The Awakening Essay

The Awakening Essay

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Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening, explores the boundaries that kept women from expressing themselves and ever being their true self. The main figure, Edna Pontellier, becomes a very influential figure in feminism through her valiant attempt to live an "awakened" life that she never had the chance to previously. However, the societal norms of the day, coupled with the surrounding characters around Edna, lead to her decision to commit suicide, which does not parallel the strength that Edna strove for throughout the entire book. It is for these reasons that, although Edna became a strong woman throughout the book, her final decision to commit suicide was unwarranted and took away all that she worked towards in the blink of an eye.

Edna Pontellier's attempt in obtaining feminine autonomy was greatly thwarted by the restrictions that bourgeoisie society placed on gender roles. It was common knowledge that women were meant to serve one purpose and one purpose only, being obedient housewives. As a Creole woman, it was even more pertinent to her heritage that women be strict Christians and follow the basic tenets of housewifery. Her father even went on to tell Leonce Pontellier that he needed to knock some sense into her and regain control over her when she refused to attend her own sister's wedding. Leonce himself shows the general view of males (that females are goods of the husband) when Edna comes back sunburned from the beach and the book notes him ."..looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage," (3). Another social foundation that was accepted universally was the notion that women were to stay home with the children while the man of the house held a job outsi...


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... had been given her to control the working of her body and soul... She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before" (36). When Edna again ventures to the ocean at the end of the novel to drown herself, it is very uncharacteristic of the powerful feminist woman that had been portrayed throughout the book as being a beacon of light for the future of women.

Edna Pontellier may have had many great successes during her time as a feminist, but the forces that opposed her eventually overtook her will to continue. The societal norms and other various characters close to her proved to be overwhelming to Edna as she went on to commit suicide at the end of the novel. This suicide took away all that Edna had worked towards, and could've ever achieved, showing just how uncharacteristic it was for the strong feminist she was made out to be throughout the book.

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