The Awakening

by

Kate Chopin

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The Awakening: Tone 1 key example

Definition of Tone
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical or mournful, praising or critical, and so on. For instance... read full definition
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical or mournful, praising or critical... read full definition
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical... read full definition
Chapter 2
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator’s tone in The Awakening is formal, solemn, authoritative, and sympathetic to Edna. When the narrator describes Edna’s appearance for the first time in Chapter 2, it is in positive terms:

The charm of Edna Pontellier’s physique stole insensibly upon you [...] a casual and indiscriminating observer, in passing, might not cast a second glance upon the figure. But with more feeling and discernment he would have recognized the noble beauty of its modeling, and the graceful severity of poise and movement, which made Edna Pontellier different from the crowd.

The narrator’s description of Edna emphasizes her individuality. The narrator extols Edna’s virtues ("noble beauty" and "graceful severity"), although Madame Ratignolle possesses “the more feminine and matronly figure,”  the more “ideal” physical qualities for the society she lives in. The tone is also authoritative in the sense that their assessment of Edna's traits and appearance are the reader's primary source of information about Edna. In this way, it's implied that the reader should adopt the same sympathetic view of her.

In Chapter 11, when Mr Pontellier complains to Edna of her sitting on the porch alone at night, the narrator comments on Edna’s actions: 

[Edna] would, through habit, have yielded to his desire; not with any submission or obedience to his compelling wishes, but unthinkingly, as we walk, move, sit, stand, go through the daily treadmill of the life which has been portioned out to us.

The narrator, in this instance, provides commentary on how social convention can confine one’s individuality. This reflects the narrator’s sympathy toward Edna, specifically the desire she feels to assert her individuality and freedom, separate from her “duties” as a wife, woman and mother. Finally, toward the end of the novel as Edna grows lonelier and more despondent, the narrator's tone turns solemn and mournful, again encouraging the reader to sympathize with her.

Chapter 17
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator’s tone in The Awakening is formal, solemn, authoritative, and sympathetic to Edna. When the narrator describes Edna’s appearance for the first time in Chapter 2, it is in positive terms:

The charm of Edna Pontellier’s physique stole insensibly upon you [...] a casual and indiscriminating observer, in passing, might not cast a second glance upon the figure. But with more feeling and discernment he would have recognized the noble beauty of its modeling, and the graceful severity of poise and movement, which made Edna Pontellier different from the crowd.

The narrator’s description of Edna emphasizes her individuality. The narrator extols Edna’s virtues ("noble beauty" and "graceful severity"), although Madame Ratignolle possesses “the more feminine and matronly figure,”  the more “ideal” physical qualities for the society she lives in. The tone is also authoritative in the sense that their assessment of Edna's traits and appearance are the reader's primary source of information about Edna. In this way, it's implied that the reader should adopt the same sympathetic view of her.

In Chapter 11, when Mr Pontellier complains to Edna of her sitting on the porch alone at night, the narrator comments on Edna’s actions: 

[Edna] would, through habit, have yielded to his desire; not with any submission or obedience to his compelling wishes, but unthinkingly, as we walk, move, sit, stand, go through the daily treadmill of the life which has been portioned out to us.

The narrator, in this instance, provides commentary on how social convention can confine one’s individuality. This reflects the narrator’s sympathy toward Edna, specifically the desire she feels to assert her individuality and freedom, separate from her “duties” as a wife, woman and mother. Finally, toward the end of the novel as Edna grows lonelier and more despondent, the narrator's tone turns solemn and mournful, again encouraging the reader to sympathize with her.

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