Among many poignant lines, Robert Frost stated that “freedom lies in being bold.” Tess Durbeyfield and Edna Pontellier are testaments to the veracity of this quote as both find their independence by boldly exceeding the norm. Their stories were fashioned during a period of great change and both characters are hallmarks of the hope and power women were unearthing at the time. The Awakening by Kate Chopin and Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy are novels concerned with the transformation of women’s roles in society. Their protagonists, Tess and Edna, are not outright feminists, but they are acutely aware of the limitations imposed upon them and brazenly strive to achieve their freedom as women. However, their methodologies in achieving this feat are wildly different and, in character and demeanor, the two women can be construed as polar opposites.
The most striking difference between Edna and Tess stems from their social backgrounds. Edna resides among the affluent Creoles in New Orleans while Tess lives in relative squalor. Edna’s wealthy husband, Léonce, dotes on her and facilitates her constantly changing hobbies. Together they live with their children in a “rich and tasteful” city home, complete with a maid and kitchen staff (Chopin, 67). Despite leading a lavish and privileged lifestyle, Edna seems jaded by her wealth and comes across as unappreciative. Alternately, Tess lives with her parents and a multitude of siblings in a rundown cottage on the outskirts of a “long and broken village” (Hardy, 19). As her family’s livelihood relies entirely on a single horse, Tess appreciates every opportunity presented to her and does anything in her power to support her family both in health and in name.
The disparity between Ed...
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...pective sphere. Angel blatantly reveals the double standard of women as he is disgusted by Tess’s relationship with Alec when he himself had a pre-marital affair. Rising against these expectations, this striking duo of women manages to achieve freedom. Tess gains her freedom by staying true to who she is in the present. Edna gains her freedom by staying true to who she wants to be in the future. Both become independent, self-governing women who realize they are the sole proprietors of their own lives and as such have the right to make their own decisions.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York : Bantam Book, 2003. Print.
Frost, Robert. "Quote of the Day."BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2014.
Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Champaign, IL: Bantam Books, 1971. Print.
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