Kate Chopin's The Awakening is a frank look at a woman's life at the turn of the 19th century. Published in 1899, Chopin's novella shocked critics and audiences alike, who showed little sympathy for the author or her central protagonist, Edna Pontellier. A master of craft, Chopin wrote a forceful novel about a woman who questioned not only her role in society, but the standards of society itself.
In this curriculum unit, students will explore how Chopin stages the possible roles for women in Edna's time and culture through the examples of other characters in the novella. By showing what Edna's options are, Chopin also exhibits why those roles failed to satisfy Edna's desires. As students pursue this central theme, they will also learn about Chopin, her life, and the culture and literary traditions in which she wrote. Many late 19th century writers reacted against an earlier wave of sentimental writings, focusing instead on an approach more akin to “realism”—studies of daily affairs and commonplace events. Part of Chopin's realism relies on regionalism or local color writing, a style of writing that emphasizes regional differences in terms of language, dialect, religion, cultural expectations, class societies, and so on. Readers follow Edna—a Protestant from Kentucky—in her encounters with Catholic Creole society in Louisiana. Edna's role as “outsider” allows for a comparison between two different Southern cultures and her awakening in part results from the clash of the two world views.
Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
E-texts of The Awakening are freely available at the following locations:
The websites used in Lesson 2 provide a greater amount of detail -- and complication -- of literary realism of the 19th century, but the following two definitions serve as good starting points.
In its literary usage, the term realism is often defined as a method or form in fiction that provides a "slice of life," an "accurate representation of reality."
— from the Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism, ed. Joseph Childers and Gary Hentzi
Literary realism is a 19th century conception related to industrial capitalism. In general, it means the use of the imagination to represent things as common sense supposes they are.
—from Bloomsbury Guide to Literature, ed. Marion Wynne-Davies
Literary realism is a variable, complex, and often argued about concept. No one work is a perfect example of 'realism'—Lesson 2 allows students to read through some basic attributes of realist literature in order to use that context to examine The Awakening. Practitioners of a realist style in the American tradition include William Dean Howells, Mark Twain, and Henry James.
These two literary terms are often used interchangeably, and certainly they have many similarities. For the purposes of this lesson, students should not need to differentiate between the two, but for the teacher's clarity the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, excerpted in the EDSITEment-reviewed website Documenting the American South, distinguishes them as follows:
Although the terms regionalism and local color are sometimes used interchangeably, regionalism generally has broader connotations. Whereas local color is often applied to a specific literary mode that flourished in the late 19th century, regionalism implies a recognition from the colonial period to the present of differences among specific areas of the country. Additionally, regionalism refers to an intellectual movement encompassing regional consciousness beginning in the 1930s.
In The Awakening, as well as her short stories, Chopin frequently focused on the Creole culture of Louisiana. Unique regional features included a heritage that drew from French and Spanish ancestry, a complex caste system, the settings of urban New Orleans and rural vacation retreats like Grand Isle (located on the Gulf Coast). Chopin's use of a culturally foreign protagonist—Edna was a protestant from Kentucky, rather than a French-speaking Catholic Creole like her husband—casts cultural differences into even sharper relief. Specific textual examples of Edna's encounter with Creole culture can be found in Lesson 2.
Chopin's The Awakening is set in Louisiana—in the resort town of Grand Isle, as well as New Orleans. Often, the characters slip into French phrases, or Chopin uses words that might be unfamiliar to students—such as Creole or quadroon. Students should be encouraged to use either a print or online dictionary while reading—the Internet Public Library has several available, including Dictionary.com, which provides both English and French dictionaries.
"At the White House, President Truman Announces Japan's Surrender." Abbie Rowe, Washington, DC, August 14, 1945.
Credit: Image courtesy of the National Archives.
The “President's House,” built under George Washington's personal supervision, was the finest residence in the land and possibly the largest. In a nation of wooden houses, it was built of stone and ornamented with understated stone flourishes. It did not fit everyone's concept for the home of the leader of the young democracy. Abigail Adams found it cold; Thomas Jefferson thought it too big and impractical. He added gardens, a cooking stove, and storage.
Whatever one's opinion of the original design, our nation is now inseparably associated with the White House. There, the essential business of the land is conducted every day. There, our history has been made and reflected.
