The Awakening

Eliot is full of it. April is not the cruellest month, it is a glorious month because it doesn’t bring promise, it brings reality. Winter always ends and spring always comes. Eventually. I could see an argument being made for March though. This March was a tease wasn’t it? Warm then frighteningly cold, then warm again. Most of my blooms made it through the snows and are shinning cheerfully now.

It is so hard to talk about spring without all of those terrible cliches isn’t it? But it’s just like everything around you just seeps right in and you feel your skin and the wind whips around the tendrils of your hair and you find yourself just staring, staring at everything, agape at all the beauty around you. It’s so different from the warm, cozy, blanketing of winter. It’s like opening your eyes from a long sleep and being roughly thrust into a world so full of things you can hardly take a breath. The sun spreads over things and they suddenly come to life. Last week I was up before every one else and went out to my garden to plant some peas and the sun was coming up with a golden intensity and I looked up into the trees at the dawn chorus loudly trying to out sing each other and I literally felt like my body was sinking into the soft dirt. It was more than just feeling like I belonged or something. It was almost as if I didn’t feel anything at all, I just was. I was just me and the birds were just birds and the peas were just peas and we were all just there in the golden sun. There is no greater feeling to me than getting my mind to stop thinking and just BE haha.

But this post is really about The Awakening because every spring I begin to get the urge to read it, and reread it several times before fall comes and I put it away until I’m ready for it again. I remember once I told someone that I loved this book and they looked at me somewhat sympathetically and said “Yeah, I would imagine you do….You know, husband and kids and all that…” I was absolutely blown away that a.) someone would say that, and b.) that that was the first assumption of why someone would like the novella. So first of all let me just say, I don’t love Edna Pontellier because I fantasize about leaving my husband and my kids and killing myself (I wish that didn’t need to be said lol).
 I really disagree with her decisions in general, and I also disagree with critics who view this as in line with a Madame Bovary kind of tale of a woman suppressed by her culture from following her desires and forced to die because she is a fallen woman and that is what fallen women do. Edna to me does what she does because she has so little comprehension of herself. She feels isolation because she causes it herself. She doesn’t think Madame Ratignolle will understand, or Dr. Manette, when they probably would. Because Edna is not an anomaly, she is just like most people. She is not part of a melodrama where people can be divided into all good or all evil but is instead taken up with constant contradictory emotions, which she is unable to resolve. She lacks the strong character she needs to reconcile her feelings.

But as a person, as a woman, I understand Edna more than any other literary figure. I suppose I usually read the story when warm weather comes because I always start to feel like I’m “awakening,” and feeling alive in myself and giving over to life’s delirium.
“There were days when she was very happy without knowing why. She was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day. She liked then to wander alone into strange and unfamiliar places. She discovered many a sunny, sleepy corner, fashioned to dream in. And she found it good to dream and to be alone and unmolested.
There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why,- when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation. She could not work on such a day, nor weave fancies to stir her pulses and warm her blood.”

I suppose this sounds somewhat like a person depressed, and I guess you could make the argument that Edna was depressed, but I prefer to think of Edna as someone who has just given herself up to the world around her. She doesn’t follow the human tendency to analyze, to put into words why or who is making her happy or blame someone or something for her sadness. It seems much better revel  in the delights and pains, to become conscious to yourself in the deepest sense of the word. Realizing that not everything has a reason but sometimes just is. As Edna describes her love for Robert, ‘”Why (do I love him)? Because his hair is brown and grows away from his temples; because he opens and shuts his eyes, and his nose is a little out of drawing; because he has two lips and a square chin, and a little finger which he can’t straighten from having played baseball too energetically in his youth. Because-” “Because you do, in short,” laughed Mademoiselle.”‘

If I had to give one reason why Edna killed herself it would be because of answers. Not that society would condemn her for what she did, but because they would want answers, explanations. Because Edna was unable to comprehend how she would answer to her children. And I feel like that happens to a lot of people. We are always so greedy to understand each other, but we don’t always have reasons for what we do. Sometimes we just are, sometimes things just are, and it is the unexplainable that is the forbidden. I’m glad I don’t often have to give answers for feeling the way I do often. I couldn’t tell you why I suddenly feel like in a burst of happiness I can’t get close enough to my husband, or why I crave the touch and smell of my children or why I sometimes feel as if my whole body is drooping or why sometimes every one I’m close to seem terribly far away and unreachable. I only half-comprehend what I mean most of the time anyway, I couldn’t even begin to explain myself. Does this post even make sense? I hope so. I know everyone has incomprehensible moods and there is nothing more exhilarating than giving yourself over to them, which I think is the ultimate lesson of Edna Pontellier. Life is meant to be lived instead of contemplated? Something like that. (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52731437-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);


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