Margit Stange’s Literary Criticism of Chopin’s The Awakening

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Margit Stange’s Literary Criticism of Chopin’s The Awakening Kate Chopin created Edna Pontellier, but neither the character nor her creator was divorced from the world in which Chopin lived. As a means to understand the choices Chopin gave Edna, Margit Stange evaluates The Awakening in the context of the feminist ideology of the late nineteenth century. Specifically, she argues that Edna is seeking what Chopin’s contemporaries denoted self-ownership, a notion that pivoted on sexual choice and “voluntary motherhood” (276). Stange makes a series of meaningful connections between Kate Chopin’s dramatization of Edna Pontellier’s “awakening” and the historical context of feminist thought that Stange believes influenced the novel. For…show more content…
Indeed, Stange correctly notes that one of the arguments for feminist’s rejection of birth control technology is that motherhood, even though “voluntary,” was vital to women’s pool of influence within their social circles and the wider world. It was the roles of hostess, wife, mother, and sexual partner that gave women their own power, and their husbands standing within the community. By casting off the duties that come with being Mrs. Pontellier, Edna is devaluing the “currency” with which her husband buys respectability and esteem. By withholding sexual and social favors, Edna ruptures Leonce’s privileged comfort and establishes herself as femme seule, literally providing for herself with an independent income (282, 286). Stange argues that this development in the novel is tied to the Married Women’s Property Acts, which seriously diminished the breadth of women’s status as femme couverte Stange suggests that Chopin’s choice of Kentucky, home of the most liberal of these Acts, as Edna’s birthplace is a deliberate link between contemporary feminist advances and Edna’s experience, and “thus Chopin connects Edna to the feminist drive for women’s property rights” (281). Stange’s point is well-taken, although Chopin might also have chosen Kentucky for its fine history of championship horse-breeding, thus providing Edna with a background that then would give her an important social, and financial, outlet. In any event, this practical freedom of self that Edna

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