Tuesday, February 28, 2012

...ponderous weight of wisdom

The sea @ the Jersey Shore.
Posted by Melissa Baumgart
The Awakening was a lovely read.  It was interesting enough to hold my attention, short enough to fit into my week without overwhelming my list of things to do, and sentimentally reminded me of my college literature days.  Kate Chopin writes in a way that I used to love to read in college, with symbolism that you can dissect during a good class.  And I loved when I found myself with the right teacher to guide the discussions, yet without too many directives, so as to not steal the student's fresh ideas away from them.

One of my favorite passages was at a point when Edna Pontellier (her name sounded so marvelous as I read it with a French accent silently in my head, heaven forbid I try to utter it aloud) is realizing there is something changing within her.  She is not only realizing it, but accepting it, opening herself to it.  It is something far deeper and broader than the infidelity the book synopsis spoke of.

She is beginning to come into her own person, her own woman, and from this point on she grows more and more beautiful, both outwardly and debatably inwardly.  The debate occurs depending on whether you think a woman has her place in the world, or she creates her place as she sees fit.

Here is the passage:
EDNA Pontellier could not have told why, wanting to go to the beach with Robert, she should have in the first place declined, and in the second place have followed in obedience to one of the two contradictory impulses with impelled her.
A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly in her, -the light which, showing the way, forbids it.
At that early period to served to bewilder her.  It moved her to dreams, to thoughtfulness, to the shadowy anguish which had overcome her in the midnight when she had abandoned herself to tears.
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.  This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight - perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman.
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 a beginning!  How many should perish in its tumult!
The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in the abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation.
The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.  The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.
This passage is on page thirteen, and Chopin has beautifully written the book so that it allows the reader nearly one hundred more pages of being with Edna on this journey.  There is no rush, life does not allow for the process of self discovery to unfold with any quickness.  I can only imagine what it must have been like to read this as a woman in the late 1800's.  Or to have had the courage to be a character like Edna Pontellier during that time period.

Whether you agree with her choices or not, she certainly maintained an aura of courageousness.

I highly recommend this book.  It has a fantastic ending...but I refuse to give it away.  You'll simply have to read it yourself.

One more day of February left, I wonder if I can fit in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck today and tomorrow, to make it 4 books for the month.   It is 106 pages.



sophanne said...

I think Of Mice and Men would be a perfect sort do complementary read after the awakening. I'm not sure why I think so but I've read them both and I like the way the choices of the characters fit together. Do It. Even if you accidentally have to read one day into March.

Melissa Baumgart said...

It was perfect, indeed. In a way, there was a similar thread that ran through them both. So happy I read it!