Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monika Elbert

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg

Committee Member

Lee Behlman


The presence and function of Edna’s dinner party in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is the subject of our investigation. We view the idea of the “dinner party” as an unnatural effort to move the public sphere into the intimate domestic space, examine the economic dimensions of the dinner party and Edna’s dependence on her husband’s wealth, question the absence of food served at the party and the effects of alcohol on Edna and her guests, and analyze the repercussions of the dinner party on Edna’s emotional state. I argue that the dinner party is a performance of Edna’s wealth and status. Unfortunately for Edna, the dinner party fails to validate her as an independent woman, focusing on the ways in which men at the dinner party stifle Edna’s efforts. Ultimately, Edna’s unsuccessful dinner party leaves her with an overwhelming sense of ennui because it has not provided her with a sense of autonomy or agency. Using the framework of a dinner party, I reveal the pitfalls of the relationship between women and domesticity and the obstacles facing the New Woman. This analysis draws from research concerning class complexities in the role and expectations of the late-nineteenth century housewife, economic analysis of the effects of industrialism on the domestic sphere, historical context revealed through primary sources, and a close reading of the dinner scene.

File Format


Available for download on Thursday, June 29, 2023