Thursday, June 28, 2012

9/10 complete

Early this morning I finished reading the 9th book in my summer reading challenge, one book in the adult controversial category. Did I choose Shades of Grey by E.L. James? No. I actually chose a book that was controversial when it was published in 1899, The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I chose this book because I was intrigued by the type of writing that would be considered controversial at the end of the 19th Century.
The Awakening
by Kate Chopin
Last weekend my family attended a wonderful local production of the musical Ragtime, based on E.L. Doctrow's novel, published in 1975. I have not yet read the book, but it is on my book bucket list. My husband and I had seen the show before and truly loved the historical references and the manner in which the characters' lives cross paths. While reading The Awakening, I was reminded of the character, Mother, in Ragtime. The book opens with Edna Pontellier and her family as they vacation at the Grand Isle Resort  near the Gulf of Mexico. While  enjoying the area, Edna is befriended by the Robert, the resort's manager. There interactions and conversations lead Robert to feelings he should not have for a married woman. Upon realizing these feelings can never lead to anything good, Robert quickly leaves for Mexico. Once Robert leaves, Edna decides she no longer wants to follow in the normal society manner, but choose to lead her life in a manner that makes her happy and enjoy her life. Mother's metamorphosis in the musical, although not as dramatic as in The Awakening, can be compared to Edna's claim of independence and personal happiness when she refuses to stay at home to receive her callers and then moves out of her family home to live alone.

I wonder how Edna would feel in today's world? It seems the morals of today have become lax and extra-marital affairs are more common than not. Divorce and separations occur on a daily basis and more and more couples are living together before, and sometimes instead of choosing marriage. I don't approve of these loose morals for myself, but why should I tell someone how they can obtain and maintain their happiness. Would I make the same choices Edna made? I can't really answer that question. I am happily married, I know that, but I also know I have a great deal more opportunities afforded to me than Edna ever would have had in her lifetime.

As a woman in the year 2012, I have a very difficult time putting myself in Edna's place. I, like so many other women, take for granted my independence, my ability to make my own choice, go where I want to go and do what I want to do. Connecting Edna to Mother, I can see how their lives were really not their own, but revolved around their husband and children.  As a wife and mother I believe my family is very important, but I also know that in order to have a happy family I have to be happy as well. I don't feel my family is neglected in any way because I choose to work outside the home, go to a movie with my girl friends, or even blog after reading a great book. In the 21st Century, we may not be a traditional family in the sense of these characters from long ago, but I believe we are happier because we can develop our own personalities and actually be more well rounded as individuals who make up a family.

My final thoughts are of gratitude for living in a time when I have the ability to make personal choices and not be condemned by society for being myself.

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