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Essay on The Awakening

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In their analytical papers on The Awakening by Kate Chopin, both Elaine Showalter and Elizabeth Le Blanc speak to the importance of homosocial relationship to Edna’s awakenings. They also share the viewpoint that Edna’s return to the sea in the final scene of the book represents Edna being one with her female lover and finding the fulfillment she has been seeking. We see evidence of this idea of the sea as a feminine from Showalter when she tells us that “As the female body is prone to wetness, blood, milk, tears and amniotic fluid, so in drowning the woman is immersed in feminine organic element. Drowning thus becomes the traditionally feminine literary death”. (Showalter 219) LeBlanc takes this idea even further. She tells us that “The sea is Edna’s metaphorical lesbian lover—her only source of fulfillment equal to her longing.” Edna “overcomes her fear of water and unites with her “lover” for the first time”. (LeBlanc 251) In these statements Showalter and LeBlanc guide us to a glimpse of why Edna chose to end her life in the sea; she could find no fulfillment within the constraints of a patriarchal society; she could only find them in the arms of the sea.
Although the two critics share the above ideas, their theories, although quite similar, embrace the homosocial relationships of Edna and the other women of the novel to varying degrees. They both agree, however, that having lost her mother at an early age and being under the care of her conservative, overbearing sister and strict Presbyterian father, Edna had little experience in having relationships with other women. We know that when she first encounters the culture of the Creole people, she is quite taken back and not generally pleased with the openness of the women ...


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...s which helped to fill a missing piece in her life; a piece which no man had been able to fill. After reading both critics papers, I certainly gained another perspective on Chopin’s work. I would have to say, however, that my own close reading of the story would elicit a response closer to that of Showalter rather than of LeBlanc. I cannot, other than superficially, see the characters of The Awakening as lesbians.

WORKS CITED
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Second Edition. Ed. Nancy Walker. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.
Print.

LeBlanc, Elizabeth. “The Metaphorical Lesbian: Edna Pontellier in The Awakening”. Ed. Nancy Walker.
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. Print. 237-256

Showalter, Elaine. “Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book”.
Ed. Nancy Walker. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. Print. 202-222




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