A Feminist Reading of The Awakening
The Awakening is not new to me. However, in the class when I read it before the instructor refused to entertain a feminist criticism. The theory presented was that Edna knew what kind of man she was marrying and all these things she went through: her friendship with Madame Reisz leaving the house, entertaining her friends at the party, her situation with Robert and Arobin were all selfish efforts toward the ultimate freedom which is death.
I feel Chopin faults Leonce as much as Edna for Edna's problems. He is a cold fish. He is controlling and he puts on a show for friends and neighbors "proving" he is a model husband which he is not. He is Creole and I think Edna, being as reserve as she is, is not the best mate for him. He possibly needs an outwardly passionate woman to keep him interested and alive as a husband. For a Creole he is reserve and he does not know how to respond to Edna's reserve.
By the end of chapter V we know the Pontelliers have problems and we know Robert is sympathetic towards Edna merely because she is a woman and he likes women. We have also seen the "ideal" woman in the person of Madame Ragtignolle. Chapter VI is very different. Chopin lets us know that Edna has begun to realize her world and its relationships are less than desirable. She and Leonce don't have a happy, fulfilling marriage. She is not the mother-earth type and can not appreciate her children. Although, some of the problem here is because Leonce undermines her mothering efforts and has done so from the beginning. His mother epitomizes motherhood and no one can measure up. I doubt she would have been a demonstrative mother but she would have been a loving one. The last paragraph of Ch...
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... the very end of the story just before Edna enters the ocean for the last time End watches the coast. There is no living thing all along the beach, but there is a bird, a wild free bird, with a broken wing who ”was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water .” Even the wild birds need support. End had no support, just like this bird and her fate is the same “down, down into the water.”I’m hung up on the lack of communication between Edna and Leonce. I wonder if Leonce has a comparable story of misery.
In the first several chapters Edna says four lines and they are in response to someone or something else. They are not ideas originating with her. Leonce’s words to Edna are aimed at control. He goes off to the hotel and says he’ll be back whenever This leaves her waiting for his next move, his next demand (request).
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