What Is Edna Pontellier's Role In The Awakening By Kate Chopin

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Imagine being in a long and deep sleep. You’ve been snoozing for a while now. You’re dreaming of all your favourite things. Suddenly, bang! Your slumber is disturbed and you can’t manage to return to your wonderful dream. Well, we know of a character who experiences this; Edna Pontellier in Kate Chopin’s novella, The Awakening (1899). Edna develops a fantasy life that is beyond her reality and eventually realises it is unattainable due to Creole paradigms of womanhood. She attempts to defy these expectations but deduces that she can’t through the conflicting perspectives of those around her. Some support her but some confine her and it is her final reflection of this conflict that determines her tragic actions. This notion of individuals…show more content…
In The Awakening, Edna possesses a different view of womanhood compared to others. She is not the ‘mother woman,’ and Mademoiselle Reisz subtlety supports this whilst Leonce disapproves. Mademoiselle Reisz encourages Edna to develop her own identity and to understand the pleasure gained from individual creation. Reisz is an independent and eccentric woman who Chopin utilises to depict the ‘New Woman’ concept. Academic Maria Viorica from Iasi University, claims ‘This new type of female character replaced the previous angelic female protagonist…Chopin used themes of New Woman fiction…(and) the female desire for a separate identity.’ I believe that Mademoiselle Reisz contributed to Edna’s desire, and awoke her to dream of autonomy. When Edna originally listened to her music, ‘the personified ‘passions (were) arouse(d) within her soul, swaying…lashing.’ Mademoiselle’s music sparks Edna’s desire for independence and the metaphorical meaning of the ‘bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition must have strong wings,’ advises Edna to shed the obedient and docile qualities. However this perspective of independence and identity juxtaposes with Leonce’s view, as he believes a woman’s role is to serve her mother and spousal duties. When Edna engages in painting and exhibits that she has the ability to be free, Leonce is outraged, ‘Then in God’s name paint! But don’t let the family go to the…show more content…
Both Edna in The Awakening and the persona in ‘Personal Helicon’ struggle with social paradigms and expectations. Edna is forced to make a final decision and by re-evaluating her self-discovery, she recognises that her new ideals of freedom and autonomy do not align with her world, resulting in her suicide. She concludes that she could change herself but that, ‘He (Robert) did not know; he did not understand,’ repeating Robert’s unwillingness to defy convention like her. Edna is awoken from her dream. She realises she cannot return to her reality. Her dream is unattainable. Despite the metaphorical fluttering and disabled bird that could not rise above traditional plain, I believe she did achieve independence. Although her dream was unattainable and she was living a dual life, she made the conscience decision to not live in an oppressive society. She dictated her own fate, realising that future pain and suffering is not worth it, thus returning to the ocean that first awoke her. Similarly, the persona in ‘Personal Helicon’ struggles with societal expectations. However his is focused on adulthood, not Victorian ideals of womanhood like Edna. The persona believes they can live a naïve, youthful dream, however through his reflection of childhood and his required role as an adult, he concludes he must shift his aspirations as he says, ‘beneath all adult dignity. I
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