The Importance Of Culture In The Awakening By Kate Chopin

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Stephen Greenblatt addresses culture as “The ensemble of beliefs and practices that form a given culture function as a pervasive technology of control, a set of limits within which social behavior must be contained, a repertoire of models to which individuals must conform.” (Greenblatt 1) Here, what Greenblatt is attempting to convey is that culture is the set or collection of expectations that a group or society assigns and enforces. For example a society may express its beliefs and expectations about the role of a woman or a child, what is appropriate to wear, how one should act, and so on.
Furthermore, Greenblatt mentions the importance of boundaries. Addressing the boundaries, Greenblatt states that culture limits social behavior and
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This implicit rule about following what society thinks and sees as right impacts the characters and constricts their decisions. In The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the main characters, Edna Pontellier and Robert Lebrun, are trapped by the enforcement of cultural boundaries, such as the constraints on love and gender roles and the importance of reputations in their societies.
A free spirited woman, Edna Pontellier wants just one thing, freedom. Wanting to get away from her family and explore the rest of the world Edna marries Leoncé Pontellier. In fact Edna’s lack of feelings for Leoncé is established when she states, “He [Leoncé] pleased her, his absolute devotion flattered her… Add to this the violent opposition of her father and her sister Margaret with her marriage to a Catholic, and we need seek no further for the motives which led her to accept Monsieur Pontellier
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Likewise, Edna was not the type of woman who stayed at home and became the caregiver of the family. This is represented in the text multiple times. For example, Edna states, “ The year before they [Edna’s children] had spent part of the with their grandmother Pontellier in Iberville. Feeling secure regarding their happiness and welfare, she did not miss them … Their absence was sort of a relief, though she did not admit this, even to herself. It seemed to free her of a responsibility which she had blindly assumed and for which Fate had not fitted her.” (Chopin 18) In this quote it is revealed how Edna was not quite fit to be a mother. She would forget about her children and enjoy them not being there. This to her was freedom, she was free of the responsibilities that Fate gave her, she did not have to do anything and was not expected to care for anyone but herself. Addressing boundaries, Greenblatt declares, “…if culture functions as a structure of limits, it also functions as the regulator and guarantor of movement. Indeed the limits are virtually meaningless without movement; it is only through improvisation, experiment, and exchange that cultural boundaries can be established.” (Stephen 5) Here, Greenblatt asserts that without people pushing against the boundaries and testing out the limits there would not be any boundaries or limits. Although
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