The Awakening Essay, Research Paper
Time and Place in The Awakening
In the book The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, time and place play a major role in Edna s awakening. Edna, the protagonist, attempts to defy male domination in her life, and through this defiance she awakens, and becomes her own person. She explores the natural world, which she had previously not known in her repressed role as a Creole matron. This could not have been possible for Edna had she not spent time on the Grand Isle summer resort island, getting to be one with nature, and exploring her interests such as drawing and playing music.
Grand Isle, an island off the coast of Louisiana, is a summer resort for wealthy Creole families. It is surrounded by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, has a gentle breeze blowing across it, and has luscious vegetation. It can be considered an Eden-like island. On this island, Edna symbolically eats from the fruits of the tree of knowledge, as Adam and Eve did. Edna, who is a repressed, dissatisfied society matron, is unfulfilled in her marriage and her motherhood. Edna is seduced by the sounds, smells, and primitive quality of Grand Isle, and begins to flirt excessively with Robert, the resort owner s son. Robert is the catalyst in stirring Edna s emotions, even though he is quite an immature and ordinary young man. It is from this experience with him that Edna learns that she is in fact a sexual being. She is deeply impressed by the music of Mademoiselle Reisz, a talented musician, and realizes how much she can truly appreciate music. Edna discovers her talent in painting and tries to pursue it further. She learns how to swim in the waters of the Gulf, and it is under this island setting the she begins to do away with her inhibitions.
Time also plays a significant role in Edna s awakening. L once, Edna s husband, is the controlling figure in her life. He controls her actions as well as her time. She must summer on Grand Isle, where most of the other wealthy members of Creole society stay. She feels like an outsider there, and would have preferred to stay elsewhere. However, her preferences aren t considered by L once. She must go where her husband s friends and associates go. In addition to spending time with people she does not particularly like, Edna also has a set day for entertaining guests.
When Edna first consciously chooses to rebel, she does so at night, after Leonce comes back to Grand Isle late one night and finds her sitting outside. He orders her indoors, but she refuses. They both sit outside for a while until Edna finally gives in and goes inside to sleep. When Edna rebels, and refuses to entertain guests on her set day, L once is shocked and suspects that Edna is mentally ill. She rebels against society by showing that she controls her own time, and does what she wants whenever she wants to do it.
Another incident where time is significant is when Robert and Edna go to Church together one Sunday on the mainland. Edna does not feel well at the services, and therefore they go to Madame Antoine s house so that she can rest. After loosening her clothes as a symbol of taking off the burden of society, Edna goes to sleep. When she wakes she asks Robert How many years have I slept? (p. 37). She senses that she has undergone a major change, and feels that she is a totally different person after this eternal sleep. After this sleep, we truly see Edna s rebellion. Time is a symbol of change and awakening for her.
Edna awakens as a result of time and place. She tries to escape the restrictions and conventions of society by following her passions and interests. She pursues relationships with two men, Robert and Alc e, even though she is a married woman. Edna discovers that she is in fact a passionate being. This self-knowledge results in her suicide at the end of the novella. Unable to go back to a life as a conventional wife and mother, Edna chooses freedom in death.