In the end of the nineteenth century, the motif of life of a Victorian woman often appears in literature, mainly in prose. Even though it was dominant mostly in the English literature, we can find this theme also in the works of American writers. However, this motif was slowly disappearing since the United States had become a modern, industrialized country. The Victorian attitude remained popular in the work of regional writers, often those who lived in an environment which was still closely connected through business, culture and family ties with the European continent. The European influence therefore appeared in the American regional literature.
Kate Chopin spent her life in Louisiana, a southern state with a strong French-speaking community. This fact influenced her prosaic work, in which we can often encounter a Catholic Creole environment with its old-fashioned, traditional European customs. Chopin’s major piece, The Awakening, was published at the very end of the nineteenth century (in 1899). It was an example of regional prose, in which the author did not only concentrate on ex-European customs, but also wanted to render natural, social and linguistic features of the New Orleans’ Creole community.
The main character of The Awakening, 28-year-old Edna Pontellier, plays the role of a wealthy New Orleans housewife. Even with two little children, a generous husband, and financial stability, Edna finds herself wanting more from her life and tries to search for fulfillment in her conventional 19th century life of a woman. Deeply buried within her soul, she uncovers a hunger for mental stimulation, physical love and a need for personal independence.
In the Pontellier’s summer retreat at Grand Isle, Edna befriends a handsome man named Robert Lebrun, who is two years younger than she. Robert and Edna stroll along the ocean arm in arm, or carry on conversations that last hours. They feel comfortable and at rest in the other’s presence. To Edna, it is Robert who is her equal, her partner; alike from Edna’s husband Léonce Pontellier who treats her like “a valuable piece of personal property” (The Awakening, p. 509)2. When comparing Léonce Pontellier and Robert Lebrun, it seems that Mr. Pontellier is rather a typical patriarchal figure. It has been already mentioned that he felt his wife was his property. Though the reader might have an impression that Mr.
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The Awakening of a Victorian Woman
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Zdroje: Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. In: The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Vol. II. Eds. Nina Baym - Ronald Gottesman - et al. New York: Norton & Company 1989, pp. 508-599.