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Love in The Awakening

Perspectives on Love in The Awakening

Though Kate Chopin wrote her novel, The Awakening, in the late nineteenth century, her insight of such things as love, romance, and relationships is remarkably modern. Through Mr. Pontellier, Edna Pontellier, and Robert Lebrun, Chopin presents her opinions of love versus “romantic love.” Chopin uses the Pontellier’s marriage to predict the modern view of love and the relationship between Edna and Robert to portray the concept of romantic love. These relationships are keen perceptions on Chopin’s part of the attitudes toward love and romance almost a century later.

In the novel, Mr. Pontellier and Edna seem to have a very surface relationship. They realize the needs of the other, but neither of them feel compelled to extend more than necessity to their marriage. For example, early in the story Mr. Pontellier decides to go to a club called Klein’s. When Edna asks if he will be back in time to eat dinner, he merely shrugs and they both understand that he probably not come to dinner. They comprehend each other well enough to accept this as part of their marriage, but they don’t make more of an effort to better their relationship, nor seem to want to better it. Communication, which is a vital part of a healthy relationship, is of little concern to them. They simply accept their marriage as part of life, almost like a duty.

Their marriage seems a product of convenience and societal standards, not love and passion. This type of relationship tends to lead to the objectifying of either the man or the woman, if not both, within a marriage. In this instance, Mr. Pontellier views his wife as his possession. On page 44, Mr. Pontellier tells his wife t…

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…ingle of such infatuation dies, the true emotions between the couple are sometimes questioned. Robert realized that their relationship would not be able to get past the romantic love stage to grow to true love. If romantic love is dealt with maturity and understanding, though, it doesn’t have to be ill-fated.

While romantic love can sometimes seems frivilous yet exciting, the love found in today’s marriages can be just the opposite. It sometimes falls into a routine. A spouse can get caught up in the duties within their marriage and forget that true love should also be invigorating. The everyday habits, like working, cooking, cleaning, bills, can become tiresome, drawing attention away from the love found in marriage, leaving one under the impression that the problem is within the marriage, not themselves. It is easy to forget that love is a two-way street.

A Race for Rats in The Winter of Our Discontent

A Race for Rats in The Winter of Our Discontent

Some runners look only to the finish line, choosing to ignore what they step on or who they pass along the way. In The Winter of Our Discontent, Steinbeck portrays the dawning of a selfish American society concerned solely with winning personal races. Set in a small New England town during the early sixties, the story focuses on the life of Ethan Allen Hawley, an intelligent man with prestigious family history who is employed as a grocer to the dismay of members of his family and the community. At the beginning of the novel, Ethan had not yet adopted the new religion of America, to “look after number one” (26,291) in order to gain money and social standing. However, as the story transpires, Ethan, like other characters, chooses to succumb to temptation and to put himself above others as all costs, as though focusing on a shiny red, white and blue finish. Ethan’s downfall represents America’s loss of family, social, and moral values as individual success becomes all-important.

The Hawleys’ conflicts typify the breaking down of the American family as selfish desires distance each member from the family unit. Ethan and his wife, Mary, pursue different goals in life and lack communication. Unlike Ethan, Mary “dreamed of good fortune…” (46). Ashamed of her husband’s job, she tells Ethan “A grand gentlemen without money is a bum” (43) in one of the few arguments the couple have. Often, Ethan and Mary avoid confrontation by acting silly because they accept the separation in their marriage. Ethan admits, “so many things I don’t know about my Mary, and among them, how much she knows about me.” (56) Because they’d rather chase their own goals instead of meeting in the middle, …

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…eal to rob a bank where his friend, Morph is employed (284). His greed inspires him to plot several money-making schemes, unstoppable until he has more than enough money, and his lust pushes him to Margie’s house one evening (341). Ethan becomes “possessed” (99) with the new values of American and drops his morals on the sideline. After his possession, Ethan commits selfish act after selfish act until the close of the novel when he chooses not to kill himself in order to save his daughter (358).

Ethan knows he’s been running in a rat’s race. America’s new obsession with “taking care of number one” at any cost sacrifices family, social and moral values that are priceless. Selfishness makes for a lonely America in which each person is so blinded by his own goals that he cannot become close to anyone else. Those who choose not to run that race win their souls.

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