Edna Pontellier’s Self-discovery in Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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Theme of Self-discovery in Kate Chopin's The Awakening

Edna Pontlierre experiences a theme of self-discovery throughout the entire

novel of Kate Chopin's "The Awakening. Within Edna's travel through self

discovery, Chopin successfully uses tone, style, and content to help the reader

understand a person challenging the beliefs of a naïve society at the beginning

of the twentieth century. Chopin's style and tone essentially helps the reader

understand the character of Edna and what her surrounding influences are. The

tone and style also helps the audience understand the rest of the characters

throughout the novel. The entire content is relevant to the time frame it was

written, expressing ideas of the forthcoming feminist movement and creating an

awareness of what was happening to the women of the early nineteenth century.

When "The Awakening" was first published, its popularity wasn't that of

modern day. In fact, it was widely rejected for years. Within the context, it

is considered a very liberal book from the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The ideas expressed within the content concern the women's movement and an

individual woman searching for who she really is. Ross C. Murfin in his

critical essay "The New Historicism and the Awakening", shows how Chopin uses

the entity of the hand to relate to both the entire women's issue and Edna

Pontlierre's self exploration:

"Chopin uses hands to raise the issues of women, property, self-possession, and

value. Women like Adele Ratignolle, represented by their perfectly pale or

gloved hands, are signs mainly of their husbands wealth, and therefor of what

Stange calls 'surplus value'. By insisting on supporting herself with her own

hands [through art] and having control of her own property [the place she moved

in to and her inheritance], Edna seeks to come into ownership of a self that is

more than a mere ornament. …She seeks to possess herself" (p 197).

Within in the content, Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle represent

foils to Edna. Mademoiselle represents a single woman that everyone dislikes

who Edna typically confides in. Adele Ratignolle contrasts Edna because she

"dutifully plays the social role of 'mother-woman'". The reader learns how Edna

contrasts and transcends throughout the entire novel. From her refusal to

sacrifice herself for her children in the beginning of the novel to her moving

into her own house towards the end of the novel, the reader is effectively

aware of the realities that face the women of the early twentieth century

individually and as a society.

Chopin's style in "The Awakening" is intended to help the audience

understand the character of Edna and the dilemmas that she faces as a married
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