Finding True Freedom in Kate Chopin's The Awakening Essay

Finding True Freedom in Kate Chopin's The Awakening Essay

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Finding True Freedom in The Awakening 

Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening details the endeavors of heroine Edna Pontellier to cope with the realization that she is not, nor can she ever be, the woman she wants to be. Edna has settled for less. She is married for all the wrong reasons, saddled with the burden of motherhood, and trapped by social roles that would never release her. The passage below is only one of the many tender and exquisitely sensory passages that reveal Edna’s soul to the reader.

"The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, dancing, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace."(32)

When Edna's one chance for change; her only hope, Robert, deserts her, she realizes that her dreams are unachievable.  It is this grim acceptance that steals our heroine's last shard of optimism from her. Edna Pontellier's suicide is completely believable, justifiable, and understandable. This world was too cruel for her tender spirit; this life too stifling for her to bear. None of this surprises me. How many women (or men, for that matter) go through life with their eyes closed? How many find it easier to simply shut out the ugliness and horror that surrounds them? Finally seeing the loathsome existence they are a part of can simply be "too much" for many to sustain. Utter despair and hopelessness soon devour that fragile soul, with frailty too great for this existence.

Mr. Pontellier's thoughts reveal much about Edna's nature to us, and perhaps most of her mistakes as well. He feels that "his wife...


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... The social roles she was trying to break away from would never really have released her. "Leonce and the children…were a part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul" (137). I find myself wishing that she had never opened her eyes; that she could have lived out her days blissfully ignorant of the circumstances which bound her. This being impossible, even more than the idea of a life of her own, Edna chose the only possible option to escape from an existence full of unfulfilled desires and unhappiness.

Edna re-enters the sea; scene of her first taste of power and emancipation. She returns because it offers her the only other possible freedom she is allowed; the freedom of death. It is not an act of weakness, or romanticism…it is that of a woman claiming her liberty, her strength…and her self…one last time.

 

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