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feminaw Edna Pontellier’s Predicament in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

Edna’s Predicament in The Awakening

Dr. Mandelet, speaking more as a wise, older man than as a medical authority, seems to understand Edna’s predicament. When Mr. Pontellier asks for his advice concerning the strange behaviour of his wife, the doctor immediately wonders, “Is there any man in the case?” (950). While Edna thinks she is expressing her independent rights, Dr. Mandelet knows her heart is still tied to the need for a man in her life, and to an uncontrolled submission to sexual passion. After her self-proclaimed release from her husband’s narrow world of prescribed gender roles, Edna begins to act spontaneously, without considering, as Leonce would wish, “what people would say” (977). During a visit to Mademoiselle Reisz, she boldly displays her new attitude, refusing the more modest hot chocolate in favor of a “man’s drink”:

“I will take some brandy,” said Edna, shivering as she removed her gloves and overshoes. She drank the liquor from the glass as a man would have done. Then flinging herself upon the uncomfortable sofa she said, “Mademoiselle, I am going to move away from my house on Esplanade Street.” (962)

However, she will be moving “[j]ust two steps away” (962), she admits, betraying the fact that her feminist step forward will be hindered by at least two steps back. Her new assertiveness will not be enough to shield her from the difficulties of her changing life. Although she expresses herself to Robert in what she deems an “unwomanly” style (990), she is still a victim of societal conditioning, wanting to surrender her identity to another person.

Cristina Giorcelli writes that “Transitional states are inevitably states of inner and outer ambiguity. In her quest for her true self, Edna loses, or enhances with the addition of the opposite ones, her original gender connotations and social attributes” (121). Such a reading, however, risks simplifying the story in its attempt to clarify exactly that which is ambiguous. Although Giorcelli agrees that the story’s message is blurred, she seems to contradict herself when she argues that,

Through her androgyny Edna succeeds in achieving the wholeness of a composite unity, both integral and versatile, both necessary and free. Triumphing over sex and role differentiations ontologically implies sub- jugating that which substantiates but curtails, and ethically it entails mastering the grim unilaterality of responsibility.

The bourgeois crisis that Edna endures–the discrepancy between duty toward others and right toward herself[–] .

feminaw Suicide as the Only Alternative for Edna Pontellier in The Awakening

Suicide as the Only Alternative in The Awakening

In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, the principal character, Edna decides to kill herself rather than to live a lie. It seemed to Kate that the time of her own death was the only thing remaining under her control since society had already decided the rest of her life for her. Edna was a woman of the wrong times; she wanted her independence and she wanted to be with her lover, Robert. This type of behavior would never be accepted by the society of her time. Edna’s relationship with Robert, and her rejection of the role dictated to her by society, resulted in her perceiving suicide to be the only solution to her problems.

Critics of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening tend to read the novel as the dramatization of a woman’s struggle to achieve selfhood–a struggle doomed failure either because the patriarchal conventions of her society restrict freedom, or because the ideal of selfhood that she pursue is a masculine defined one that allows for none of the physical and undeniable claims which maternity makes upon women. Ultimately. in both views, Edna Pontellier ends her life because she cannot have it both ways: given her time, place, and notion of self, she cannot be a mother and have a self. (Simons)

Edna Pontellier could not have what she wanted. There are many arguments about Edna being selfish for ending her life and leaving her children behind. “Edna does indeed dread ‘being reduced to her biological function, ‘but this is what the Creole culture does to women , as Priscilla Leder suggests” (Simons). She could not offer the love that children deserve from a parent. I do not feel that she was selfish, she did not love her children the way a mother-woman would. A mother-woman is someone who puts her children before anything else in her life. Edna is not one of those “mother-women” who “esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels”; she is, rather a twenty-eight-year-old woman who hears ‘the voice of the sea,’ which seduces ‘the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in inward contemplation’.” (Toth)

Edna needed to be in control of her life. As long as she was married and a mother she would never have total control.

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