The Perfect Villain Essay, Research Paper
January 24, 2000
Kate Chopin?s novel The Awakening relates the emotion-driven story of Edna Pontellier. Her story is a happy one. Not because of some typical fairy tale ending where they all live happily ever after, but in that she accomplished her goal in life. She never “sacrificed herself for her children.” (p. 115) Edna Pontellier remained an individual. The music that was brought to her by Mademoiselle Reisz stirred up a deeper meaning in Edna’s life. This is the point at which she feels her new being forming. In the end, not only did she realized that her new life had no place in this world, but that she would be happier in the sea, where there were no restrictions placed on her and the possibilities could be endless. She achieved her goal of being a free spirit through her death.
Both Robert and Edna are in love with each other, and both know that with the societal constraints that a romance could never be possible. Still with the combination of Mademoiselle Reisz?s music and a newfound love for Robert, Edna starts the “Awakening.” An amazing transformation takes place in Edna throughout the course of a few months. The people with whom she interacts and the culture in which she is submersed play a significant role in her “awakening.” Edna is able to break away from the restraining world of Adele and Leonce in which she will never find her place. Stirred by the magic and intrigue of Mademoiselle Reisz’s world, she finds the strength to reach for that which is real for her, and she allows her true being to shine.
To Mrs. Pontellier, “the children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered her into the soul?s slavery for the rest of her days.” This is the complete opposite of what she wanted her relationship with her children to be. She was willing to do anything for her children, except give her self up for them. Her individuality was preserved during her life by her separations from her family. Edna bought the house around the corner in order to go and be away from her children and paint. Towards the end of her life, Edna realizes that she is becoming consumed by her family. They are taking over her soul. “But she knew a way to elude them.” (p. 115)
Her actions around her suicide greatly symbolize everything she hopes to achieve in her life, and finally found in her death. As she walked down to the beach for the last time she put on her bathing suit. When she arrived at the shore, “she cast the unpleasant, pricking garments from her.” That symbolized the shedding of her “unpleasant” and “pricking” life. “For the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air.” (p.115) She was on her way to being free. “She felt like a new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known.” (p.115) Mrs. Pontellier had never known spiritual freedom. This was her release from a controlling world. As she swam towards eternity, Edna thought of a lot of things. She thought of her children and husband. She knew then that “they need not have thought that they could posses her, body and soul.” Edna knew that suicide was her only way of completely liberating her soul.
Edna Pontellier underwent a spiritual awakening. It was achieved through the endless physical sleep of death. In the case of The Awakening, the title itself relates the central idea of the novel. Edna?s spiritual awakening is significant because everything else in the work is working towards that goal. Edna cannot have anything she desires in this world, and therefore removed herself from it in a final “awakening” of her soul.