Critical Analysis: Kate Chopin's "The Awakening"

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In the novel The Awakening, Kate Chopin (2005) uses deep symbolism to show how the main character, Edna Pontellier, discovers her own independence in the society in which she lived. Edna was a traditional mother and wife seeking freedom and independence throughout her adult life. Chopin portrays Edna as being a rebel against her own life. The story takes place in the 1960s when women were to follow certain rules made by the society they lived in. Chopin also foreshadows the things that occur in Edna’s life through nature and death itself. Based on the many ways Chopin uses symbolic meanings through the novel, we can see the events of Edna’s life as one that rebels against society. Throughout this novel, Chopin proves that Edna’s actions and inner beliefs show her to have a lack of moral integrity causing her own entrapment to life’s struggles in the society.

Edna’s plight was to be someone who was against the rules of the society in which she lived. She showed little interest in her children and her marriage. Her behavior became apathetic toward her duties as a “mother-woman” (Chopin, 2005). She seemed to be quite possessive of her own independence which was completely opposite of what the creole society expected of her. Edna was not the kind of person that could foster to domestic duties. Therefore, she rebelled. Although, she loved her children, she could not handle the responsibilities of taking care of them because she was so trapped in her own desires. Chopin adds, “Mrs. Pontellier, though she had married a Creole, was not thoroughly at home in the society of Creoles; never before had she been thrown intimately among them” meaning she was not interested in living this specific lifestyle (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 4, para. 11).

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...she were in a trance. Her death proves that she was awakened by life’s trueness and her fight against the limitations of the creole society. Chopin showed readers that Edna completely understood how important it was to be an individual rather than being stuck in an unhappy life with a husband and children. Edna’s death also shows that passion was a very important part of Edna’s life. She was forced to become someone she did not want to be, and this made her resent her own inner beliefs as a woman. She was finally fearless and “free” of her own inner desires for her independence (Chopin, 2005). But why death?

Works Cited

Chopin, K. (2005). The awakening [Vital Source digital version]. Raleigh, NC: Hayes Barton Press. Retrieved September 28, 2011 from

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