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The Struggle to Be a Womyn “Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual” (93) The Awakening by Kate Chopin introduces the reader to the life of Edna Pontellier, a woman with an independent nature, searching for her true identity in a patriarchal society that expects women to be nothing more than devoted wives and nurturing mothers. In this paper I will describe Edna’s journey of self-discovery and explain why her struggle for independence is no easy task. I will also discuss the relationship Edna has with two other main women characters and describe how these women conform or rebel against a society with many social constraints. Finally I will discuss how the issues brought up in Chopin’s novel are still relevant today. The Journey The Awakening begins in the vacation spot of Grand Isle. At first we believe that Grand Isle is a utopia, wealthy families relaxing at oceanside, but it is here where Edna first begins to realize her unhappiness. The first sign of dissatisfaction is when Edna allows herself to feel that her marriage is unsatisfying; yet she must agree with the other women that Leonce Pontellier is the perfect husband. Edna can now ask herself if she has a good husband and is not happy than should marriage be a component of her life. Edna has two close relationships with other males in the book but both prove unsatisfying, and a block to her independence. The first relationship is with Robert Lebrun. They swim, they chat on the porch and offer each other companionship. This is a flirtatious relationship; a relationship similar to those Robert has had previous summers with other married women; but different because Edna, being a “foreigner” allows herself to take Robert seriously and she falls in love with him. This proves tragic because during the course of the novel the two will pine for each other but Robert not wanting to mar his reputation as a “gentleman” moves to Mexico. Even after his return the two meet for a short time and then again Robert flees before anything happens. The second role Edna begins to question is her role as mother. Edna’s husband scolds her for her unattentiveness to her children. Although Edna is fond of her children she, unlike the other women on Grand Isle, would rather have a nurse look after... ... middle of paper ... where I want to start moving towards a goal. When I weigh my career choices I often ponder how a family will fit into that choice. Edna’s struggle made me realize the universality of this dilemma and I realize how lucky I am to have women like Kate Chopin come before me and make my struggle a little easier. Works Cited Dyer, Joyce.(1993).The Awakening A Novel of Beginnings. New York:Twayne Publishers. Elfbein, Anna Shannon.(1989).Women on the Color Line. Charlottesville:University Press of Virginia. Papke, Mary E.(1990).Verging on the Abyss The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton. New york:Greenwood Press. Showalter, Elaine.(1991).Sister’s Choice Tradition and Change in American Women’s Writing. Oxford:Clarendon Press Taylor, Helen.(1989).Gender, Race, and Religion in the Writings of Grace King, Ruth McEnery Stuart, and Kate Chopin.Baton Rouge:Louisiana State Press

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