In the novel The Awakening, Kate Chopin tells of Edna Pontellier's struggle with fate. Edna Pontellier awakens from a slumber only to find that her life is displeasing, but these displeasing thoughts are not new to Edna. The actions taken by Edna Pontellier in the novel The Awakening clearly determine that she is not stable. The neglect of her duties as a wife and mother and as a woman of society are all affected by her mental state. Her choices to have affairs and disregard her vow of marriage represent her impaired judgment. The change in her attitude and interests becomes quite irresponsible, and that change along with her final decision to commit suicide tell the reader that Edna Pontellier is not capable of making valid judgments. Had Edna Pontellier been of sound mind and body, she would not have ended her young life by suicide. The fact that she can clearly and easily turn to such an alternative suggests that she is depressed and obviously in opposition to the church. The thoughts and actions of Edna Pontellier are solely determined by her manic depressive state, her apparent repressed abuse from her childhood, and her abandonment of Christianity.
Throughout the novel the reader gets a clear sense of Edna Pontellier's peculiar mind and her manic depressive state. She is continually plagued by the moment. Her mood shifts from highs to lows show the reader that a sadness is perpetually within her:
We are told there are days when she "was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with sunlight.." On such days Edna "found it good to be alone and unmolested." Yet on other days, she is molested by despondencies so severe that "...
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...manic depressive state which leads her to her suicide. She no longer has a will to repress any untold secrets from the past or perhaps the past. Since she has strayed far from her Christian beliefs, she has given in to the evil that has worked to overcome her. She believes she is finally achieving her freedom when she is only confining herself to one single choice, death. In taking her own life, she for the last time falls into an extremely low mood, disregards anyone but herself, and disobeys the church.
Franklin, R. F. "The Awakening and the Failure of Psyche" American Literature 56 (Summer 1984): 510-526.
Platizky, R. "Chopin's The Awakening." Explicator 53 (Winter 1995): 99-102.
Seyersted, P. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969.
Skaggs, P. Kate Chopin. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985.
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