Implications Of Sexism In Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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Edna Pontellier’s character in The Awakening has been the source of the novel’s controversial assessment by critics since it’s publication in 1899. The author, Kate Chopin, officially began writing in 1885 and composed novels that challenged the many conflicting social standards in that time period. The late 1800s, predominantly known for the Industrial Revolution, served as a beacon of opportunity for women during this era. Chopin wrote The Awakening to be used as an instrument to eradicate the accepted impression of gender roles in society: women are more than submissive tools to their oppressive counterparts in this masculine dominated world. Chopin’s ideology originated from the lessons and wisdom of her great-grandmother who encouraged her to read unconventional concepts: women were capable of obtaining and maintaining a successful career as well as a thriving family and social life. Although The Awakening was widely banned and condemned in national presses, critics cannot deny the underlying theme of sexism and its effect on gender roles. Some critics even suggest there is a distinct correlation between Edna’s character and Chopin herself. According to critics, Kate Chopin encumbers The Awakening with incidents of a single woman's hunger for personal and sexual identity as a mechanism to display Edna Pontellier’s deviations from societal standards.
One example of gender criticism Chopin accounts in her writing is the love between the women in the novel which has been suppressed throughout history as “lesbian” encounters in order to uphold male power and privilege (LeBlanc 2). Edna’ friendships with Mademoiselle Reisz and Adele Ratignolle both act as different buffers into Edna’s sexual and personal “awakening.” Edna’s a...

... middle of paper ... must complete with the dominance of men. “In acknowledging her personal desires and dreams, Edna realizes that double standards exist for men and women” (Telgen and Hile 53). Ignorant of her “awakening” to come, Edna tests and defies every accepted value in women during the late 1800s including but not limited to obedience, fidelity, and compliance. Ultimately Edna succeeds in determining who she, reaching her full “awakening,” but discovers that the price for having her own identity in the restrictions of society is more than she can handle emotionally (53). Chopin provided insight for the future generations through the evidence of the effect of gender roles and the process of finding one’s self through their individual “awakening” in the midst of controversy and “as she swam she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself” (Chopin 49).
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