Fox-Genovese frames The Awakening in its historical, geographical and cultural context in order to address what she identifies as the 'disjuncture' between Chopin's intentions in writing and modern feminist readings of the text. Identifying nineteenth-century women's movements as a primarily northern endeavour she reiterates Chopin's lack of interest in any such organised activity or social reform agenda, and points instead to the author's focus on the individual woman. Whilst noting that 'Chopin's explicit discussion of women's sexuality' placed her in direct conflict with the social mores of the day, Fox-Genovese draws a distinction between Edna's assertion of self as a 'private and psychological matter' and the wider public and social considerations, including women's rights, that Chopin's text does not engage. Situating Chopin firmly within a southern context, this article argues for the impossibility of such a separation in northern culture where, for a woman to 'revolt against her sexual suppression was to call into question her gender role'. According to Fox-Genovese, 'there is reason to believe that Chopin intended her explorations of women's sexual self-awareness to pose less of a threat to the social order of her world than explorations of their social independence would have'.
[…] The Awakening shocked Chopin's contemporaries for the same reason that it has earned the admiration of recent generations: it candidly acknowledges women's sexual impulses. Modern readers […] tend to view Edna's awakening to her sexuality as logically portending her struggle for liberation. Yet Chopin remains more ambiguous, thus inviting multiple, even contradictory, readings […]
It would be difficult to argue that Chopin intended The Awakening to be primarily a polemic against marriage as a social institution, or even primarily a