Essay, Research Paper
The Awakening by, Kate Chopin
Edna Pontillier Wants to Swim
Edna Pontillier is a woman playing the role of the wealthy New Orleans housewife. She has a generous husband, children, financial stability, and a great deal of friends. What she also has, unfortunately, is a kind of generic happiness that is the result of such a conventional society. Edna begins to change, and like a small chip of ice breaking away from a huge iceberg, she heads out into the ocean alone. It seems that it s almost not possible for her to follow society’s rules any longer, and she just stops doing it, without even making the decision to. She begins to want more. Edna craves mental exercise, personal independence, and company that she can feel equal to (unlike her husband). Edna was far ahead of her time to crave such things. This behavior was considered unacceptable and vulgar. This leaves Edna very alone in her search for what she wants in life. She thinks Robert is what she needs, but soon enough discovers he certainly is not. She makes a choice, and many events lead up to this final act of suicide.
Edna realizes she is till very young and has grown numb to feelings of vitality, love, and freedom; her spirit has become nonexistent. What she discovers are things she could not ignore. The first changes occurred when she began sleeping when she pleased and spent time doing want she wanted, mostly painting or swimming. She also began to break away from her husband s oppression. He would attempt to control her by telling her what to do, as he had always done, except that now she just sort of ignored him. The truth was that her marriage had dehumanized her and she was no longer an individual. He believed she was mentally ill. She had awakened, and could not return to her previous self.
Robert is the man she falls in love with. When she is with him, she is herself, and she is his equal. He is a major reason why she awakened from her long, stupid dream. She doesn t have an affair with him though, but she does come to the point where she has a giddy, young love for him, he gives her goosebumps that make her feel alive. He leaves town, however, knowing that he loves her back, but knowing that the consequences of their love may not be worth it. He is caught in the web of society s standards, and even love cannot break it.
Edna has transformed into a beautiful, young woman, and has shed her bland, shallow shell. After obsessing over Robert for a time, she achieves more independence. She goes out when she wants and doesn t stay home for visitors, which is very offensive in Creole society. While her husband is away on business, she takes an even more drastic action; she gets her own apartment. This is a very modern thing to do. In her time and place, it never occurred to any woman to do such a thing. She paints, listens to beautiful music, reads books in the garden, and learns how to enjoy moments in time. These simple things are things she has never done. This awakening sounds like a wonderful experience, but it soon goes sour.
Perhaps she gets a little spoiled by her new life, or maybe she could not handle the responsibility of such a change. After Robert returns, she is ready to love him again. She thinks this there is no reason why they shouldn t be together, it was what she wanted and they loved each other. Robert might have given in too, but with the time she left to go help her friend to have the baby, he had time to think. He probably first thought about how much he loved her, but then it occurred to what would happen. People would know they were having an affair, he would get rejected, and his life could very well be ruined. This either makes him honorable or a wimp, or both. The result, however, is that he leaves, and when she returns he is not there waiting for like she expected. She was alone. She would be alone for the rest of her life, what could she do now. She could not stay in this life any longer; it was just not going to work. She went to the beach, went swimming naked for the first and last time. She swam too far out and was too tired to swim back; she drowned.
After getting to know Edna Pontillier for the whole novel and watch her change, her suicide was not a shock. It was characteristic of the personality developing inside of her. It was what she felt like doing at the time, and since she had the freedom to, it was her final act of independence. She couldn t stay in the life she had now, and she didn t want to run away from it either. She gave in to the water of the ocean and to the deep sleep, two themes that were part of her life. However, this is the nap she would never awaken from.