Breaking the Social Norms: Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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In the novella The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the main character Edna Pontellier “becomes profoundly alienated from traditional roles required by family, country, church, or other social institutions and is unable to reconcile the desire for connection with others with the need for self-expression” (Bogard). The novella takes place in the South during the 1800’s when societal views and appearances meant everything. There were numerous rules and expectations that must be upheld by both men and women, and for independent, stubborn, and curious women such as Edna, this made life challenging. Edna expressed thoughts and goals far beyond her time that made her question her role in life and struggle to identify herself, which caused her to break societal conventions, damage her relationships, and ultimately lose everything. The most prevalent and obvious gender issue present in the novella was that Edna challenged cultural norms and broke societal expectations in an attempt to define herself. Editors agree, “Edna Pontellier flouts social convention on almost every page…Edna consistently disregards her ‘duties’ to her husband, her children, and her ‘station’ in life” (Culley 120). Due to this, she did not uphold what was expected of her because she was trying to be superior, and women were expected to be subordinate to men. During that time, the women were viewed as possessions that men controlled. It was the woman’s job to clean the house, cook the meals, and take care of the children, yet Edna did none of these things. Her lifestyle was much different. She refused to listen to her husband as time progressed and continually pushed the boundaries of her role. For example, during that time period “the wife was bound to live with her husban... ... middle of paper ... ...tionship she had until she was left with literally no reason to live. Throughout the novella, she breaks social conventions, which damages her reputation and her relationships with her friends, husband, and children. Through Edna’s thoughts and actions, numerous gender issues and expectations are displayed within The Awakening because she serves as a direct representation of feminist ideals, social changes, and a revolution to come. Works Cited Bogard, Carley Rees. “The Awakening: A Refusal to Compromise.” University of Michigan Papers in Women’s Studies 2.3 (1977): 15-31. Gale Literature Resource Center. Web. 30 January 2014. Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Norton, 1994. Print. Culley, Margo. “Editor’s Note: Contexts of The Awakening.” (1994): 199-122. Print. Fletcher, Marie. “The Southern Woman in Fiction.” Louisiana History 7. (1966): 117-32. Print.

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