Edna Pontellier's Awakening Essay

Edna Pontellier's Awakening Essay

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Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening has been both criticized and praised since its time of publication in 1899. Its scandalous nature shocked the sophisticates of the time for its frank treatment of a sin so egregious as adultery; its lack of moral repercussions for the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, led many to believe that Chopin excused, if not condoned, the act. Because of this, the novel didn’t get the recognition and analysis it deserved until well after its publication. What seems like a simple story is truly much deeper; Chopin’s use of symbolism creates a much richer narrative that lends itself to much more personal reflection and thought on the part of the reader. The central symbol of The Awakening by Kate Chopin is the sea; its importance is highlighted by the fact that it is both the hopeful beginning and the tragic end of Edna Pontellier’s awakening.
The very nature of the sea is cyclical. Immediately, this image calls to mind the idea of a woman. Like the sea, women’s bodies work in a rotation of phases. Specifically in the case of Edna, her own journey is a giant cycle. At the open of the novel, Edna is the picture of a perfect wife, dutifully bending to the will of her husband and never challenging the role she was expected to fulfill. The novel, however, is “an account of Edna’s rite de passage—her movement out of ignorance into knowledge” (Unger 221). Even before she is truly awakened, Edna is “beginning to realize her position in life as a human being” and she realizes that she has two distinctly different personalities; “the outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions” (Chopin 14). Though the ability to question is a recognizable force within Edna, she lacks the ability to act on her tend...


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...Pontellier." Awakening an Authoritative Text, Biographical and Historical Contexts, and Criticisms. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. Print.
Green, Susan D. "Criticism." Novels for Students Presenting Analysis, Context and Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels (Novels for Students). Belmont: Thomson Gale, 1998. 57-61. Print.
Harold., Bloom,. "The Awakening: A Political Romance." The Critical Perspective Edwardian (Chelsea House Library of Literary Criticism). New York: Chelsea House Publications, 1989. 6001-007. Print.
"Kate Chopin." American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies. Ed. Leonard Unger. Vol. Supplement I, Part 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1979. 200-25. Print.
Stone, Carol. "Criticism." Novels for Students Presenting Analysis, Context and Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels (Novels for Students). Belmont: Thomson Gale, 1998. 61-63. Print.

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