In comparison to other works such as Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn wherein the title succinctly tells what the story shall contain, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening represents a work whose title can only be fully understood after the incorporation of the themes and content into the reader’s mind, which can only be incorporated by reading the novel itself. The title, The Awakening, paints a vague mental picture for the reader at first and does not fully portray what content the novel will possess.
After thorough reading of the novel, one can understand that the title represents the main character, Edna Pontellier’s, sexual awakening and metaphorical resurrection that takes place in the plot as opposed to not having a clue on what the plot will be about. Edna Pontellier first faces a form of awakening when she encounters another character that plays a musical instrument. As the musician plays, the crowd reacts nonchalantly and for the most part disregards it as just another performance with the exception of Mrs.Order now
Pontellier whom breaks out into tears due to the vivid imagery that the music brings into her mind. The musician responds to Mrs. Pontellier by telling her that she is the only one who truly speaks her language. This form of awakening brings about one of the themes in the novel in that as a person learns to begin to express themselves, they find that there is a lesser concentration of people who can understand the way that one expresses themselves. This becomes of greater relevance as Edna begins to express herself through the use of her artwork.
The sexual aspect of Edna’s awakening is formed through her relationship with a supporting character, Robert LeBrun. In the beginning of the novel, Robert assigns himself to become the helper of Mrs. Pontellier and his advances help to crack the barrier in which Edna is placed in due to her role as a woman of the Victorian era. Her feelings begin to manifest themselves as she intends to liberate herself from her husband and run away with Robert. He on the other hand has no intention of having a sexual affair because of the role placed upon him as a man of the Victorian era which is not to destroy families.
Her quest for complete independence ultimately brings her to committing suicide at the end of the story. Her suicide does not represent a disappointment in how she cannot conform to the society around her but a final awakening and symbol for her liberation. The sea in which she swims out to represents the vast expanse (freedom) and by swimming out to it alone intending to never return is the ultimate manifestation of solitude as a result of independence.
The Awakening as a title does not represent a one line summary that depicts what the story is going to about. It serves to introduce the concept that the central character will encounter some form of mental awakening. The title can only be fully understood as that after the reader absorbs the concepts and events presented throughout the novel. Each event contributes to reinforcement of the title and provides a stronger message as opposed to a relatively strong title that serves to tell the story.