Research the setting. See the information contained in this packet to help you. Complete a Setting Chart, (this does not need to be typed.) Write a piece which discusses why the author's choice of setting is effective to the novel.
Setting Element Description
Occupations: Many Creoles were somehow in the cotton business, owning plantations, growing and harvesting, or, like Mr. Pontellier, being cotton brokers. Doctors, such as Dr. Mendelet, were present, along with lawyers. Many of the women in Creole society were expected to be housewives, save that they let their husbands work and toil. The only woman in the book that had even close to a job was Mme. Lebrun, who ran the "House" and the cottages at Grand Isle. Mrs. Pontellier, despite the independence she shows in other parts of society, does not hold a job. Monsieur Ratignolle owns and operates a drugstore in New Orleans.
Lifestyle: The families moved to Grand Isle during the summer, the husbands leaving the island during the week to work in New Orleans. Many families had quadroon nurses to take care of the children so that the ladies could sit and not stress themselves.
Morals/ Religion: The women were supposed to obey and support their husbands, they were taught that they must respect the men; no exceptions. Many of the Creoles were Catholic. Religion was an important aspect within The Awakening; most of the people who stayed at Grand Isle crossed the bay every Sunday to go to the service at Cheniere Caminada.
Customs: The Creoles were the descendants of the early French and Spanish settlers, and their language was a mixture of French and Spanish. The men would all go to Klein's hotel to eat, drink, play cards and pool, and socialize. The women, when in New Orleans, considered Tuesday afternoons to be time for calling on their friends. While on Grand Isle, Friday and Saturday nights were an excellent time for a soiree musicale. Church was not only considered to be a expectation of society, but also a custom. Marriage was often done not for love, but for convenience. They loved to entertain, had very expensive taste.
Family Life: The men were independent, it didn't matter what they did. Everything was acceptable for them. The women were kept in "cages", where they were expected to respect and take care of their husbands. The children were taken care of by nurses most of the time, taught to behave. They didn't get very much attention by the parents.
Education: The women didn't usually attend school, the men did. The children were sent to private schools, away from "regular" kids. Money wasn't an issue to them, the children received the best education that was possible.
Era: Turn of the 19th century, beginning of industrialization era.
Season: At the beginning of the book it was summer, at the time of Edna's suicide it was winter.
Period of Life: Edna is 29, Robert is 26, and Leonce is 40.
Area of World: New Orleans, in Southern Louisiana; and Grand Isle, off the coast of Southern Louisiana
Climate: Summer- warm, hot, sticky, humid Winter- cool, yet not cold
Landscape, buildings, landmarks: The Gulf, Grande Terre, Grand Isle, Cheniere Caminada, Ratignolle's Drugstore, The "Pigeon House", the beach, New Orleans
The Awakening I believe to be one of Chopin's greatest works. Not because of the fact that I've only read three of her writings, although that might have some influence, but because she makes it so personal. Chopin conquers this novel by integrating New Orleans culture, of which she was familiar with, and St. Louis culture, of which she grew up in. She places The Awakening in only two places: Grand Isle, a resort island off the coast of Louisiana, and the city of New Orleans. Although I couldn't find anything that said that Chopin had spent time in Grand Isle, she still was familiar with the other cities that she encompasses, New Orleans and St. Louis. Chopin herself was born and raised in St. Louis, and remained there until she was 19. Chopin gives St. Louis as the birthplace of her main character, Edna Pontellier. Chopin moved to New Orleans after she married her husband, Oscar Chopin. She uses this same reason for Edna to move to New Orleans. This use of familiar cultures and locations makes the novel understandable and precise, it gives the reader a feeling that they are there along with Edna, that they have some background and know the area. Chopin uses the time era to her advantage, the 19th century is the "awakening" of industry, the beginning of our nation's Industrialization era. This was a time when women in many areas of the U.S. were beginning to receive some of their independence and freedom form society and family life. This idea, however, seemed not to apply to St. Louis and Creole culture. The women were still expected to obey an d support their husbands, they were still taught to respect them, no matter how stupid the men were. Chopin entails great detail in this novel, her knowledge of the two towns magnifies the culture and diversity of the two cultures being combined into one person. Edna is the final resting place for all this, keeping the reader entwined with this tale of independence and solitude.