The Awakening BY Chopin, Kate

Parents of the Blue ValleySchool District in Kansas are currently petitioning for this and thirteen other books to be removed from all highschool classrooms in the district due to "vulgar language, sexual explicitness,or violent imagery that is gratuitously employed."

This novel is about a woman in the late 1800s who rejects the traditional roles of wife and mother and explores her new found“ freedom,&rd quo; both emotionally and sexually. It was Chopin’s second and final novel, published in 1899. The book was widely criticized for its frank, open discussion of the emotional and sexual "needs" of women,which culminate in a romanticized suicide.

For example, consider the review of Chopin's work from Lewis Leary, of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He begins his review by quoting another "professional" editor, "As Kenneth Eble, first modern editor of The Awakening, has said, "quite frankly the book is about sex."

Leary goes on to write... "The of Mrs. Chopin's more successful examinations...whether marriage is or is not "a wonderful and powerful agent in the development and formation of a woman's character."

"...the submission of women and their struggle against submitting is a theme which pervades much, perhaps all, of Mrs. Chopin's fiction."

"For whatever its excellences otherwise, The Awakening is bold,and its title tells exactly what it is about."

"Edna Pontellier was ...a self-indulgent sensualist..."

"Her awakening, only vaguely intellectual, is disturbingly physical."

"The voice of the sea is seductive...the sea whispers the strong and "delicious" word death."


Chopin's membership in the St. Louis Fine Arts Club was revoked,and The Awakening went out of print for more than half a century. Why? Was the subject matter of the book any more "shocking" than that of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina or Flaubert's Madame Bovary? No; it seems that Chopin's chief sin appeared to be that she showed too much sympathy toward Edna Pontellier; besides and because of the fact that it was a woman behaving thus, it left a sour taste of cuibono in the mouths of more than one appalled critic. Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary erred, but they met their untimely ends in the appropriate way - with the realization that they screwed things up. Edna Pontellier made it painfully clear that she was turning to suicide not out of guilt for her sins against society, but as a means of escape. The critics found this attitude "unhealthy" and the woman's conduct "degrading to the human condition."

Retained on the Northwestern Suburban High School District 214 reading list in Arlington Heights, IL along with eight other challenged titles in 2006. A board member, elected amid promises to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making, raised the controversy based on excerpts from the books she'd found on the Internet.

First published in 1899, this novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banished for decades afterward.