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Comparative Study: The Awakening and The Beloved

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Nicole D.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Mothers: Children as background vs. possessions
    1. The attitudes of Edna and Sethe towards their children
    2. What does the treatment of children say about the characters' gender identity?
  3. Lovers: Wives vs. not wives
    1. A series of romantic relationships with men
    2. Sethe's failure at being able to marry her husband legally
    3. Distinct differences in the ways the two authors portray their characters' sexual aspects
  4. Workers: Artists vs. laborers
    1. Adding a facet to their identities
    2. Sethe: Work is necessary for survival
  5. Conclusion


This is a study of two books, The Awakening by Kate Chopin and Beloved by Toni Morrison. Both authors are women, and the main characters in their novels are also women. However, Chopin is writing from the nineteenth century about the nineteenth century, while Morrison is a modern author looking back at that century. This difference provides two unique views of gender roles in the nineteenth century. Morrison's novel adds the extra variable of race as well. What follows is a comparison of how the two novels portray their heroines as mothers, lovers, and workers.

[...] As with the other aspects of their lives, the differences between Edna and Sethe's work life can be ascribed to differences in race and, as an extension, class. Edna can afford to rely on painting as a profession because she is a wealthy white woman. Sethe, on the other hand, is forced to work to support her family. Both are extraordinarily strong and independent women for the nineteenth century; most women at that time were only expected to be good housewives. [...]


[...] Motherhood, now and in the nineteenth century, was a huge contributor to a woman's identity. As we can see in the contextual documents attached to Chopin's novel, women in the nineteenth century were being told that ?motherhood love is instinctive? and ?true motherhood always must be her special bright and sparkling crown (Moody We can see that Chopin wanted to create Edna's character in direct opposition to this cultural norm; Edna is definitely not an instinctual mother. Edna's bright and sparkling crown is her own self. [...]

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