Kake Chopin Essay, Research Paper
Kate Chopin is an American writer, best known for her description of culture in New Orleans, Louisiana, and of women’s struggles for freedom. Many of her works including The Awakening, were examples of ?local-color? and helped establish Chopin as a contributor to Southern regional literature. The Awakening attracted a lot of negative criticism for its description of a woman’s developing independence and sensuality. This novel portrayed the progress of a wife, mother, and a lady addicted to finding love under her own control, and throughout the novel she undergoes awakenings that will eventually lead to her suicide.
One of the first awakenings that Edna has is a marital awakening. For Edna, the marital awakening at first had a positive influence on her. One positive effect that it had was that it a sense of good things that were going to happen, ?Once she stopped, and taking off her wedding ring, flung it upon the carpet. When she saw it lying there, she stamped her heel upon it, striving to crush it. But her small boot heel did not make and indenture, not a mark upon the little glittering circlet.?(56). Edna?s attempt to smash the ring, is her trying to end the repression of her husband that it causes. This is very similar to the repression that Hester felt by the ?A?, and the freedom she craved when she first removed it in the woods. Another positive effect Edna experienced was the sense of well being, and not suffering,
?Edna felt depressed rather than soothed after leaving them. The little glimpse of domestic harmony which had been offered her, gave her no regret, no longing. It was not a condition of life which fitted her, and she could see in it but an appalling and hopeless ennui. She was moved by a kind of commiseration for Madame Ratignolle, a pity for that colorless existence which never uplifted its possessor beyond the region of blind contentment, in which no moment of anguish ever visited her soul, in which she would never have the taste of life?s delirium.?(60)
Edna feels that Mrs. Ratignolle will never be able to experience what she (Edna) feels due to the influence of her husband, she would ?never have the taste of life?s delirium.?(60) or the thrills of life such as love and pleasure that Edna would be able to feel because of the marital awakening she had had. Even though the marital awakening is thought to be positive, it also has a negative side, which leads Edna to commit suicide. ?The thought passing vaguely through her mind, ?What would he think?? She did not mean her husband; she was thinking of Robert Lebrun. Her husband seemed to her now like a person whom she had married without love as an excuse.?(83) When she is fooling around with Arobin, she is thinking of what Robert would think. If she had never had the marital awakening when she basically leaves her husband, she would have never been worried about what Robert or anyone else thought and being worried or stressed over something is a cause for suicide. Another time when the marital awakening is negative for Edna, is when Robert wants to marry her,
? ? There in Mexico I was thinking of you all the time, and longing for you.?
? But not writing to me,? she interrupted.
? Something put into my head that you cared for me; and I lost my senses. I forgot everything but a wild dream of your some way becoming my wife.?
? Your wife!? ?(116)
When Edna is surprised about Roberts intention to marry her, she immediately tries to get him not to. This is because Edna doesn?t want to be tied to a man like she once was to Leonce, and this is because of the marital awakening she had and the freedom that she got from it. Once she had tasted the freedom, she never wanted to return to being a possession even of Robert and at all costs including taking her life, she tried to prevent it. Edna?s marital awakening was a very important event in her life. It allowed her to pursue other awakenings and allowed her to be free. However, this freedom caused her to not want to ever be a possession again and when Robert tries to make her one, she sees no other way to prevent it than committing suicide.
A second awakening that has both positive and negative effects on Edna is her social awakening. In one way this awakening can be considered positive. One time when it is positive is when she is able to infiltrate the social circle at the beach, ? Robert talked a good deal about himself. He was very young, and didn?t know any better. Mrs. Pontellier talked a little about herself for the same reason. Each was interested in what the other said. ?(4) When Edna and Robert talk and hang out together, Edna is breaking the social circles present at the beach. She should have been with the other ladies and children doing the things like ladies did during that time. However, instead she is with Robert talking about their lives and this ability to move out of and into these social circles is what makes this a positive awakening for Edna. Another time when the social awakening was positive is when she attends the horse races and gambles like the men, ? There were possibly a few track men out there who knew the race horse as well as Edna, but there was certainly none who knew it better. She sat between her two companions as one having authority to speak.?(80) When Edna is compared with the trackman, she is again breaking the social circles and invading an area where it was thought that only men have control. Secondly, describing Edna to have the ?authority to speak? places her on the same level as a man, which was thought to be something that a woman could never achieve. However, even though the social awakening had some positive aspects it also had its negative influences. One negative influence that lends to her killing herself is the pressure she got from her husband about the Tuesday affair,
? ?Tired out, Edna? Whom did you have? Many callers?? he asked. He tasted his soup and began to season it with pepper, salt, vinegar, mustard, everything within reach.
? There were a good many,? replied Edna, who was eating soup with evident satisfaction. ? I found their cards when I got home; I was out.?
? Out!? exclaimed her husband, with something like genuine consternation in his voice as he laid down the vinegar cruet and looked through his glasses. ? Why, what could have taken you out on Tuesday? What did you have to do??
? Nothing. I simply felt like going out, and I went out.?
? Well I hope you left some suitable excuse,? said her husband, somewhat appeased, as he added a dash of cayenne pepper to his soup.
? No, I left no excuse. I told Joe to say I was out, that was all.?
