The Awakening Essay, Research Paper
Edna ? A Woman Ahead of Her Time
Playing the role of a wealthy New Orleans housewife, Edna searches for fulfillment in her conventional 19th century life of a woman. I mention playing the role because you will discover that playing a part is all that she is doing. Even with children, a generous husband, and financial stability, Edna finds herself wanting more from life. She is a woman ahead of her time. Buried within her soul, she uncovers a great hunger for knowledge and a need for personal independence. The spell of a generic happiness lifts, and Edna awakens. She is awakened by a man/boy names Robert LeBrun. He helps her discover how much more life has to offer. At Grand Isle, the Pontellier?s summer retreat, Edna befriends a handsome, younger, Robert LeBrun. Robert and Edna stroll along the ocean arm in arm, carry on conversations that last hours, and feel comfortable and at rest in the other?s presence. To Edna, Robert is her equal, a partner on the journey of living. With an excitement for life and good social stature, Robert appeals to Edna. He sparks something inside of her that causes her to look at herself in a different light. Edna sees that she is a living, breathing woman who has become someone that she does not want to be. She wants to create for herself a life guided by her own thoughts and feelings. She wants to be in control of her actions.
One afternoon, Edna and Robert are out together when Edna becomes hot and dizzy. They stop at a friend?s cottage so that she can rest. Alone in a quiet corner room of the cozy sea-side haven, Edna ?took off her shoes and stockings and stretched herself in the very center of the high, white bed. How luxurious it felt to rest thus in a strange, quaint bed, with its sweet country odor of laurel lingering about the sheets and mattress! She ran her fingers through her loosened hair for a while. She looked at her round arms as she held them straight up and rubbed them once after the other, observing closely, as if it were something she saw for the first time, the fine, firm quality and texture of her flesh. She clasped her hands easily above her head, and it was thus that she fell asleep?. Opening her eyes after several hours, she departs from this dreamy magical state of existence and joins Robert outside. ?How many years have I slept? The whole island seems changed. A new race of beings must have sprung up, leaving only you and me as past relics,? she says to Robert. Robert explains to her that she has been sleeping for one hundred years and that he has been sitting outside for that length guarding her slumbers. On the island of Grand Isle and with the assistance of Robert LeBrun, Edna Pontellier awakens. She leaves the world that makes her so unhappy and joins Robert in his. When she is with Robert she lives in an imaginary world. He allows her to be the woman that she would like to be. She does not have to pretend when she is with him. This is ironic because she is living a life that really isn?t hers when she is with Robert, yet she is not pretending. She is just being who she wishes she could be.
Back in New Orleans, Edna?s awakening showers her soul, cleansing away a life of tea parties and conventions and revealing a freethinking motivated Edna Pontellier. She no longer wants to be a part of this society. She wants to be herself. Herself being someone that does not fit the standards of the Creole society. Driven by her independence, she packs her belongings and moves from the marble mansion she once called home to a small apartment that truly is her home. Edna?s husband, who is away on business the majority of the time, believes that his wife is mentally unstable and even asks his doctor friend to look in on her. In his opinion she is not acting like a proper Creole woman should act. He has given her everything that she could ask for yet she is not happy. There must be something mentally wrong with her. However, for the first time, Edna?s mind is clear and she is content.
Settled into her new home, Edna now seeks fulfillment through life?s little things. She is happy painting, listening to the music of Chopin, or sitting in a secluded garden of roses with a book as a companion. Having detached herself from society?s conventions and in turn gaining tranquility from her separation, Edna serves as a lasting icon for women?s independence, though it would take years for society to look at a woman like Edna with anything but scorn. A spirit form a different realm, the awakened Edna Pontelllier takes advantage of her vitality with a freedom of thought uncommon in women of her time, and then mystically she vanishes from existence.
In today?s society Edna?s story is not so far fetched. It was hard as a reader to not side with her. I had a few things that I did not agree with, like her lack of attention paid to her children. But her fight for independence made her a woman that could have fit easily in today?s independent world. Kate Chopin?s Edna persuades the reader to reexamine his/her life, to look at it from the perspective of someone who has just opened his eyes to a world of existence that has always been in reach but has never appeared obtainable. She goes for what she wants and realizes that it is obtainable. Another reflection of the society that Edna is living in is that she commits suicide in the end. She had no where else to turn. At this time in history it was not acceptable for a woman to do what she was doing. She was out of line. A woman did not decide to leave her family and her money just so she could be independent. This sort of thing was unheard of. She had no other choice but to commit suicide. Well, she did have the choice to continue living, but was it a life that she wanted?
Kate Chopin was way ahead of her time with this story. If she could predict the future I think you could say that she did it with this book. This is a book for all of those liberal woman out there. She explored so many different genres that it was hard to just choose one. Her quest for independence seemed to stand out most to me. It stood out because it was so out of place. The whole time that I was reading I kept thinking that she was a woman of today. I would get pulled back to her time period when a reference was made to how wrong what she was doing was. I would think ?What was wrong with what she just did??. Then I would remember where she was. This shows the reader what Edna went through and how she didn?t make it. Her story also shows how important something can be to a person. Edna knew that he independence was important and obtained it no matter what it took.