The Awakening is a novel about the growth of a woman becoming her own person; in spite of the expectations society has for her. The book follows Edna Pontellier as she struggles to find her identity. Edna knows that she cannot be happy filling the role that society has created for her. She did not believe that she could break from this pattern because of the pressures of society. As a result she ends up taking her own life. However, readers should not sympathize with her for taking her own life.
Edna Pontellier was on her way to an awakening. She realized during the book, she was not happy with her position in life. It is apparent that she had never really been fully unaware However, because her own summary of this was some sort of blissful ignorance. Especially in the years of life before her newly appearing independence, THE READER SEES HOW she has never been content with the way her life had turned out. For example she admits she married Mr. Pontellier out of convenience rather than love. EDNA knew he loved her, but she did not love him. It was not that she did not know what love was, for she had BEEN INFATUATED BEFORE, AND BELIEVED IT WAS love. She consciously chose to marry Mr. Pontellier even though she did not love him. When she falls in love with Robert she regrets her decision TO MARRY Mr. Pontellier. HOWEVER, readers should not sympathize, because she was the one who set her own trap. She did not love her husband when she married him, but SHE never once ADMITS that it was a bad decision. She attributes all the problems of her marriage to the way IN WHICH SOCIETY HAS defined the roles of men and women. She does not ACCEPT ANY OF THE BLAME, AS HER OWN. The only other example of married life, in the book, is Mr. and Mrs. Ratignolle, who portray the traditional role of married men and women of the time. Mr. Pontellier also seems to be a typical man of society. Edna, ON THE OTHER HAND, was not A TYPICAL WOMAN OF SOCIETY. Mr. Pontellier knew this but OBVIOUSLY HAD NOT ALWAYS. This shows IS APPARENT in the complete lack of constructive communication between the two. If she had been able to communicate with her husband they may have been able to work OUT THEIR PROBLEMS, WHICH MIGHT HAVE MADE Edna MORE SATISFIED WITH her life.
freeaw A Woman’s Fight for Independence in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening
A Woman’s Fight for Independence in The Awakening
Right from the beginning the plot is almost conveniently evident. You find a woman, Edna Pontellier, tired of living her life as a pampered and “owned” wife and mother. She is searching for much more in her life, some sort of meaning for her whole existence. She searches for a long time but in the end, the inevitability of her life’s pattern and direction wraps around her, suffocating her. She is overcome with wonder, confusion, and guilt for what she believes and what she does to express her beliefs. She finally finds a way to beat the “proper” 1890’s lifestyle by committing suicide. During this story Edna struggles with three main opposing powers. First, there is the society’s opinion of what a woman’s “roles” in life was and how they should act, look, and feel. Second, is her independent nature. The last opposing power she comes across is her undying love for the charming Robert Lebrun.
It is the unwritten rule that a woman should marry, have children, and be happy and content with that as their life. Society portrays this to be a woman’s rightful job and duty. A woman should act and look “proper” at all times. This is what Edna is fighting against in this novel. She feels that, though many women agree with this “known” rule, it isn’t fair. For six years Edna conforms to these ideas by being a “proper” wife and mother, holding Tuesday socials and going to operas, following the same enduring schedule. It is only after her summer spent at Grand Isle that her “mechanical” lifestyle becomes apparent to her. She sees how much she is unhappy with the expectations, held by society, of her life and she wishes to erase them and live her life as she wants.
Edna has an independent, almost self centered, nature about her. Her need for an uncontrolled lifestyle is what leaves her feeling “owned” and wanting to break that label; she fights to do as she wishes. Little by little she breaks free of society’s’ image, letting her independence shine through. She cancels her Tuesday socials and helps out around the house doing little chores. The biggest step she made was her decision to move away from her mansion and into the “pigeon house”, a little cottage around corner.