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The Devil in the House: The Awakening of Chopin’s Anti-Hero

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The mythic quality of Kate Chopin‟s The Awakening (1899) derives from recurrent images of archetypal symbols such as sea, sun, and journey, accompanied by up/down motif representing death and rebirth. Having been decanonized for infringing the traditional codes of marriage and motherhood, Chopin‟s work, this study proves, violates yet another convention, that of the mythological theorists, namely Joseph Campbell‟s. Being a female principle as opposed to Campbell‟s macho hero, Chopin‟s protagonist, Edna undergoes the same archetypal pattern of quest, initiation, and descent into the underworld. In her archetypal passage from innocence to experience, however, and through rebellious acts of self-expression, viz. painting, music, gambling, and extra-marital relationships, the heroine not only ceases serving the interest of the society which has reduced her to the position of an object to be possessed by husband or devoured by children but also challenges its core values, overturning the fairy tale of “the angel in the house.” And while having inherited the narcissistic characteristic of the conventional hero, Edna turns more into the heroine of the self than of the community, who in ultimate defiance of the romantic ideal of ever-victorious heroes chooses not to ascend from the underworld but to abort the last phase of the heroic mission and, thus, differentiates Chopin‟s modernist representation of the realistic heroine from the idealistic portrayals of the male hero in the mythological canon.


International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences (Volume 17)
B. Azad, "The Devil in the House: The Awakening of Chopin’s Anti-Hero", International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, Vol. 17, pp. 22-26, 2014
Online since:
November 2013

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