The Awakening: A Woman’s Fight for Independence Right from the beginning the plot is almost conveniently evident.

You find a woman, Edna Pontellier, tired of living her life as a pampered and “owned” wife and mother. She is searching for much more in her life, some sort of meaning for her whole existence. She searches for a long time but in the end, the inevitability of her life’s pattern and direction wraps around her, suffocating her.

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She is overcome with wonder, confusion, and guilt for what she believes and what she does to express her beliefs. She finally finds a way to beat the “proper” 1890’s lifestyle by committing suicide. During this story Edna struggles with three main opposing powers. First, there is the society’s opinion of what a woman’s “roles” in life was and how they should act, look, and feel.

Second, is her independent nature. The last opposing power she comes across is her undying love for the charming Robert Lebrun. It is the unwritten rule that a woman should marry, have children, and be happy and content with that as their life. Society portrays this to be a woman’s rightful job and duty. A woman should act and look “proper” at all times. This is what Edna is fighting against in this novel. She feels that, though many women agree with this “known” rule, it isn’t fair. For six years Edna conforms to these ideas by being a “proper” wife and mother, holding Tuesday socials and going to operas, following the same enduring schedule.

It is only after her summer spent at Grand Isle that her “mechanical” lifestyle becomes apparent to her. She sees how much she is unhappy with the expectations, held by society, of her life and she wishes to erase them and live her life as she wants. Edna has an independent, almost self centered, nature about her. Her need for an uncontrolled lifestyle is what leaves her feeling “owned” and wanting to break that label; she fights to do as she wishes. Little by little she breaks free of society’s’ image, letting her independence shine through.

She cancels her Tuesday socials and helps out around the house doing little chores. The biggest step she made was her decision to move away from her mansion and into the “pigeon house”, a little cottage around corner. After this move she was free to explore her new profound freedom and desires. She succumbed to the passion in her heart and had a meaningless affair with Arobin, a known heartbreaker. She was in control of this new relationship and she loved feeling in control.

True, she felt nothing beyond lust for the man but she was able to do as she wished. Her love for Robert Lebrun was truly her biggest obstacle she was to overcome. Every thought and feeling she had sprouted from the love she had for him which kept growing long after the brief summer in Grand Isle. She thought about him always and was in constant yearning for him to return from his escapades in Mexico. When he finally did return, his love for Edna was apparent and he wished to be married to her. Once again she felt trapped, not wishing to become “property” to a man. She just wanted to be with him and love him without having to give up her independence. When she left to assist her friend in her childbearing, she bid him to stay and wait for her.

Alas, when she returned he was gone, in his place was a letter. He stated his love for her and his inability to keep interfering with her life and her duties to her husband and children. That was the end of Edna Pontellier. She feels alone, with no one who would understand to confide into.

Rather than be forced to live in such a world of tyranny and succumb once again to the mechanical lifestyle she had lived for so long, she chooses death. In death, there are no expectations, no one to impress or be “proper” for, and most importantly she has no one to answer to, except herself. It is all these aspects of the plot, in the story, that make it enticing. It was so rare for a woman to feel this way back in those days. Edna is truly an admirable character.

Her fight for independence against a social world that shows no mercy was a courageous task to try and accomplish. She tried hard and even though she failed, it is her strength in which she fought that captured the hearts of the readers. Her struggle and fight in the plot is inspirational and makes a person realize just lucky they are to be able to speak their minds and do as they wish.

It also contains a fresh touch of reality with its shocking ending, leaving you with the slightest hint of doubt, was it all worth it?Bibliography:


The Awakening – Morality or Self-sacrifice? The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, takes one back to an earlier time while still provoking the questions of morality and self-sacrifice that exist today.

Edna Pontellier, the protagonist of the story, places herself in the position to be the individual going against society from the beginning of the novel. In the beginning chapters of the novel, Ednas characteristics and actions worthy of rebuke lead to a breakdown of her moral integrity. These behaviors eventually lead her to become a woman that not only the Creole culture rejects, but civilization in general can no longer accept. Ednas plight throughout the novel perfects her status as that individual going against society. Her reserve toward her children places her in abnormal standing. Her behavior, not necessarily of neglect but rather of apathetic involvement in their lives, contrasted the ideal motherly figure of the age. Madame Ratignolle, Ednas friend, maintains quite a different air about her. She possesses the dependent attitude which the Creole society seems not only to encourage, but in some aspects requires.

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Although Edna loves her children dearly, and in spells needs them with fervor, she was more accustomed to leaving them with the nanny or a friend rather than looking after them herself. She would give anything for her children, but she would not give of herself. In an age of expected domestic dependence, Ednas rejection of her obligations as a mother and a wife go against the tacit rules of the world in which she lives. Although Edna was outwardly performing the duties of her life, her heart was busy thinking other thoughts. Throughout the course of the summer, she falls in love with Robert Lebrun. Yes, he previously established he third wheel status in the families at Grande Isle, but this was another aspect of Ednas life that pits her against her surroundings. As Robert falls in love with Edna, and she with him, her independent longing is inflamed, and her passions begin to overpower her self-control. Ednas husband, Leonce, is more in love with the idea of a wife for himself and a mother for his children rather than Edna herself.

This makes it easier for Edna to let go. When Robert suddenly leaves for Mexico on a business excursion, Edna becomes despondent and unfocused. Maybe through the severe longing for him and grief at his absence she becomes intensely connected to herself. When she begins to paint again, she feels life once more. In her visits to Madame Reiszs piano concerts she is moved to tears at the music that touches her soul. She appreciates nature all the more and values the glory of the ocean with increasing vigor. When Leonce is away on a business trip, Edna finally cuts the strings that are enslaving her to the duties of being a wife and a mother. She gathers her things and moves out of the house.

She throws one last party, waits for Roberts return that she learned about through the letters written to Madame Reisz. In the meantime, however, after becoming involved with Alscee, Edna realizes that her values and choices in life are no longer acceptable in the society she currently lives in. Madame Ratignolle tells her to simply live the life she is called to live the life of a wife and mother but she cannot do it.

Edna sees the family doctor in her last days and he reflects her thoughts best by saying, The trouble is that youth is given up to illusions. It seems to be a provision of Nature, a decoy to secure mothers for the race. And Nature takes no account of moral consequences of arbitrary conditions which we create, and which we feel obliged to maintain at any cost.

Often in life we never see the consequences of our actions. We are never given the chance to see how our lives might be had we made different decisions. The story of Edna Pontellier, a wife, mother, hostess and friend, shows all too clearly a woman who is really a lover, a painter, an outcast, and a soul who knows well what might have been.Words/ Pages : 695 / 24


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