She cheats on her husband, disregards her children, and defies her societal expectations. At the end of the story, Edna Pontellier commits suicide to free herself from her confusing and scandalous life. During the first phase of Edna’s transformation (awakening), she realizes that she is not content with her lifestyle; she wants to could change her life and achieve freedom and bliss, so she turns her pursues this new goal. Chopin describes Edna’s perspective of her life during the beginning of her awakening: “There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why—when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation. She could not work on such a day, nor weave fancies to stir her pulses and warm her blood.” (97).
Her memory of running away from her Father and church when she was a young girl living in Kentucky shows how desperate she is to be free. However, Edna gives up her hopes of freedom for marriage in the hopes that all will fall into place afterwards. Edna’s expectation that marriage and children is proven false when she still is not happy with her life afterwards. She feels that life is worthless and that there should be more to what she is. Edna is not like the other creole mothers; she holds an affection for her children, but it comes and goes.
The novel unfolds the life of a woman who feels dissatisfied and restrained by the expectations of society. Leonce Pontellier, her husband is declared “…the best husband in the world” (Chopin 6). Edna is forced to admit that she knew of none better. Edna married Leonce because he courted her earnestly and her father was opposed to her marriage to a Catholic. “Edna felt that her marriage would anchor her to the conventional standards of society and end her infatuation” (Skaggs 30).
Edna Pontellier in The Awakening by Kate Chopin begins the novel in a semiconscious state where she is living the role condemned to her by society of a mother and homemaker. Her progression from a passive woman to a passionate, independent female corresponds to the steps she takes in her “awakening”. As Edna lets go of societal principles and her stereotypical role in the world, Edna creates a new identity away from her family and embodies the “new woman”. She knows she cannot truly escape society which is why she ultimately submits to death. Edna steers her actions by her emotional needs and personal interest causing her to show a complete lack of perception outside of herself.
Edna's relationship with Robert, and her rejection of the role dictated to her by society, resulted in her perceiving suicide to be the only solution to her problems. Critics of Kate Chopin's The Awakening tend to read the novel as the dramatization of a woman's struggle to achieve selfhood--a struggle doomed failure either because the patriarchal conventions of her society restrict freedom, or because the ideal of selfhood that she pursue is a masculine defined one that allows for none of the physical and undeniable claims which maternity makes upon women. Ultimately. in both views, Edna Pontellier ends her life because she cannot have it both ways: given her time, place, and notion of self, she cannot be a mother and have a self. (Simons) Edna Pontellier could not have what she wanted.
The final resolve of her “awakening” to her desires, her ultimate suicide, is not an honorable position that women should strive toward as a romantic ideal because her desires were hopeless in her situation. Through Edna’s striving for personal satisfaction, she loses the joys that daily life has to offer. Theoretically, Edna’s need to fulfill her personal desires is the cause of her demise. Edna chooses to associate and be enamored with Robert. In doing so, Edna begins to step farther and farther away from her family and sees their needs less clearly.
Robert awakens the “symptoms of infatuation” that she had when she was a young woman. Edna states that her husband seemed “like a person whom she had married without love as an excuse." The quote demonstrates that Edna recognizes that she does not love her husband and has come to the realization that their relationship is completely devoid of passion. Dissatisfied with her marriage, Edna dreams of being with Robert. The realization of her love for Robert causes Edna much grief because she understands that she can never act on her feelings for Robert because of her marriage to Leonce.
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.
Eva notices this but, “remained convinced that Sula had watched Hannah burn not because she was paralyzed, but because she was interested” (78). This shows her lack of care for motherhood. She does not have kids and dies without having any. But during her life, she ends up in a similar situation as her mother She focuses only on men and people begin to hate her for this. She begins to take friends’ and neighbors’ husbands the same way Hannah did.
Author Kate Chopin and her award winning book “The Awakening”, give us the audience and interesting and confusing ending to the book. The main character Edna Pontellier lives by society’s rules and constraints; she wants to be free and live the life she believes she has always wanted. Living during a time when women are under the husbands control and only tend to their children; she expands her wings a little too far and ends up committing suicide. Edna Pontellier took her life as an act of liberation for herself; Edna does not like being under society’s rules, but she knew she’d never be able to live a different life. First, during the Victorian era women need to stay covered and not expose their skin according to society.