American Literature in English Classes
Every year, students are met with the requirement to read and analyze several texts throughout the semesters. These texts are chosen for the English curriculum because they serve a purpose in educating students on important topics such as women’s rights, life lessons, discriminaion among different groups of people, and key historical events. A novel that has been acknowledged when discussing passages students are required to interpret is The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
The Awakening was read by several eleventh grade honors English classes this semester at Gahr High School, and is analyzed by students every year in America. Kate Chopin’s novel is known as one of the first books in American Literature that expressed and demonstrated feminism. Published in 1899, The Awakening focuses on the constant oppression and lack of freedom women endured in the 19th century.
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The heart-wrenching and enlightening story revolves around Edna Pontellier, a woman who asserts her perpetual yearning for individuality. Throughout the novel, she behaves in a manner that is seen as ironic and concerning due to her actions contradicting the societal standards and expectations that are set for women in the 19th century. As Edna Pontellier explores herself, her repetitive epiphanies result in her ‘awakening,’ where she realizes she no longer can be held under the reigns of societal norms. She begins to desire things that are seen as inadmissible and incongruous such as, her abhorrence for being a mother, resulting in the negligence of her children. As well as failing to oblige to certain tasks she is expected to complete as an unemployed woman, falling in love with another man who is not her husband, and her failure to sacrifice herself for her children, husband, and home.
Albeit this novel was immensely controversial since it consisted of Edna’s constant yearning for individuality which she conveys by having affairs and moving away from her husband and children, it is an imperative text that is read in today’s english classes. The depiction of feminism in the 19th century, a time where feminism was seldom discussed and was often viewed as an irrelevant topic due to the lack of rights women had, is what gives the story its importance. Students can also examine the significance of the book’s recurring themes, such as self-ownership: the idea of women having control over their identities, desires, and bodies. It signifies a woman’s need to live as her true self with free will. Students are also meant to analyze the text and recognize the scarcity of freedom women had, and the miniscule amount of things they could do, without being criticized.