Episode 17: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening

“Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.”

Kate Chopin, The Awakening

The Book

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, was first published in 1899. The book is seen as a landmark work of early feminism and a precursor of American modernist literature. Set in New Orleans, it can also be considered among the first Southern works in a tradition that would culminate with the modern works of Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, and Tennessee Williams.

The Author

Kate Chopin, born Katherine O’Flaherty (February 8, 1850 – August 22, 1904) was an American author of short stories and novels based in Louisiana. Within a decade of her death, Chopin was widely recognized as one of the leading writers of her time. In 1915, Fred Lewis Pattee wrote, “some of [Chopin’s] work is equal to the best that has been produced in France or even in America. [She displayed] what may be described as a native aptitude for narration amounting almost to genius.”⁠⁠

Our Guest: Shauna Rensch

Shauna Rensch is a wife and mother of four kids ages 15 to 5. She grew up in the north suburbs of Chicago but moved to Arizona with her family at the end of high school. She started at ASU but took time off to get married and have her first child. She went back to school in order to complete a bachelor’s degree at NAU and started teaching kindergarten. She has taught from kindergarten up through sixth grade and completed a master’s in elementary education from NAU in 2015. She has taken the last two years off from teaching but looks forward to more work within the education field in the future. Shauna loves reading, long walks with beautiful views, and road trips with her family.

“Woman …is a very peculiar and delicate organism. It would require an inspired psychologist to deal successfully with them. …Most women are moody and whimsical.”

– A doctor, commenting on women in Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening

Amy’s Takeaways

This book absolutely blew my mind – I read it three times. Overlaps a little with Eisler, but goes way deeper and travels farther forward in history. This book Just the other day someone told me that there were fewer women in STEM fields because women’s brains can’t do Math. I replied, “Well, Mary Wollstonecraft says, ‘It cannot be demonstrated that woman is essentially inferior to man, because she has always been subjugated.” Wollstonecraft’s book is full of useful sound bites on relevant topics including nature vs. nurture, reason vs. emotion, and the role of beauty. And discussing these issues with razor-witted marriage and family therapist Meagan Cahoon Alder made the discussion especially rich.

“I suppose this is what you would call unwomanly, but I have got into a habit of expressing myself. It doesn’t matter to me, and you may think me unwomanly if you like.”

– Edna, in Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening

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