Female Characters In Chopins Awakening Paper

This essay has a total of 1485 words and 18 pages.

Female Characters In Chopins Awakening


The Struggle to Be a Womyn



"Every step which she took toward relieving herself

from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an

individual" (93)



The Awakening by Kate Chopin introduces the reader to

the life of Edna Pontellier, a woman with an independent

nature, searching for her true identity in a patriarchal

society that expects women to be nothing more than devoted

wives and nurturing mothers. In this paper I will describe

Edna's journey of self-discovery and explain why her

struggle for independence is no easy task. I will also

discuss the relationship Edna has with two other main women

characters and describe how these women conform or rebel

against a society with many social constraints. Finally I

will discuss how the issues brought up in Chopin's novel are

still relevant today.

The Journey

The Awakening begins in the vacation spot of Grand

Isle. At first we believe that Grand Isle is a utopia,

wealthy families relaxing at oceanside, but it is here where

Edna first begins to realize her unhappiness. The first sign

of dissatisfaction is when Edna allows herself to feel that

her marriage is unsatisfying; yet she must agree with the

other women that Leonce Pontellier is the perfect husband.

Edna can now ask herself if she has a good husband and is

not happy than should marriage be a component of her life.

Edna has two close relationships with other males in the

book but both prove unsatisfying, and a block to her

independence. The first relationship is with Robert Lebrun.

They swim, they chat on the porch and offer each other

companionship. This is a flirtatious relationship; a

relationship similar to those Robert has had previous

summers with other married women; but different because

Edna, being a "foreigner" allows herself to take Robert

seriously and she falls in love with him. This proves tragic

because during the course of the novel the two will pine for

each other but Robert not wanting to mar his reputation as a

"gentleman" moves to Mexico. Even after his return the two

meet for a short time and then again Robert flees before

anything happens.

The second role Edna begins to question is her role as

mother. Edna's husband scolds her for her unattentiveness to

her children. Although Edna is fond of her children she,

unlike the other women on Grand Isle, would rather have a

nurse look after them. Edna says that she would "give up the

unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for

my children; but I wouldn't give myself."

Edna needs more out of life. She is moved by music.

During that summer Edna sketches to find an artistic side to

herself. She needs an outlet to express who she is. Edna

sees art as important and adding meaning to her life. "She

felt in it satisfaction of a kind which no other employment

offered her."

After the summer is over and they are back to the city

Edna is a changed woman. She makes many steps towards

independence. She stops holding "Tuesday socials;" she sends

her children to live in the country with their grandparents;

she refuses to travel abroad with her husband; she moves out

of the Lebrun house on Esplanade Street; and she starts

selling her sketches and betting the horses to earn her own

money. She also starts a relationship with another man Alcee

Arobin. He meant nothing to her emotionally but she used him

for sexual pleasure. Edna evolved above her peers she did

not believe that sexuality and motherhood had to be linked.

The last step of her "awakening" is the realization that she

can not fulfill her life in a society that will not allow

her to be a person and a mother. Edna commits suicide in the

ocean at Grand Isle.

Analysis

"To a certain extent, The Awakening shows Edna at the

mercy of a patriarchal husband, a hot climate, a Creole

lifestyle, and the circumscribed expectations of a

particular class of Louisiana women."(Taylor,p.195) Edna

questions these wife and mother roles because they are roles

she was forced into. She married Leonce not because she

loved him but because she could not refuse his admiration

and persistence. This marriage thrusts Edna into a foreign

culture. She questions her role as a mother because she is

different from the typical Creole "mother-woman." Edna

defies "the central perception of her century that women are

mothers first and individuals second-or not at all. She

never denies the value of motherhood...But she does deny its

supremacy over larger truths of human existence."(Dyer,

p.106) This is what leads to her suicide. "Edna refuses to

return to a world that values only her performance as a

mother, whose highest expectations for women are

self-sacrifice and self-effacement. She refuses to return to

a world in which this idea is pervasive and inescapable-and

unavoidably colors even her own thinking. For Edna, there

is, ideally, a truth greater than that of motherhood.

Motherhood, compared with it, becomes yet another illusion

that Edna must dispel. That final truth, that greater truth,

can not coexist with the social, the moral, or even the

biological obligations of motherhood.(Dyer, p.105) Edna's

suicide is tragic and victorious. Tragic, because Edna could

not become the person she wanted to be because of the

Continues for 9 more pages >>




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