Date of Award


Degree Type

UG Dissertation (Restricted)



First Advisor

Prof. Eric Strand


This dissertation examines the relationship between the process of searching women’s autonomy and first-wave feminism in the late nineteenth century America through the use of a feminist novel: Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899). The Awakening is considered a great achievement in showing the act of reconstructing women’s subjectivity. Granted, some commentators claim that Edna’s suicide is an act of surrender because of her inability to resist the conventional restraints, but they neglect the fact that independence and solitude are inseparable. Therefore, this dissertation attempts to argue that Edna realizes the impossibility of achieving her physical freedom in the society she lives, suicide is an act of pursuing the spiritual freedom which shows Edna’s courage to acknowledge the profundity of her solitude and indicate her self-possession. Historical accounts of women status and first-wave feminism will be manipulated to explain the causal relationship between Edna’s failure in searching for her autonomy before her suicide. The death of Edna demonstrates Chopin’s refuse in avoiding the difficulties and obstacles of building the transition from the Victorian kind of womanhood to a more modem type.

Recommended Citation

Lam, K. K. T. (2018). Does Edna succeed in attaining a solitary soul? The search for women’s autonomy and first-wave feminism in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899) (UG dissertation, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from