In this unit, students take a close look at the White House in recent times and throughout our history.
Note: This lesson may be taught either as a stand-alone lesson or as a complement to the EDSITEment curriculum unit From the White House of Yesterday to the White House of Today.
John Quincy Adams defeated Andrew Jackson in 1824 by garnering more electoral votes through the House of Representatives, even though Jackson originally received more popular and electoral votes.
Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
The presidential election of 1824 represents a watershed in American politics. The collapse of the Federalist Party and the illness of the "official candidate" of the Democratic-Republicans led to a slate of candidates who were all Democratic-Republicans. This led to the end of the Congressional Caucus system for nominating candidates, and eventually, the development of a new two-party system in the United States. In the election, Andrew Jackson won a plurality of both the popular and electoral vote. But John Quincy Adams became president. Four crucial elements of our election system were highlighted in the election of 1824: the nomination of candidates, the popular election of electors, the Electoral College, and the election of the president in the House when no candidate receives a majority in the Electoral College.
In this unit, students will read an account of the election from the Journal of the House of Representatives, analyze archival campaign materials, and use an interactive online activity to develop a better understanding of the election of 1824 and its significance.
This succinct but valuable lesson offers three basic steps for analyzing primary sources:
Whether it be called the Civil War, the War between the States, the War of the Rebellion, or the War for Southern Independence, the events of the years 1861-1865 were the most traumatic in the nation's history. The secession of the southern states, and President Lincoln's decision to prevent them forcibly from leaving the Union, triggered a conflict that would see fighting on battlefields as far apart as Pennsylvania and Texas, Missouri and Florida, and would leave nearly a million Americans on both sides dead or wounded. Indeed, casualties in the Civil War exceeded those of every other war in which the United States has ever participated, combined.
But the sheer costs of the war were matched by its importance. It was fought over two basic questions-whether it was legal under the U.S. Constitution for a state to leave the constitution, and whether the practice of chattel slavery was consistent with the nation's founding principles. The Union victory established that the answer to both questions was no.
This curriculum unit will introduce students to several important questions pertaining to the war. In the first, they will examine original documents and statistics in an attempt to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each side at the start of the conflict. The second addresses the two turning points of the war-the concurrent battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg-as well as the morality of the Union's use of "total war" tactics against the population of the South. Finally, in the third lesson students will examine a series of case studies in Abraham Lincoln's wartime leadership; by using primary sources they will be asked to assess whether, based on his performance during his first term of office, he deserved a second.
Review each lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing. Alternatively, excerpted versions of these documents are available as part of the downloadable PDF, such as this one for Lesson Plan One.
Download the Text Documents for each lesson, available as PDFs, such as this one for Lesson Plan One. This file contains excerpted versions of the documents used in the first and second activities, as well as questions for students to answer. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of the handouts you plan to use in class.
If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Another useful resource is the Digital Classroom of the National Archives, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets. Finally, History Matters offers pages on "Making Sense of Maps" and "Making Sense of Oral History" which give helpful advice to teachers in getting their students to use such sources effectively.
This lesson plan introduces students to Thomas Edison’s life and inventions. It asks students to compare and contrast life around 1900 with their own lives and helps students understand the connections between the technological advancements of the early twentieth century and contemporary society and culture.
This unit on the Japanese poetic form tanka encourages students to explore the structure and content of the form and to arrive at a definition of the tanka’s structure in English. Students will read and analyze the tanka form and compare it to English structures of poetry, and will finally compose their own tankas.
This lesson plan introduces students to art of the West African kingdom of Benin, which flourished from the 12th or 13th to the end of the 19th centuries in what is now southern Nigeria. Students learn about how the royal power of the king of Benin was communicated through brass plaques and use symbolism to create their own paper plaques.
This lesson introduces students to the Aztec Empire and people and to the legend of their founding of Tenochtitlan, the city that later became the capital of Mexico.
Heroes abound throughout history and in our everyday lives. After completing the activities, students will be able to understand the meaning of the words hero and heroic.
In this lesson plan, students will learn about the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. In the process, they will learn about Chinese culture, as well as improve reading, writing, and researching skills.