Get help from the best in academic writing.

Kate Chopin’s Awakening – Edna Pontellier as Master of Her Destiny

In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, the main character, Edna leaves her husband to find place in the world. Edna believes her new sexually independent power will make her master of her own life. But, as Martin points out, she has overestimated her strength and is still hampered by her “limited ability to direct her energy and to master her emotions” (22). Unfortunately, Edna has been educated too much in the traditions of society and not enough in reason and independent survival, admitting to Robert that “we women learn so little of life on the whole” (990). She has internalized society’s conception of woman as guided by her emotions and not her mind and, therefore, in the search for another man to fill the void of love in her life, lets her goal become clouded instead of learning to depend on herself alone. Edna wants to overcome gender stereotypes, and is already using behaviours such as assertiveness and independence to question them, but the struggle is new to her and she fails to discover a method that would allow her to successfully leave behind society’s preconceptions. Martin writes,

Ambition, striving, overcoming odds, the focusing of energy on a goal are habits of mind associated with masculine mastery. A woman who wants to develop these skills has to defy a centuries-old tradition of passive femininity[.] . . . But Edna Pontellier does not have the emotional resources to transcend the conventions that regulate female behavior, conventions that she has, in fact, internalized. (22)

Even in her defiant disobedience to her husband, she is subconsciously aware of the futility of her struggle. During a fit of violent frustration with her marriage, “she stopped, and taking off her wedding ring, flung it upon th…

… middle of paper …

Giorcelli, Cristina. “Edna’s Wisdom: A Transitional and Numinous Merging.” Martin 109-39.

Martin, Wendy, ed. New Essays on the Awakening. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988.

Papke, Mary E. Verging on the Abyss: The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1990.

Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969.

Showalter, Elaine. “Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book.” Martin 33-55.

Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin. Boston: Twayne, 1985.

Stein, Allen F. Women and Autonomy in Kate Chopin’s Short Fiction. NY: Peter Lang, 2005. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.

Wells, Kim. “Kate Chopin’s The Awakening: A Critical Reception.” Kate Chopin’s The Awakening: A Critical Reception. N.p., Aug. 1999. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper

Kate Chopin’s story The Awakening and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story The Yellow Wallpaper draw their power from two truths: First, each work stands as a political cry against injustice and at the socio/political genesis of the modern feminist movement. Second, each text is a gatekeeper of a new literary history. Kate Chopin and Charlotte Perkins Gilman seem to initiate a new phase in textual history where literary conventions are revised to serve an ideology representative of the “new” feminine presence. Two conventions in particular seem of central importance: “marriage” and “propriety”.

Donald Keesey, editor of the critical collection Contexts for Criticism, describes “convention” for us as,

devices of structure and plot, techniques of character representation, and a vast reservoir of images and symbols are conventions that most Western literatures, at least, have in commonBut like the conventions of language, they have meaning only to those who have learned them (Keesey, 262).

Literary convention is on one side the particular tool or image; for example, “baptism” can be used as a literary a convention. It is a “convention” because it brings with it a set of inferences, i.e. rebirth, renewal, awakening, initiation, etc. This relation of the signifier to the signified is what Chopin and Gilman seek to revise in the conventions of “propriety” and “marriage”. The preceding definition of “convention” leaves us with an important question, namely, “What if what the existing conventions imply is insufficient? What if, as in the case of Chopin and Gilman, the canon (as a reflection of society at large) has failed to recognize the feminine voice?” As these authors have shown us, when such is the …

… middle of paper …

…ier.” New Essays on The Awakening. Ed. Wendy Martin. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. 89-106.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, The Yellow Wallpaper, The Feminist Press, 1973.

Gilmore, Michael T. “Revolt Against Nature: The Problematic Modernism of The Awakening.” Martin 59-84.

Giorcelli, Cristina. “Edna’s Wisdom: A Transitional and Numinous Merging.” Martin 109-39.

Keesey, Donald, Contexts for Criticism. Mayfield Publishing Company, 1994.

Martin, Wendy, ed. New Essays on the Awakening. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988.

Papke, Mary E. Verging on the Abyss: The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1990.

Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969.

Showalter, Elaine. “Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book.” Martin 33-55.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.