Essay on The Awakening

Essay on The Awakening

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It has been said that ignorance is bliss and if we do not know that something more exists, we do not yearn for it. It has also been said that the door to enlightenment and inner wisdom, once opened, can never be closed again. Many great philosophers and teachers have dealt with the idea of whether it is better to live a life of servitude and submission, or are we to pursue a life of personal happiness and emotional freedom.

We are introduced to Edna Pontellier, a young woman of twenty-nine years who is married to an older, aristocratic man in his forties. They have two young children, who are cared for by servants, and they live a cultured and pampered life in New Orleans in the late eighteen-hundreds. The family is spending the summer on Grand Isle with several other families. It appears that the husband, Leonce Pontellier, is very self-contained man, in his own world, reading the newspaper and seemingly annoyed at the bustle of life going on around him. Everything is his world, including his wife and children, are prim and proper possessions. His expectation of his wife are to be available to him at all times, serve his desire for intellectual conversation, and if for any reason she is not, he rebels by leaving the house and going to his club. He returns to the mainland during the week and Edna is left with the women, children and the eldest son of the island’s hostess, Robert. Edna and Robert appear to have resonated to each other. They enjoy the same things and have developed a happy and platonic friendship. It is obvious to us that Edna feels a great deal emptiness in her heart and soul. She has always felt her life should stand for something more, although she does not know just what that “more” is. Her re...


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...to “think of the children, Edna” since she is sure that Edna wants to leave them. She returns home to find a note from Robert saying “goodbye, because I love you.” She seems resolved and shattered.

Returning to the island by herself, she stands at the edge of the ocean. This ocean once empowered her and awakened her from the slumber in which she had been sleeping. She removes all of her clothing, something unheard of in her Victorian upbringing, and walks naked into the ocean. As she had once explained to Adele Ratignolle, “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.” She swims far out, past exhaustion and is swept out to sea and dies. Ignorance is bliss, but the door once opened, cannot be closed and the knowledge once received, cannot be forgotten. An awakening is eternal.

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