Independence and Freedom in The Awakening

Powerful Essays
Independence and Freedom in The Awakening

The novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin demonstrates the themes of independence and freedom. It is set back in a time when women were supposed to grow up being protected and controlled by their fathers, then move to the same role with their husbands. The main character, Edna Pontieller, defies the social norms as she does not assume the title of a good mother, good wife, and good daughter. Instead she has her own ideas and is a reoccurring symbol of freedom and independence.

Many works of literature Chopin writes about reflects and even parallels on her life growing up in St. Louis during the Civil War. Many tragic events occurred in her life starting with the death of her father in an unfortunate railroad accident; the only male role model in her life. Thirteen years later, her beloved great-grandmother passes away. She was the only child left as her sisters had all died in infancy. Also, Kitty Garesche, a girl who she went to school with most of her life made the decision to become a nun. In this, Kate lost her only female friend. All of the trauma in her life gave her a headstrong personality that she so often draws back to while writing.

“Living in a region divided by Union and Confederate sympathies, she experienced the Civil War firsthand. Raised in a family of slave owners and nurtured by a black mommy, she saw the abolition of slavery and the enfranchisement of African-Americans” (Chopin, xvi). This took a toll on her and deeply affected her mentally. For example, she grew up where slaves were a reality. In fact, her family owned slaves and there was one that specifically attended to her. Chopin saw how this affected them and felt empathy for them as she wanted freedom herself....

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... she was reluctant to publish it fearing harsh criticism because of the sexual content. To no surprise, the novel was rejected by society even banned from some school systems for its explicit content and idea of a self-reliance as a strong quality about a woman. “Critics averred that Chopin was a pornographer and that her novel was immoral and even perverse…Of course, Chopin’s novel was not entirely without supporters. A critic for the ‘New York Times Book Review,’ for example, noted Chopin’s skill in exploring her subject and confessed ‘pity for the most unfortunate of her sex’” (Showalter, 104). The novel was finally published in 1899 portraying Edna Pontellier’s “Emotional and intellectual struggle, her new role-‘free woman’- is never satisfactorily realized, and her specific lovers finally become as irrelevant as her friends, husband, and children” (Bloom, 44).
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