Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements / paper topics on The Awakening by Kate Chopin that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper. Before you begin, however, please get some useful tips and hints abouthow to use PaperStarter.comin the brief User's Guide…you'll be glad you did.Still working out the details? Click Here for a Free Detailed Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of “The Awakening”
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Layered Significance of the Title
The title of Kate Chopin’s novella is significant because it refers to the many ways in which Edna begins to awaken to the world around her. She is not only waking up her understanding of herself as an individual and as a woman who does not find herself happy in the domestic world of her peers, she is also awakening to herself as a sexual being. Throughout the novel, there are many examples of different kinds of awakenings; from her awakening to herself as an artist when she tries to paint, her waking up to the realization that she can appreciate music, and to the fact that her life up until this point has been unfulfilling. For this essay (it will likely be an expository essay rather than too much of an argumentative one) find three or four examples of different kinds of awakenings in the book and tie them together in a solid conclusion about the overall meaning of awakening. For more assistance with this topic, consult the freely accessible and the stages she goes through.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Symbolism in The Awakening
Throughout The Awakening by Kate Chopin, much of the deeper meaning in the story is revealed through a number of important symbols. These symbolic elements and images make the connection between Edna’s world and her eventual awakening more potent and meaningful for the reader. Three of the most prominent symbols used are birds, houses, and the ocean and each means something different in the context of the story. Birds represent freedom and the ability to fly but are also symbols for something that is strong yet delicate. Houses are where one resides and thus are reflections on the soul of the inhabitant. The fact that Edna has multiple homes is important because they reflect her changing state of mind. The ocean symbolizes freedom and the metaphorical notion death as well but it also represents something that is larger than life and almost impossible to comprehend. For this essay use one symbol for each paragraph and tie them all together with a conclusion discussing the overall importance of symbols and how they function in the book.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3 : The Awakening as a Feminist Novella
Upon its initial serial publication, this novella caused quite a stir because it presented a female protagonist who was so blatantly refusing the society she lived in and furthermore, because she was so sexually aware. This combination in Edna’s character made her a literary icon for feminist ideals. Because of the way Edna chooses individuality over conformity, sexuality over repression, and art over entertaining she is acting as a feminist—even at a time when this was not a common concept. For this essay choose three of four aspects to her character or events in the story (such as her getting her own place or taking a lover for instance) and examine them closely to look for ways in which Edna promotes feminist ideals
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Context of the Victorian Era
In the Victorian society in which this novel takes place, there are many strict behavioral and other conventions that must be adhered to, particularly for women. Consider the idea of the “mother women" such as Adele Ratignolle versus more independent women such as Mademoiselle Reisz and look at the way each woman fits into (or doesn’t) the greater society around her. In this paradigm Edna is caught between her desires for independence and freedom and the constraining notions of Victorian society. For this essay, think hard about Victorian expectations for women and examine how women are expected to fit into it and what happens if they do not. A good structure for this essay would be to spend one paragraph on individual characters and look at how they defy, adhere to, or reject their society and what consequences result. For more on this topic, click here to read more about the literary history of the time period during which this was written.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5 Contrasting Ideas of Femininity and Masculinity
Gender roles are an important theme in this novella and there are numerous examples of issues arising because of violations of or over-adherence to traditional roles. Edna’s society places a great deal of emphasis on women performing a rigid set of requirements, including being perfect wives, doting mothers, and skillful entertainers. Women in “The Awakening”such as Adele perform their role perfectly and seem completely fulfilled by it while Edna finds it leaving her feeling empty. Men too have a number of expectations and it is important to look at Leonce and other men in the novel and how they either uphold or rebel against the status quo in terms of gendered expectations.
If you are still looking for further insights about “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin, here are several freely accessible articles and essays on various topics, including : Death as a Metaphor in “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin • The Awakening by Kate Chopin : Analysis of the Process of Edna's Awakening • Character Analysis of Edna in “The Awakening” and Discussion About Conflict & Climax • Gender and Social Criticism in The Awakening by Kate Chopin • The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin : Language, Emotion and Marriage • American Literature Since 1865-Roosevelt : Common Themes and Issues
This list of important quotations from the text will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in a maze of inward contemplation" (14).
(Edna thinking of Kentucky) “of a meadow that seemed as big as the ocean to the very little girl walking through the grass, which was higher than her wait. She threw her arms as if swimming when she walked, beating the tall grass as one strikes out in the water" (17).
“But that night she was like the little tottering, stumbling, clutching child, who all of a sudden realizes its power and walks for the first time alone, boldly and with over confidence. She could have shouted with joy" (23).
“The years that are gone seem like dreams-if one might go on sleeping and dreaming—but to wake up and find—oh! Well! Perhaps it is better to wake up after all. Even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life" (50).
“A certain light was beginning to dawn dimply within her—the light which, showing the way, forbids it" (53).
(Mademoiselle Reisz) “The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth" (82).
“A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled, down, down to the water" (108).
“She cast the unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and for the first time in her life, she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her" (108).
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* All quotes refer to the 1996 Penguin Edition *
The following paper topics are based on the entire book. Following each topic is a thesis and sample outline. Use these as a starting point for your paper.
Although Edna thinks she will find true love and happiness with Robert, every single man in Edna’s life has tried to control and/or repress her. Not one of them understands her need for independence. How has each man in Edna’s life attempted to control and/or repress Edna?
I. Thesis Statement: None of the men in Edna’s life understands her need for independence; they all try to control and/or repress her in some way.
II. The Colonel, Edna’s father, is a strict disciplinarian.
A. Edna comes from a strict Presbyterian background.
B. “Authority and coercion” are necessary to manage a wife.
III. Leonce Pontellier believes women should live only for their families’ well-being.
A. It is the wife’s place to look after the children.
B. He is courteous as long as Edna is submissive.
C. An artistic pasttime is all right as long as it doesn’t interfere with family duties.
D. A wife has to act in ways that will be beneficial to her husband’s business.
IV. Alcee Arobin is a womanizer who knows how to take advantage.
A. He senses her latent sexuality and knows how to bring it out.
B. Once he has gotten her, he becomes proprietary and paternalistic.
V. Robert Lebrun wants a traditional wife the same way Leonce does.
A. He tells Edna the end of the book she’s reading so she doesn’t have to bother finishing it.
B. He leaves when he realizes Edna doesn’t want to marry him.
Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz both are opposite ends of a spectrum, and both influence Edna’s awakening and her final decision. How are the women different, and how has each woman affected Edna?
(The entire section is 811 words.)