Edna Pontellier, Madamoiselle Reisz And Madame Ratignolle

805 Words4 Pages
Jenny Mazzella
Ms Powers
American Literature Period 4
14 February 2014
In The Awakening, Kate Chopin depicts the varying definitions of women and their role through her three major female characters, Edna Pontellier, Madamoiselle Reisz and Madame Ratignolle. In the late 1800s, the role of women was strictly being caretakers for both their children and husbands. Edna Pontellier attempts to fit into society’s expectations by marrying Léonce Pontellier and raising two children, yet she struggles with feelings of oppression as she suffers through her unwanted role. Mademoiselle Reisz, a talented musician, is unmarried and childless, rejecting all of society’s ideals. Edna’s friend, Madame Ratignolle, greatly contrasts the two as she represents the model Louisiana women. However, while Edna, Madamoiselle Reisz and Madame Ratignolle each depict a different idea of woman’s role in society, none of these three women reach their full individual potential.
According to the Louisiana society, Edna Pontellier has the ideal life, complete with two children and the best husband in the world. However, Edna disagrees, constantly crying over her feelings of oppression. Finally, Edna is through settling for her predetermined role in society as man’s possession, and she begins to defy this. Edna has the chance to change this stereotype, the chance to be “[t]he bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice” (112). The use of a metaphor comparing Edna to a bird proves her potential to rise above society’s standards and pave the pathway for future women. However, Edna does not have “strong [enough] wings” (112). After Robert, the love of her life and the man she has an affair with, leaves, Edna becomes despondent and lacks an...

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...torture” (149). Yet even as she suffers through “torture”, Madame Ratignolle advises Edna always think of the children.
While Madame Ratignolle, Madamoiselle Reisz and Edna are very different characters, all of them are unable to reach their potentials. Madame Ratignolle is too busy being the perfect Louisiana woman that she no identity of her own; her only purpose in life is to care for her husband and children. Madamoiselle Reisz is so defiant and stubborn that she has isolated herself from society and anyone she could share her art with. Edna has the opportunity to rise above society’s expectations of females, but she is too weak to fight this battle and ultimately gives up. While these three characters depict different ideas of what it truly means to be a woman and what women’s role in society should be, none of them can reach their full individual potential.

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