The Classics Reclamation Project is my personal challenge to read and enjoy the classics.
Well! It’s been a while since I’ve posted about a classic. That’s partly due to a busy summer schedule and partly to the fact that I’ve been reading War and Peace like crazy to catch up to Jillian’s year-long readalong. At the start of July, I was back in February with the readalong, but at this point I’m up to mid-June. And even better — I’m really enjoying the massive tome!
I also co-read The Awakening by Kate Chopin with my new partner in CRP, Hannah of Here Be Dragons. It was a reread for her, but this was my first time reading a book I’ve heard about often. I can’t say it was one of my favorite books, but I didn’t hate it and it was definitely worth reading.
I’m not sure I can discuss the book without spoilers, so consider yourself warned!
Going in, I only knew The Awakening was about a woman who went against what was socially acceptable in her time. Without knowing more, I expected a sticky extramarital affair and its repercussions. As I began reading, I could feel the novel building up to something, which I assumed was the imagined affair, perhaps a break between Edna and her husband with scandal to follow. In fact, I read with this assumption until quite literally the last page.
Thus, for nearly the whole novel, I’ll admit I was a bit impatient with Edna. I don’t like affairs in novels, as I often find it hard to sympathize with the characters involved, so I didn’t want the book to go where I thought it was headed. I tried to give Edna the benefit of the doubt, to consider her time in history and how few options would have been available for her once she decided to pursue her passion. As Edna’s “awakening” progressed, though, I started to see that the changes were bigger than a simple affair, though I still expected the same illicit relationship to crown the novel’s conclusion.
So when I realized what Edna was doing at the end as she walked out into the water, I was caught completely off guard. I was struck by how limited her choices must have been for her to have taken the measures she did. I felt like I’d read the novel all wrong, like I needed to go back and read it again without my suspicions and assumptions. I felt I owed that to Edna. Maybe someday I’ll come back to it, with the real ending in mind throughout.
I’m glad I’ve finally checked The Awakening off my list. As I said, it wasn’t one of my favorite novels, but it provides plenty to consider and gives an idea of a woman’s situation a startlingly short time ago.