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.)
Essay Topic 1
Is The Awakening a proper title for this novel? If you could name it something else, what would you name it and why?
Essay Topic 2
How would you characterize this novel? Is it a piece of literary romanticism? Realism? Naturalism? Why?
Essay Topic 3
How does the author depict Edna's sense of being suffocated by the cultural restrictions on women in the 19th century? Do you think it is a fair assessment of how women lived during that time?
Essay Topic 4
Why do you think Edna is so drawn to Robert? Describe first how they meet, and how their relationship develops. What is it about Edna's life that is so lacking that she feels so drawn to him?
Essay Topic 5
As the story progresses, Edna chooses independence over marriage. Did she do the right thing? What, if anything, did she lose? What did she gain?
Essay Topic 6
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