaintance of new conditions in herself?? Also, explain ?she began to feel like one who awakens gradually out of a dream, a delicious, grotesque, impossible dream??. (why are these adjectives sued? What do they refer to?) Edna was feeling like a different woman who had found her own independence without the control of anyone else. She could think for herself as a new woman. She also feels as though she is waking up from a dream, and can not imagine that she possibly lived like that for so long. Describe the day Edna and Robert take the boat to the island. What is the significance of the day (for the development of the novel)? Edna and Robert take the boat to another island to go to church. Edna becomes restless during the service, and Robert takes her to a house where she sleeps all day. Upon awakening, she finds that Robert has made her dinner. After eating, instead of hurrying home to her worried husband, Edna stays with Robert until dark. This is significant because it shows that Edna would not only like to spend time with Robert instead of her husband, but that she doesn?t really care if her husband is worried or not. Also it develops the change in Robert and Edna?s relationship from casual to intimate. Where is Robert going? Why/speculate. How does Edna respond? Why? Robert is going to Mexico. He says he is going because the business prospects are better, but the underlying worry for Mrs. Pontellier?s reputation could play a part as well. Edna is extremely upset because she had just spent an entire day with Robert and he had said nothing of Mexico to her, and in fact even made more plans to spend time with her. She does not want him to leave her.
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