? Why, my dear, I should think you?d understand by this time that people don?t do such things; we?ve got to observe les convenances (society?s conventions).?(54)
This conversation with her husband is illustrating what Edna is trying to escape. Les convenances is what Edna?s awakening is all about. She is trying to escape from the societies circles into a more free and open minded society, and her first step was done when she decided to not be home during calling hours. Then the pressure that her husband places on her is what drives her to smash the ring and eventually kill herself. Another negative effect the social awakening had on her was that she found out she couldn?t function in society, ? Despondency had come upon her there in the wakeful night, and had never lifted. There was no one thing in the world that she desired. There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of existence, leaving her alone.? (123) Edna has this great fear of being left alone and losing everything she worked so hard for. She had gained all of this by having her social awakening and the negative result was that it created this fear. So she kills herself because she can?t handle the pressure associated with the fear.
A third awakening that Edna has is a maternal awakening. This awakening can be interpreted in two ways. One way is that Edna interpreted her children as trying to posses her. This is very apparent at the end of the novel, ? The children appeared to her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul?s slavery for the rest of her days.?(123). When Edna describes her children as controlling her it angers her, and makes her want to leave them which, she eventually does this by killing herself. Another time when Edna thinks of her children as trying to control her is right before she goes swimming, ? She thought of Leonce and the children. They were a part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her body and soul.?(124). Here again Edna thinks of her children possessing her as an object, but it is true that her children think of her as their mother and an object of their love. However, due to her maternal awakening she isn?t able to comprehend this fact and feels that it is a threat to her. Another thing that the maternal awakening does is make Edna feel as if the children weren?t any of her responsibility. The first place where this is evident is during their stay at Grand Isle,
? In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother woman. The mother woman seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious blood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angles.?(8).
When Mr. Pontellier compares his wife to the rest of the women at Grand Isle, he sees that his wife doesn?t care about her children such as the other ?mother woman? did. This shows about her lack of caring for them in sickness and a general lack of being a worried mother like most mothers are. Another time when Edna abates her care for her children is right before she commits suicide, ? She would give up the unessential, but she would never sacrifice herself for her children.? (123). How can Edna not sacrifice herself for her children? The sacrifice that a mother would make for a child is shown on TV shows and stories about mothers who lose their children and would do anything in the world to end their suffering or have them back. To most people it is considered one of the most immoral thoughts to not care enough about your children to do anything for them. Since Edna never felt this sense of responsibly the maternal awakening she had separated her from her kids more than it did to bring them closer together.
The last awakening that Edna has is an emotional awakening. This awakening had 2 effects on Edna and the first effect was positive for her. The first time when she had a positive effect was when she learned to swim, ?Edna had attempted all summer to learn how to swim. She had received instruction from both the men and women; in some instances from the children. Robert had pursued a system of lessons almost daily; and he was nearly at the point of disencouragment in realizing the fruitlity of his efforts… But that night she was like the little tottering, stumbling, clutching child, who of a sudden realizes its powers for the first time alone…?(29). Here Edna learns to swim with help but takes the first step independent from anybody else. This is an important step in her awakening being able to claim independence from any man or women. Another time when the awakening was positive was when Edna discoveries her artistic talent and then stands up to her husband.
? ?It seems to me the utmost folly for a woman at the head of a household, and the mother of children, to spend in ateiler days which would be better employed contriving for the comfort of the family.?
?I feel like painting,? answered Edna. ?Perhaps I shan?t always feel like it.?
?Then by God?s name paint! But don?t let the family go to the devil.??(61).
This is where due to Edna?s emotional awakening she is able to take a stand against her husbands yelling at her and is able to defend her attitude about her painting and artistic work. Even though the awakening was positive for Edna it also had its negative effects on her. One time when there is a negative effect is when Edna realizes she loves Robert but they can?t be together, ? ?Robert,? she said, ?are you asleep??
?No,? he answered, looking up at her.
She leaned over and kissed him a soft, cool, delicate kiss, whose voluptuous sting penetrated his whole being then she moved away from him.?(115). This is another time when Edna is allowed due to her awakening to lose something that she really wants which is Robert. When Edna finds out that Robert loves her too, but because of her husband it never materializes into a relationship which leads to heartbreak. It is another thing that adds to the list of things that causes depression, and leads to her suicide. A last negative effect of her emotional awakening is when she realizes she can?t ever be with Robert, ? Robert wasn?t waiting for her in the little parlor. He was nowhere at hand. The house was empty. But he had scrawled on a piece of paper that lay in the lamplight:
?I love you. Goodbye because I love you.?? When Robert leaves her because it is a love that will not be allowed to happen is what sends Edna over the edge. If she had never had the emotional awakening she would have never been let down by Robert again, again and again.
The awakenings that Edna has or suffers from all lead to make her eventually commit suicide. If she had never had the marital awakening she would have never been able to have the other awakenings that involved Robert or the other men in her life excluding her husband. Edna?s ability to have these awakenings depended on her will to keep going, but eventually she wouldn?t have enough strength to withstand the constant negative effects which paralleled the positive effects that each awakening brought on. So in her last way to try and rid herself of the negative effects, she kills herself.