The Awakening 6 Essay, Research Paper
The short novel, The Awakening, begins at a crisis in Edna Pontellier s life. Edna is a free-spirited and passionate woman who has a hard time finding means of communications and a real role as a wife and a mother. Edna finds herself desperately wanting her own emotional and sexual identities. During one summer while her husband, Leonce, is out of town on business, her frustration and need for emotional freedom leads to an affair with a younger man. Her search for identity and love leads her on a wild ride against society and tests her strengths to the end.
The book raises issues about the role of women in society, not only in the time period in which it is set, but also in the modern world. Edna was truly brave in the way that she slowly began to defy society s conventions. She was never unfaithful to her husband because he had betrayed her by seeing her as an object. This contributed to her yearning for truth and freedom. Her husband was a well-meaning man, but Edna had no real trust in him. She felt empty with him and their children. Once Leonce was gone and Edna had been with Robert, she felt like she had found true and passionate love, but she had not. Robert was like Leonce. Robert speaks of her being “set free and given to her” and she realizes that Robert also viewed women as possessions. This was a trouble that she could not get away from. Robert loved her, but the way that he thought was still being controlled by the society and time that they lived in. Edna realizes that her loving and lusty relationship with Robert would still be repressed by the society that they were
in. That is not what Edna wanted. She could not hold back her feelings and continue living the way that she was. Edna did not want to live a life that would have her lying to her children, and raising them would have been painful to her without truth. She felt that if she were to follow through with being with Robert, she would be taking away their expression and personal freedom. Edna was a very strong woman in the light that she did not want to give herself away. She strove to be an independent and self-sufficient individual.
In the time period which Edna was in, women had few choices in the case of divorce, and men took the sole custody of their children. Edna could not stay with her husband and felt there were no options which would bring her happiness. People called her selfish and whiny, but that was not what she was at all. She was being forced by society and her family to stay in a situation that was against her nature. While she had a deep love for her children, she could not sacrifice everything, including her inner self, to them. Though she had genuine care and a real appreciation for her husband, she did not feel a passion toward him. Yes, it would have been the best thing for her sons if she had made herself into a “mother woman” like Adele Ratignole, but she would have been denying her true self.
Edna sacrifices all in the end of the story and kills herself. Her suicide was not an escape from her children, but the ultimate sign of her responsibility to them. She could not have lived her life, having left her husband to be with Robert, allowing her sons to grow up with such an unseen background. She kills herself in place of leaving with
Robert because of her realization that he would not have allowed for the individuality that she craved. Staying with him would have been a total falsification of her existence. I mean by this that if she would have left with Robert, she would have been leaving from one empty relationship into another. The reason that she was leaving Leonce in the first place was to explore herself. She did not want to go back to what she had been.
Although Edna s desires and passions threatened to consume her, she turned against the formalities of her society and sought self-discovery. She had become herself. While trying to define her own life, she found that “Every step she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual. She began to look with her own eyes; to see an apprehend the deeper undercurrents of life. No longer was she content to feed upon the opinion when her own soul had invited her” (118). She had triumphed, however, she had been destroyed by a society that had no place for her.