Abstract on Elaine Showalter

Chopin, Kate, and Elaine Showalter et al.  “Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book.” The Awakening, 2nd ed., Bedford, Boston, MA, 2000, pp. 202–222.

Showalter connects Chopin’s life with her character, Edna Pontellier, and her search for self-reliance and definition.  Women’s sexuality was more undefined as it was normal for women to kiss and sleep together without homosexual lash backs.  Delving into Chopin’s background, Showalter analyzes how Chopin’s disdain for the traditional feminine literary tropes affected the ending of Edna’s suicide. Normally, the undecisive woman would return to her expected duties of being a mother and wife or would choose a life without any of these roles to become a reclusive nun.  Adele and Madame Reisz function as representations of the proper female lives. Instead, Chopin chose suicide to end it all and show the lingering influence of masculinity even in Edna’s death.  Bees are mentioned as Edna drowns, representing the overbearing creation of life that men provide.  They pillage a flower, leave it to die, and then return to their hive successful in ensuring the survival of a species while, as Showalter puts it, possibly destroying the original flower.  The dying bird present for Edna’s drowning represents the every-day, struggling Victorian women.  The Awakening, according to Showalter, is Chopin’s greatest work that is ignored as it presents the struggles of a women’s sexual fluidity and desperate grasp to handle the transition of girl to women in an overbearing patriarchal society.

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