Choosing between Family and Individuality in Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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Choosing between Family and Individuality in Kate Chopin's The Awakening Kate Chopin's The Awakening focuses on a woman's struggle to become an individual while still being a mother and wife. In the process of this journey, the female heroine discovers that establishing her own identity means losing a mother's identity. Edna looks to be the "brave soul," a "soul that dares and defies" (Chopin 61). Edna's society looked down upon females who seek anything other than attending to their children and husband's needs. Therefore, she is seen as an outcast and must turn inward as well as outward towards nature for satisfaction and approval. At the beginning of The Awakening, Mr. Pontellier poses the question, "If it was not a mother's place to look after children, whose on earth was it?" (Chopin 7). He reflects the general belief of his time that women should be mothers who give up themselves for the more important needs of their children. He believes that women should be self-sacrificing beings who never take and always give. He thinks, just as other men believed during this time period, that she should be the "angel of the house," catering to his every need. Mr. Pontellier wants her to be one of the "ministering angels" (Chopin 9) who "idolized their children" (Chopin 9) and "worshipped their husbands" (Chopin 9). Mrs. Pontellier shows little interest in taking care of her husband and children, hinting that she seeks more than a life lived for others. She begins to "recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her" (Chopin 14) which inevitably becomes a curse in disguise. It creates a complicated inner conflict. Mrs. Pontellier ponders whether she should be defined as a mother and ... ... middle of paper ... ...nature for acceptance and to her soothing childhood memories for forgotten innocence. Works Cited and Consulted Chopin, Kate. "The Awakening." 1899. The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Ed. Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989. Culley, Margo, ed. A Norton Critical Edition: Kate Chopin: The Awakening. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. Edwards, Lee. "Sexuality, Maternity, and Selfhood." A Norton Critical Edition: Kate Chopin: The Awakening. Ed. Margo Culley. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. 282-285. Walker, Nancy. "Feminist or Naturalist." A Norton Critical Edition: Kate Chopin: The Awakening. Ed. Margo Culley. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. 252-257. Wolff, Cynthia. "Thanatos and Eros." A Norton Critical Edition: Kate Chopin: The Awakening. Ed. Margo Culley. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. 231-241.

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