Awakening By Edna Pontellier Essay Research Paper

Awakening By Edna Pontellier Essay, Research Paper There are many important paths that we must follow on our journey through life. We follow the path without questioning its intent. The path informs us when we

Awakening By Edna Pontellier Essay, Research Paper

There are many important paths that we must follow on our journey through life.

We follow the path without questioning its intent. The path informs us when we

should learn to talk, to walk, to marry, and to have children. We are told that

we should never stray from it, because if we do, society will make it certain

that we are bound for damnation. In the novel The Awakening the main character,

Edna Pontellier, has followed this path without so much as a fuss. All that

changes when Edna is awakened from a life long slumber?a slumber, which she

found repetitious, monotonous, and futile. She discovers that she is incomplete

being just a wife and a mother. She needs to fill the void that has been empty

for so long. She finds herself looking aimlessly beyond the path toward a

destination of new feelings, adventures, and awakenings her quest for true love.

Edna stands under this symbol of love, she is faced with a dilemma. Should she

kiss, (or in this case, marry), whether or not it is love? Or should she pass by

the opportunity and prepare herself for the hurricane winds of a disappointed

and disapproving society? Edna chose to do what society wanted her to do?she

got married and left her fantasies and dreams in the depths of the shadows.

"The acme of bliss, which would have been a marriage with the tragedian,

was not for her in this world. As the devoted wife of a man who worshiped her,

she felt she would take her place with a certain dignity in the world of

reality, closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and

dreams." (P. 24) After marriage, hidden around the curvatures of the path,

were the expectations of motherhood and being a devoted mother, after all

"if it was not a mother’s place to look after children, whose on earth was

it?" (P. 7) The appearance of Edna’s life looked perfect?she was the envy

of many women who declared, "Mr. Pontellier was the best husband in the

world. Mrs. Pontellier was forced to admit she knew of none better." (P. 9)

The cover of her life had that of a fairy tale, but inside, the pages were

filled with the emptiness and the loneliness she was feeling. During that summer

at Grand Isle, the pages were finally read, and slowly Edna became less and less

concerned for the welfare of her family. "He [Mr. Pontellier] thought it

very discouraging that his wife, who was the sole object of his existence

evinced so little interest in things which concerned him, and valued so little

his conversation." (P. 6) In Mr. Pontellier’s eyes his wife was not a

mother-woman, because "it was easy to know them, fluttering about with

extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their

precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their

husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals

and grow wings as ministering angels." (P. 10) His wife seemed more

interested in using her "protective" wings to fly about in search of

the independent soul she once threw away at the altar. In the meantime, "if

one of the little Pontellier boys took a tumble whilst at play, he was not apt

to rush crying to his mother’s arms for comfort; he would more likely pick

himself up, wipe the water out of his eyes, and the sand out of his mouth, and

go on playing." (P. 9) The love between Edna and her children existed, but

it resembled more of the love between the members of an extended family in the

1990s. "Sometimes [she'd] gather them passionately in her heart; she would

sometimes forget them, and their absence was a sort of relief." (P. 24)

Around her, Edna could see the devoted Creole mothers flocking about their

precious children. These women frowned upon Edna’s laissez faire attitude toward

her children. None of the other women could relate to Edna’s declaration,

"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." (P. 25) Edna made the

decision to have a family when she was young, naive, and unaware of what she

truly wanted. That summer, she awakened from her slumber and frantically began

to search for the gateway to her dreams. As for her children, "they need

not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul." (P. 152)

Raising a family prevailed in the nineteenth century and women who tried to

pursue a career or a hobby were shunned by society. Edna throughout her life

listened to everyone else but herself. She accepted her assigned role in society

and stashed away her passions, dreams, and desires to the deepest part of her

soul. For many years she lived hidden beneath a facade, but the Edna who craved

independence and romance began to emerge that summer. "In short, Mrs.

Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human

being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and

about her." (P. 17) Edna was no longer "devotedly" walking down

the typical woman’s path, but rather, she was exploring the opportunities around

her. "Sometimes I feel this summer as if I were walking through the green

meadow again; idly, aimlessly, unthinking and unguided." (P. 22) She

awakened to a whole new world?a world in which she had the courage and the

independence to stray from her structural life. Painting used to be a mindless

activity for her, but the hobby and the talent began to flourish before her very

eyes. She was doing something she loved something she could express her

innermost feelings with, something that fulfilled her much more than being a

mother ever did. It began to consume her soul. ?Edna cried a little that night

after Arobin left her. It was only on phase of the multitudinous emotions, which

had assailed her. There was with her an overwhelming feeling of

irresponsibility. There was her husband?s reproach looking at her from the

external thing around her, which he had provided for her external existence.

