The Awakening Essay, Research Paper
The suicide of Edna Pontellier in the novel The Awakening, written be Kate Chopin, is not an awakening but a tragic event. If one takes into consideration the emotions and pain that Edna felt they may begin to understand what it was that drew her to her own demise in the sea. It may even become clear that Edna should not be held responsible for her actions. She was in a depressed emotional state and deep inside she was calling for help. The warning signs were there. Some may view this ending as her way of beating the system or winning but for a person to kill themselves under no circumstances should be viewed in that manner.
At the very beginning of the novel, there is constant reference to a caged bird. This can be considered to be a reference to the caged life that Edna leads as a wife and mother. Edna certainly felt caged, an indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness (1652) She felt like her children had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul s slavery (1732)
Edna was overcome with feelings of manic depression. Her moods changed like the tides of the sea. There were days when she was very happy without knowing why There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why, when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead (1690) People around Edna began to notice her changing moods. Like Alcee Arobin who was ready at all times to submit to her moods, which were as often kind as they were cold. (1705)
It seems as though she had emotional problems since she was a child. Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself. (1657) Her mother died when she was very young. She didn t have very many friends as a child.(1660) Since she was young she had been infatuated with men that she couldn t have. A great tragedian began to haunt her imagination and stir her senses. The persistence of the infatuation lent it an aspect of genuineness. (1660)
The sudden behavioral changes in Edna may have been a warning sign of problems. Leonce was concerned when he noticed the unusual behavior in Edna. It sometimes entered Mr. Pontellier s mind to wonder if his wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. (1690) He even went to speak to Doctor Mandelet about Edna s behavior. Doctor Mandelet assured Leonce that it was a phase and it would pass if he left her alone for a while. The doctor had a suspicion that he did not tell Leonce about. Is there any man in the case? (1697) I hope to heaven it isn t Alcee Arobin. (1700)
The lack of love in her life is a big contributor to her tragic fate. She did not marry Leonce, her husband, out of love. Leonce considered her more like a piece of property than a woman of her own command. He neglected her emotionally and very often caused her to cry. Frequently Leonce would leave Edna alone at the dinner table and go to the club. She was somewhat familiar with such scenes. They had often made her very unhappy. On a few previous occasions she had been completely deprived of any desire to finish her dinner. (1686) One time she became so emotional she flung her wedding ring and tried to crush it with her boot. Leonce often went away on business trips for long periods at a time leaving Edna alone. On her 29th birthday he was away in New York.(1712) She threw a party that day but no one knew it was her birthday until she announced it.
Edna is not only lacking love in her marriage, she doesn t have close ties with her family. Regarding Edna s father, she was not warmly or deeply attached to him. Edna refused to attend her sisters wedding. Her father doubted if Janet would ever speak to her again (1700)
Edna s life didn t have a healthy level of intimacy and closeness. Leonce and Edna were not intimate or close like a married couple should be. In fact when she married Leonce she felt she was closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and dreams. (1661) When Madame Ratignole held and caressed Edna s hand, she was not accustomed to an outward and spoken expression of affection, either in herself or in others. (1660)
Edna did in fact experience some degree of intimacy in her life. Her and Robert Lebrun came increasingly closer as the story goes on. When Robert left for Mexico, for the first time she recognized anew the symptoms of infatuation which she had felt incipiently as a child (1681) This is the point where Edna begins to awaken. She begins to see that she can feel passion and love and that the doors to them really haven t been closed forever. When Robert left her whole existence was dulled (1682)
In the absence of Robert, Edna kept her senses awake when she developed an intimate relationship with Alcee Arobin. When he brought her home after their first day together, Edna felt extremely restless and excited. (1703) When he kissed her it was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded. (1709) Yet, throughout her relationship with Arobin her heart still belonged with Robert and it was he who she truly longed for. Alcee Arobin was absolutely nothing to her. Her thoughts were concerned with what Robert would think of her act of infidelity (1705)
Edna made progress on gaining her independency. She earned money through her paintings. With her own money she moved into a small house of her own. She even informed her husband of her move. When Robert came back she told him I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. (1727)
When Edna and Robert finally confessed their love for each other she learned that what Mademoiselle Reisz said was true. Robert really did love her. This is the kind of love she dreamed of. We shall love each other, my Robert. We shall be everything to each other. Nothing else in the world is of any consequence. (1728) Edna let Robert be everything she needed.
When Robert slipped away, it was like everything Edna had slipped away. He left her a note saying I love you. Good-by because I love you. (1730) Without Robert Edna felt that she had nothing to live for. He was a dream come true for her.
At this point Edna entered a state of emotional shock. Edna grew faint when she read the words. (1730) After her sleepless night, she didn t have a clear mind. The next day she went to the Lebrun s house. She was tired but otherwise acted normal. She said she would stay for dinner. She asked for a couple of towels so she could take a good wash and even a little swim, before dinner. (1731) It does not seem like she had planned her suicide at this point. She would not need any towels if did not plan on coming out of the water.
She walks down to the beach. The metaphor of a bird comes back into play. A bird with a broken wing circling disabled down, down to the water. (1732) It is no longer a caged bird. It is an injured bird who falls into the sea. She put her bathing suit on. Then took it off to be naked. The foamy wavelets coiled like serpents about her ankles. (1732) Are these serpents pulling her into hell?
A lot of questions can be brought up when considering the suicide of Edna. Did she plan to swim out so far that she wouldn t have the strength to swim back. Without sleeping the night before how much energy could she have had? She told Victor she was hungry. Could hunger play a part? The water was cold and that probably fatigued her. Edna began to have auditory hallucinations. The spurs of the cavalry officer clanged as he walked across the porch. (1733) She must have lost some awareness as to what was going on at that point. Without being fully aware of the situation she may not have known enough to turn around and swim back. When she first learned of her ability to swim, she wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before. (1668) Maybe she still had that urge deep down inside her to swim far out. She would be far away from her problems on land.
Whether planned or not, Edna s suicide is a tragedy. I argue that she did not make this choice or did not have a clear enough mind to competently make the choice of suicide. After the emotional shock of Robert leaving her she went down hill. If she just had more time to think about it she probably would have done things differently. The bird with the broken wing had no choice when it fell into the cold water. It could only fly in circles with one wing. The bird in the cage didn t have a choice either. These birds symbolize Edna. Edna didn t have a choice in the situation that she was faced with.