Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Monday, November 21, 2005


For my book group this month, I chose to read Kate Chopin's The Awakening, a classic written in 1899 about a woman in search of self-discovery. She turns away from her family and society and delves into a primal world of the senses and of solitude.

In this book she has several self-realizations, but I find the one particularly compelling.

"A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly within her,-- the light which showing the way forbids it.

In short Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her...

But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginnings! How many souls perish in its tumult!

The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmering, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation."

Edna Pontillier will ultimately hearken to the sea's invitation, as she commits suicide by drowning in it at the end of the book.

Reading about Edna's awakening sense of the world and her position in it has made me also think of my own awakenings. One of my bigger ones occurred when I went to grad school. As an undergrad, I had been a big fish. Professors loved me and thought I was brilliant, I felt I had unlimited potential. I had only to set my sights on any goal and it would be achieved because of my talent and abilities. And then I went to grad school and realized I wasn't the best any more. I came face to face with my own mediocrity. I realized the unimportance and pettiness of my accomplishments. I was forced to admit that I will probably never make an important impact on the world.

Tough realization for an idealistic 22 year old.


Post a Comment

<< Home