The Awakening Essay, Research Paper
In her novel The Awakening, Kate Chopin shows how the character Edna Pontellier has to deal with a life of hard choices. The novel is about a woman who marries into the creole way of life. Edna has everything a woman could want, but she is not happy. Edna feels like a possession of her husband, of her children, and of her society. The story deals with the struggles she goes through in order to find herself. Edna realizes that as a wife and mother, she has not been living for herself, throughout the entire novel, Edna searches for herself. Edna begins to realize that her role in society is that of a person, not someone’s property, she remains “stuck” in a world of marital commitment.
Edna realizes that as a wife and mother she has lost all her freedom. Her freedom has been taken away by her husband and children. At the time this novel was published, women did as they were expected to by society. They were expected to be good daughters, good wives, and good mothers. A woman was expected to move from the protection of her father’s roof to the protection of her husband. Edna does not fit into this mold. She says, “I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself.” Edna is unwilling to lose her self-identity, which throughout the novel she works so hard to achieve. It is not until she gets a taste of this new life through Robert that she craves for more.
Throughout the entire novel Edna searches for an identity which she can call her own. At first, Edna is married and seems satisfied with her life. However, she does not find the true happiness she is looking for. Her “awakening” begins when a young man named Robert enters her life. Edna begins to respond to him with a passion she has never felt before. She begins to realize that she can play roles other than wife and mother. Throughout the book, Edna takes many steps to increase her independence. She sends her children away, she attends races and parties, and she moves into a single person house. These events play a major role in Edna finding her true identity.
However, Edna remains married because divorce is unheard of during her era. She wants to marry Robert and leave her husband, but Robert will not, because of the disgrace it will place on her reputation. No matter how much Edna exceeds social boundaries and despite what she wants, she is held down by the will of others. When Edna moves into her new house, her moving is a sign of leaving behind all the things that she is attached to. She feels that if she can live by herself, it will allow her to pretend that she is free. Edna is, for the most part, doing whatever she wanted, and there were no signs given that she intended to stop. Rather, it is the lack of good and healthy alternatives that led to her demise. Robert has left her in an attempt to protect her, himself, or possibly both. Robert leaving has left Edna to pursue a minor romance with Alcee Arobin and to stay in a marriage that held no hope of fulfillment. Edna has allowed herself to pursue other third-rate affairs, while being discreet enough not to hurt her children. None of these options, however, satisfies her longing for a place in Robert’s heart.
By the end of The Awakening, Edna still feels like a possession of her husband, of her children, and of her society. The only solution she sees is to end her life, which she does by swimming out into the sea until her strength gives out. The theme of The Awakening is deeper than the obvious themes of independence and women’s rights. The Awakening presents suicide as a valid solution to problems. People commit suicide because of isolation and loneliness or a serious disruption of one’s life. It is easy to connect these characteristics with Edna’s life, the isolation from the world she faces in her small house and the common good of the children. Robert and Arobin’s presence contribute to her want of a new life. They represent doors to the other side, that Edna could enter to become free. Robert feels that he can not be with her, he chooses to leave her life for the second time, but this time indefinitely. Robert leaving makes Edna feel isolated from her opportunity to become free, so she does the only thing she can to ease the pain, which is to commit suicide.
The Awakening tells a story from the perspective of the oppressed about independence, freedom, and will power unheard of during the times of its publication. It is a stirring book that forces the reader to confront tough issues. It paints a picture of what goes through the mind of a person who loses hope. It is far more than another romance novel with a tragic ending. It is a book about the choices one will make to protect one’s freedom.