The Awakening

Satisfactory Essays
Responsibility and Duty as they Relate to The Awakening

Most cultures put heavy emphasis upon responsibility and duty. The culture portrayed in Kate Chopin's book The Awakening visibly reflects a similar emphasis. The main character finds herself wanting to stray from her responsibilities and embrace her intense desire for personal fulfillment. Edna's choice to escape shows two elements: rebellion to the suppression of her adventurous spirit and the lack of "fulfillment" in her relationship. Although she embraces her new found freedoms, she commits suicide at the denouement of the book due to her frustration with the world around her.

Many philosophers have dealt with the question of whether to live a life of servitude or to pursue ones greater happiness. Immanuel Kant stipulates that the more people cultivate their reason, the less likely they are to find happiness. Kate Chopin's character Edna tries her entire life to fit in the prescribed mold of the women of her time. She invests so much time into duty and responsibility that she loses any happiness that she could hope to achieve. With time, Kant noted, the person who devotes their life to reason finds themselves needing a release, in the end despising reason, and eventually pursuing only their true happiness.

After being "reasonable" for the twenty-eight years of her life, Edna breaks down. She wants to pursue love and disregard her duty to her husband and children. She falls in what she considers "girlish" love with the character Robert. She proclaims to him:

"I love you . . . only you; no one but you. If was you who awoke me last summer out of a life-long, stupid dream . . .Oh! I have suffered! Now you are here we shall love each other. Nothing else in the world is of any consequence."

In keeping with Kant's philosophy, Edna's life has been riddled with reason and duty, essentially giving herself away to the people around her. This devotion to responsibility causes her to break away from her common behavioral pattern and moves her to focus on finding her inherent happiness.

Ayn Rand objectivism states that a person should live life by pursuing their abilities and engaging in trade of equal value with others. Further her philosophy states that working for another's good or sacrificing your self for another's happiness goes against the very nature of existence.

Edna was not engaged in the pursuit of her finest abilities. She lived her life for others, not for herself.
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