There Robert?s reproach making itself felt by a quicker, fiercer, more over

powering love, which had awakened within her toward him? There was a dull pang

of regret because it was not the kiss of love which inflamed her, because it was

not love which had held this cup of life to her lips.? (140) According to Jen

Thompson, Edna was changing, she thought of her marriage to Leonce as a safe

haven, there was not excitement or passion. She feels trapped and needs to

escape. Months passed and Edna became more and more enthralled in finding her

identity?she neglected her duties as a housewife and those as a mother. She

fought her way off of the path and found herself in the cruel, yet sometimes

fulfilling wilderness. The only woman who understood the battle that Edna was

about to endure was Mademoiselle Reisz. ?Edna truly admires Mademoiselle Reisz.

Edna appreciates her talent for playing the piano, while the other people on the

Grand Isle don?t appreciate her, because she does not fit their idea of what a

proper woman should be, she is eccentric and bold. Her music touches Edna, it

stirs something up inside her. (Thompson) Perhaps every woman awakens at one

point in her life. Some choose to chase after a dream while others are more apt

to cope with reality. Edna awakened to find herself next to a man she did not

love and a life that did not compensate her emotional and sexual urges. The sea

began to touch her as it never did before, "The voice of the sea speaks to

the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft,

close embrace." (P. 17) Edna found herself touched by piano piece, which

she ironically entitled "Solitude," that her friend Madame Ratignolle

played. "When she heard it there came before her imagination the figure of

a man standing beside a desolate rock on the sea shore. He was naked. His

attitude was one of hopeless resignation as he looked toward a distant bird

winging its flight away from him." (P. 35) Edna never dared to think of the

significance the image had for her?most likely out of fear of what it could be.

Yet, she longed to be that bird. She longed to fly gracefully away from her

passion and away from her need for the naked man, who stands on the brink of a

sexual symbol for Her?the Sea. To be that bird, she had to gather the courage

to be independent from men, and to find the courage to be happy with herself as

an individual. Edna began to realize that she enjoyed the company of other men,

particularly Robert, "just as one misses the sun on a cloudy day without

having thought much about the sun when it was shining." (P. 33) "As

Edna walked along the street she was thinking of Robert. She was still under the

spell of her infatuation. She had tried to forget him, realizing the inutility

of remembering. But the thought of him was like an obsession, ever pressing

itself upon her. It was not that she dwelt upon details of their acquaintance,

or recalled in any special or peculiar way his personality; it was his being,

his existence, which dominated her thought, fading sometimes as if it would melt

into the mist of the forgotten, reviving again with an intensity which filled

her with an incomprehensible longing." (P. 71) Edna explained why she chose

to "love" Robert, "Why do you suppose a woman knows why she

loves? Does she select? Does she say to herself: ‘Go to! Here is a distinguished

statesman with presidential possibilities; I shall proceed to fall in love with

him.’" (P. 107) There is irony in her explanation?she was the person she

was mocking?she had thought exactly that when she married Lйonce. Edna

had given up herself while waiting for Robert to return from Mexico. She had the

power to be free, to soar high, but she chose to hang on to the fantasy of what

could never be. Sadly, a fantasy is always much sweeter than reality, because

when Robert returned, Edna found herself admitting, "he had seemed nearer

to her off there in Mexico." (P. 136) The man returned to his post on the

rock. The bird, infatuated with his return, remained by his feet and with great

devotion and admiration looked up at this creature and said, "It was you

who awoke me last summer out of a life-long stupid dream." (P. 143) Edna

associated her awakening with Robert and unawarely lost the independence she had

sought after by being so superficially dependent on a man. Throughout her life,

Edna had always witnessed women with a man slung on their arms and had only

encountered a few who were absent of one. Society deemed the latter as outcasts

and told Edna that their days were deficient of happiness, comfort, and

compassion. Edna was not strong enough to gain an independent soul and an

independent arm. She could barely continue fighting the battle for the

possession of her soul, and so, it was necessary that she found her support

through Robert. When the man saw the bird perched at his feet?reality struck

him. He could not proceed with this "love" any longer, because his

conscience repeatedly scolded him, "She is a married woman with

children." To resolve a guilty conscience, he kicked the bird from the

ledge, in which they both once stood and justified his action by saying, "I

love you. Good-by–because I love you." (P. 148) With his farewell, her

aspirations and her hopes quickly faded away. She believed that without him she

would go back to being a prisoner. Time after time, another Robert would come

by. With sweetness and gracefulness, he would unlock her cage and expose her

once again to the marvels of freedom. Soon enough though, that Robert would

leave her just as abrupt and cruel as the original one had. Once again, Edna

would view life behind bars and would be unable to experience the utter beauty

of life. Without a key, Edna was unable to escape from her cage. She did not

have the strength to bend the bars and give herself the freedom she had been

longing for. Perhaps, she knew the truth?she would have never been entirely as

free as she wanted. She would never be so in love forever like the couple at

Grande Isle, because fantasies must always come to an end. It was more likely

that she would become the woman dressed in black, wallow in her own pity, and

count what little she had. Edna’s only escape was the sea that once awakened her

to the possibilities of beauty, love, lust, and independence. Once Robert had

struck her with that tremendous blow, the wings that once held such

possibilities for her were shattered and "a bird with a broken wing was

beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling, disabled down, down to the

water." (P. 152)