The Awakening 3 Essay, Research Paper
20 June 2000
Mrs. Pontellier s Lack of Love
Edna s obsession of a perfect life leaves her children motherless, her husband grieving, and her friends in shock. Because of Edna s lack of consideration for everyone around her, she traumatizes all of the people who love her. She has everything any woman could ask for: a caring husband, sweet friends, precious children, and every material possession possible. Because Edna is so caught up in herself and her life of seclusion, she not only destroys that life, but she also disturbs and disgusts many of her friends.
Edna has it all. The Awakening opens with a scene introducing the Pontellier family and all of their closest friends relaxing on a beach for the summer. They are living in a magnificent house on the shore of Grand Isle with nothing to do but unwind and make merry. And when they return home, Edna s only concerns are what she should wear and how she should entertain her guests for the evening. The grandeur of the Edna s lifestyle and the Pontellier home is best illustrated when Edna gives her final dinner,
There was something extremely gorgeous about the appearance of the table, an effect of splendor conveyed by a cover of pale yellow satin under strips of lacework. There were wax candles in massive brass candelabra, burning softly under yellow silk shades; full, fragrant roses, yellow and red abounded. There were silver and gold, as she said there would be, and crystal which glittered like the gems which the women wore (220).
Now, I know that money can not buy happiness, but how could Edna not enjoy spending an evening in this environment with all of her friends? This is sheer bliss to any well-minded individual.
Edna does not believe so. She thinks this is too much; she wants to live simply and apart from society. While there is nothing at all wrong with this desire, one should never sacrifice the love of husband and children to acquire these longings. Leonce tells Doctor Mandelet she seems quite well, but she doesn t act well. She s odd, she s not like herself (204). Edna completely removes herself from any interaction among family and friends who care about her; in doing so, she arouses worry and grief on her behalf. Her selfish desires are climaxed when she decides to leave the house on Esplanade Street to move to the properly named pigeon house just around the corner without either the consent or the knowledge of her husband. If Edna would have utilized a little respect for the feelings of others, the entire situation could have been handled swiftly and without too much turmoil. Edna should have followed her own advice that she was a little unthinking child in those days, just following a misleading impulse without question (167). Instead, she chose to retain her emotions and seclude herself from any type of response or support from those around her.
Edna s suffering and depression is not entirely her own doing. She does indeed fall head over heels for Robert, who try as he may, could not stay away from her; it is perfectly understandable how one could grow bored of the everyday mingling with upper-class snooty people. And Madame Ratignolle provides one of the most resolute reasons saying, It s a pity Mr. Pontellier doesn t stay home more in the evenings. I think you [Edna and he] would be more . . . united if he did (206). These three excuses, however important they may seem at the time, are by no means reason enough for Edna to turn to seclusion and heaven forbid suicide.
Edna should realize that these trifling circumstances are not the end of the world. Her rash and impetuous decisions cause much grief and turmoil for her family and friends. If she would have exercised any respect or courtesy toward the well being of others, she would have stopped and told herself that this behavior is silly and to no avail. She would have realized the error in her ways and she could be grateful for what she has instead of ungrateful for what she doesn’t.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Literature and the Writing Process. Elizabeth
McMahan, Susan Day, and Robert Funk. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 1996. pp 156-242