Kate Chopin's independent women: the evolution of Edna Pontellier
Since its rediscovery in the 1960s, The Awakening has been considered Chopin's masterpiece, yet standing on its own, it is a highly ambiguous work. Much has been written about it, and a review of Chopin scholarship will demonstrate that there is little agreement among scholars as to its meaning. Placed in the context of her first novel and more than one hundred short stories, it becomes less obscure. That Chopin herself considered The Awakening as an integral, not isolated, expression of her thinking is evidenced by her use of recurring tropes and characters in her short and long fiction. Those tropes and characters serve as a bridge between the two forms; the contexts in which they occur in the short fiction suggest that the stories make The Awakening possible. As Chopin began writing professionally in 1889, she used the popularity of local color writing as a vehicle to gain an audience for her stories. A decade later, she used the conventions of realism as a framework for The Awakening. Just as quaintness and charm of local color writing were only the context for her stories in their explorations of societal and marital relationships, so the conventions of realism were inadequate for the exploration of female self-determination and sexuality Chopin undertook in The Awakening. She exploded realism by centering the text on a romantic protagonist and permeating it with an eclectic vocabulary of imagery and symbolism. The result was a highly ambiguous, yet subversive, text grounded in the female experience.