The Ideology of Social Construction in The Awakening Essay

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The Awakening by Kate Chopin follows the journey of protagonist Edna Pontellier as she "awakens" from a life of obedience and complacency and rebels against the patriarchal ideology that entraps her. Throughout the novel she strives to fee herself form the stifling obligations and expectations that oppress her, but finds that she is unable to live the free life she desires. This realization causes her to seek freedom in death, instead. In Marxist theory, particularly as subscribed to by Louis Althusser, it is the role of the repressive state apparatuses (RSAs) and the ideological state apparatuses (ISAs) to provide willing workers and supplies to the base and enable a system to reproduce itself. It is the ideological state apparatuses, however, that are the most effective and insidious in this task. This is because they operate on multiple fronts (many of them privately owned) such as: education, church, culture, and even family (Althusser 96). Edna's own undoing is caused by the realization that she can never sever her ties to the ideology of motherhood. What is significant about this novel, however, is the while the main focus in undoubtedly Edna, she is far from the only character to be oppressed by the system of Ideological State Apparatuses and social construction. Chopin successfully illustrates that Edna's plight is not a singular one or even confined to women as a gender. Rather, it is a widespread condition of human existence, of life within a social order. Under a Marxist lens, the reader finds the novel is a prime example of an exploitative system which relies on ideology to secure its own reproduction. The novel is full of characters who are limited by their social personas, illustrating the universality of such a con...

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...she has been cast to play a role and decides that she no longer desires it. She would be willing to make her own role, and risk her reputation, but finds that she cannot live the life she wants without making her children's lives into a scandal as well. In The Awakening, Chopin illustrates succesfully how ideology shapes everyone, with or without their consent.

Works Cited

Althusser, Louis. "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses." 1970. Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review, 2001. 85-126. Print
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening: An Authoritative Text, Biographical and Historical Contexts, Criticism. Ed. Margo Culley. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. Print.
Gray, Jennifer B. "The Escape of the "Sea": Ideology and "The Awakening" The Southern Literary Journal 37.1 (2004): 53-73. JSTOR. Web. 20 Feb. 2012.

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