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Edna’s Self Discovery in Chopin’s The Awakening

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Edna’s Self Discovery in Chopin’s The Awakening

She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She

would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would

sometimes forget them. The year before they had spent part of

the summer with their grandmother Pontellier in Iberville.

Feeling secure regarding their happiness and welfare, she did

not miss them except with an occasional intense longing. Their

absence was a sort of relief, though she did not admit this,

even to herself. It seemed to free her of a responsibility

which she had blindly assumed and for which fate had not fitted

her. (p. 40)

Edna Pontellier is a child discovering her very sense of self. Her attitude toward her own children emphasizes the she is not the typical “mother-woman” (p. 29). This is one of the key elements in identifying Edna’s “awakening.” Unlike the other women, such as Madame Ratignolle, she has not accepted her role unquestionably. This passage is an insightful window into the beginnings of Edna’s new thoughts.

Edna considers herself “fond of her children.” This statement alone is strange. Most mothers are enamored of their children, obsessed with their every movement. Even her fondness is considered “uneven” and “impulsive.” Edna, beginning to feel as a child herself, is noticing these traits within her.

Edna speaks of the summer they spent away “with their grandmother...in Iberville.” Even in their extended absence she missed them only with “an occasional intense longing,” perhaps as someone might miss a city, or an old tattered stuffed toy. She seemed to feel towards them more as family, loved and missed, but not intensely as a mother would.

Most striking in this passage are the last two sentences. It is in these phrases that Edna begins to demonstrate something important about herself. She feels “relief” when the children are gone. She feels “free” of the “responsibility.” One “which she had blindly assumed.” Edna had simply accepted the role of motherhood. It was expected, and so she had asked no questions. She is now realizing, however, that she feels this is a position in life “for which fate had not fitted her.
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