Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening expresses the difficulty of finding a woman’s place in society. Edna learns of new ideas such as freedom and independence while vacationing in Grand Isle. Faced with a choice to conform to society’s expectations or to obey personal desires for independence, Edna Pontellier realizes that either option will result in dissatisfaction. Thus, Edna’s awakening in Grand Isle leads to her suicide.
Edna’s awakening occurs during her family’s vacation in Grand Isle. It is here that she learns to freely express herself and be unreserved in her behavior and speech. Through the Creole women, Edna becomes free from the chains that bind her to societal expectations. Adele initiates Edna’s arousing as does the local flirtatious man, Robert Lebrun. It is at Grand Isle that Edna feels most alive: engaging in idle talk, flirting unabashedly, receiving loving attention from a man, paints, learning to swim, an awareness of independence, and becoming conscious of her sexuality. Through the contrast of her experiences (depression when at home and joy when playing at sea), Edna recognizes an awakening, or a change, within her self. She discovers a part of herself separate from her husband, children, and previous life. This discovery fuels her incendiary rejection of her domestic responsibilities when she returns to her home in New Orleans. This ignites the passionate fire of her heart, causing her to shake previous responsibilities, open a house independent of her husband to quench her sexual desires, and liberate herself from domestic restraints. Conclusively, Edna’s vivification causes her to feel responsible for only her passions and urges, neglecting remaining responsibilit...
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...nt for personal independence. It is only through the futile attempts to investigate which option (convention or passion) is best that Edna realizes there is no appropriate choice to be made. Edna recognizes, through her awakening, the existence of two entirely unlike female models of society. Neither of the models fit her, and thus, she stands in societal purgatory waiting, in vain, for some sort of epiphany as to which model is best for her. She cannot fully connect with either female model, nor can she remove connections that bind her to each. She is unwilling to compromise. Through her stubborn frigidity, Edna chooses a non-choice, to surrender to the author of her awakening: the sea. From the sea, Edna learns of her independence. Into the sea, Edna surrenders society’s undesired requirement of action. The sea becomes both the giver of life and provider of death.
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