Gender Roles in "The Awakening"

943 Words4 Pages
Gender Roles in The Awakening The 1890’s were an era of rapid social change in regards to women’s rights. In 1893, Colorado was the first state granting women the right to vote with Utah and Idaho following soon after in 1896. This soon set momentum towards of ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. It was in 1899 the Kate Chopin published The Awakening, a novel telling the tale of a suppressed mother, Edna Pontellier, and her desire for something more in her life. Literary scholars consider Chopin’s The Awakening as a subtle yet effective portrayal of women of the late 19th century and consider it as an important piece of the feminism movement. Throughout the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, women had felt controlled by men and the demands society put upon them. Men had held a discriminatory view of women throughout this era, for they merely saw women as property. Women were expected to bear a man’s child, care for the child, and watch over the household while the man was away. The Awakening was an eye-opening novel in that it challenged the social structure of the time in which men dominated society. This novel showed the discriminatory view of women and treatment of women. The novel also does a great job in showing the dissatisfaction in the women’s lives, particularily through the actions of Edna Pontellier. Due to society’s expectations, women were not allowed to pursue their psychological or sexual drives, for it was scorned by society. Edna pursues these drives as she eventually cannot tolerate her way of living. In The Awakening, Chopin’s use of three characters, Edna Pontellier, Adele Ratignolle, and Mademoiselle Reisz, exemplifies the accepted roles of women in the late 19th century. Adele Ratignolle is a Creole wo... ... middle of paper ... ...they represent concerning women’s roles in society. Adele plays to entertain her husband and friends at parties, whereas Reisz plays for the art of the craft, always striving to be more proficient and more artistic. Mademoiselle Reisz easily sees past Edna's front, welcomes Edna into her life, and helps usher in the biggest change of Edna's life. Mademoiselle Reisz and her personality serve as the catalyst for the changes that Edna makes in her life. Edna strives to be Mademoiselle Reisz concerning her element of independence, while Leonce Pontellier, Edna’s husband, would like her to be more like Adele Ratignolle, and it is Edna who is striving to find the delicate balance in the middle. Edna Pontellier is a delicate character, attempting to find happy ground between the devoted mother-woman, Adele, and the independent, cold woman, Reisz. I believe that through
Open Document