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The Controlling Men of The Awakening
In The Awakening, the male characters attempt to exert control over the character of Edna. None of the men understand her need for independence. Edna thinks she will find true love with Robert but realizes that he will never understand her needs to be an independent woman. Edna's father and husband control her and they feel she has a specific duty as a woman. Alcee Arobin, also attempts to control Edna in his own way. Edna knows she wants freedom. She realizes this at the beginning of the book. "Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her (Pg. 642). Throughout The Awakening she is trying to gain that independence that she wants so bad.
The Colonel, Edna's father, is very strict. He thinks very highly of discipline. At the end of The Awakening, Edna feels the struggle she has with her father. "Edna heard her father's voice and her sister Margaret's" (Pg 723). At this moment, Edna wants freedom. She wants freedom from the life that has her trapped to be someone she isn't. The Colonel thought that Mr. Pontellier should be more controlling over Edna. "You are too lenient, too lenient by far, Leonce. Authority and coercion are what is needed. Put your foot down good and hard; the only way to manage a wife. Take my word for it" (Pg. 688). Edna does everything around the house when the Colonel comes to visit because she doesn't want him to think she isn't playing her role as a woman in the family. "She would not permit a servant or one of the children to do anything for him which she might do herself" (Pg. 687).
Leonce Pontellier believes women should live only for their families' well-being. "He reproached his wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children. If it was not a mother's place to look after children, whose on earth was it? He himself had his hands full with his brokerage business" (Pg. 637). Mr. Pontellier never thinks for a minute that it is also his responsibility to take care of the children.
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"He thought it very discouraging that his wife, who was the sole object of his existence, evinced so little interest in the things which concerned him and valued so little his conversation" (Pg. 636). Leonce never asks Edna how her day is going, or how she is feeling about certain things, yet he expects her to be completely mesmerized with him and his conversations. If Edna doesn't act the way a lady should, it could ruin Leonce's business. The people of the community will look down on him if they know his wife is out of control like he thinks she is. She doesn't take care of the children, she has an artistic pastime that interferes with family duties, and she wants freedom. This could really ruin Mr. Pontellier's image.
Alcee Arobin is a womanizer who knows how to take advantage. "He responded at once presenting himself at her home with all his disarming naïveté. And then there was scarcely a day which followed that she did not see him or was not reminded of him" (Pg. 694). Once Alcee has Edna, he doesn't want to let go. He constantly wants to see her and be around her. He is also keeping her from being independent.
Robert Lebrune wants a traditional wife. He is just like Edna's husband in the way he feels about a woman's duty. Robert leaves Edna when he realizes that Edna doesn't want to marry him. "I forgot everything but a wild dream of your some way becoming my wife" (Pg. 717). Robert hopes and dreams that Edna will leave Leonce and be with him. He isn't thinking about the fact that Edna wants to leave Leonce because she wants freedom to do what she wants and to express herself. "I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier's possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. If he were to say, `Here, Robert, take her and be happy; she is yours,' I should laugh at you both" (Pg. 717). The last thing Edna wants is to be owned by someone, even if it is Robert. This really surprises Robert and he backs away.
Right before Edna takes her life she thinks about her freedom. "She heard the barking of an old dog that was chained to the sycamore tree" (Pg 723). This shows that she thinks of herself as a chained dog. She wants to be free. All of the men in her life control her, and even when she thinks she is free, she is still chained down. They don't understand her need for independence. She wants to express who she really is and she if she can't, than there is no point in living.