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English 1302 - Coleman: Literary Criticism (Short Stories, Novels, & Poetry): Home

Kate Chopin

Katherine Chopin

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Welcome, English 1302 students!

This LibGuide will help you through the process of research for your project. Feel free to contact the library if you need help at any time.


1302 (Coleman)                               Research Paper: Writing about The Awakening

  1. Choose ONE of the following for some issues addressed in the novel:
  • Sex Roles—The roles that are assigned to the men and women in the novel are the roles traditionally held in countries like the United States that have expectations for members of the middle or upper class: women are responsible for domestic duties and men work outside the home to provide for the domestic needs of their families and to maintain their social status. Both sexes must forgo certain freedoms in the name of preserving their status in society. But, there exists a double standard for the men and women with how they are free to fulfill their roles and do as they please. Argue whether these roles genuinely serve the common good. Consider how the roles that Edna, Robert, and Léonce play in the story point out the unfairness of sexism and the repression of individual freedom that it causes.
  • Free Will—The novel complicates the question of whether free will is absolute or if it has limits through the development of the character with the strongest will, Mademoiselle Reisz. She is a talented musician who has chosen the unconventional road. Because Mlle. Reisz is unmarried and living alone, people think she is odd. Few people appreciate her music and fewer still associate with her. Mlle. Reisz finds comfort and passion only in her music. Tantalized by what could be, Edna refuses to give up her dream of freedom and to sacrifice her newfound individuality. As a result, Edna alienates herself from all of society in her choice to create her own destiny. Argue whether Edna can ever be totally free within the confines of the society in which she lives. Compare/contrast the consequences of the choices made by Edna, Mlle. Reisz and Madame Adele Ratignolle in terms of the risks they all take.
  • Search for Self—Edna's spiritual and physical awakenings herald her search for self. Yet, scholars take opposing sides over Edna’s success as a character. Argue whether the process Edna takes in determining who she is and toward creating her own identity can support her success as a character considering the novel’s conclusion. You will need to trace and analyze key actions by Edna that reflect this awakening while simultaneously consider what finally becomes of her.
  • Political and Social Commentary— Critics denounced Chopin for allowing Edna the freedom to refuse conformity and Chopin's seeming sympathy for her character. The outcry demonstrated that the literary world was not ready for the realism Chopin's novel portrayed. Even though women's roles in the real world of the late 1880’s were changing, Chopin's frank treatment of female sexuality, social impropriety and personal freedom shook the literary world. Critics condemned the novel. Libraries removed it from their shelves. While women did not gain the right to vote until 1920, these pioneering efforts gained a voice in society that would not be quieted. Research how Edna's actions in The Awakening reflect the times and the emotions felt by the many women who sought personal freedom during the beginning of the Women’s Movement.


2.  After conducting a close reading of the novel by taking notes, freewriting or completing an informal outline, isolate the focus from the list above that you will argue in your essay.

3.  Compose an argument with a clear thesis that identifies your focus, clear topic sentences for the body paragraphs that connect back to the thesis and specific evidence to prove your analysis is reasonable.


4.  Provide evidence for your thesis by quoting specific phrases or passages from the novel (your primary source) and THREE approved, scholarly sources (your secondary sources) to support your interpretation.


5. Include correct parenthetical documentation for borrowed content, making sure to format the lines of the novel correctly according to MLA documentation standards.


7. Include a Works Cited page at the end of your paper that follows MLA documentation rules.


8. Your total word count of 1,200 words should generate a paper 3 1/2-4 pages long.


9. Upload a final draft through Turnitin® within Canvas by the due date.

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