This book was the corpus for my undergraduate thesis. Which means I read it countless times, analyzing the words that portray the character relations and their conversations, marking the important parts, underlining important words. Then I lost the book in a fire. Hmm. It was meant to be, I guess. So, let's see how much I remember about the book. ^^
The Awakening tells the story of Edna Pontellier, the wife of an upperclass businessman in New Orleans and mother of two boys. Marrying without love, she finds herself confined and suffocated, wanting to release herself from the binds of marriage.
She falls in love with a younger man, develops a mainly sexual relationship with another, supports herself by selling paintings, moves out to a smaller home afforded by her new job, and basically tries to figure herself out and find her own place in the world. She is 'awakened' from a simple existence as a wife and mother, but the awakening comes with a price.
The book was widely criticized at the time it was published due to the seemingly wild and improper behavior of the main character. But I think it appeased itself, somehow, by creating a tragic ending. Had Edna managed to fully succeed in her awakening, the book would have met an even harsher reception. Does that mean the world weren't ready for such feminism then? Not that it's ready now, I should say.
By the way, the topic of my thesis was power relations between Edna and the three men in her life. Results? She may be awakened but she still lives in a man's world.