Essay PreviewMore ↓
The society of Grand Isle places many expectations on its women to belong to
men and be subordinate to their children. Edna Pontellier's society, therefore,
abounds with "mother-women," who "idolized their children, worshipped their
husbands, and esteemed it to a holy privilege to efface themselves as
individuals". The characters of Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz
represent what society views as the suitable and unsuitable woman figures.
Mademoiselle Ratignolle as the ideal Grand Isle woman, a home-loving mother and
a good wife, and Mademoiselle Reisz as the old, unmarried, childless, musician
who devoted her life to music, rather than a man. Edna oscillates between the
two identities until she awakens to the fact that she needs to be an individual,
but encounters the resistance of society's standards to her desire.
Kate Chopin carefully, though subtly, establishes that Edna does not neglect
her children, but only her mother-woman image. Chopin portrays this idea by
telling the reader "...Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The mother-woman
seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle". Edna tries on one occasion to
explain to Adele how she feels about her children and how she feels about
herself, which greatly differs from the mother-woman image. She says: "I would
give up the unessential; I would give my money; I would give my life for my
children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only
something I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me." This
specifically contrasts the mother-woman idea of self-sacrificing for your
husband and children. Also, the "something . . . which is revealing itself"
does not become completely clear to Edna herself until just before the end, when
she does indeed give her life, but not her self for her children's sake.
Although Edna loves her children she does not confuse her own life with theirs.
Similarly to Edna's relationship with her children is that with her husband,
Leonce. The Grand Isle society defines the role of wife as full devotion
towards their husband and to self-sacrafice for your husband. Edna never adhered
to the societies definition, even at the beginning of the novel. For example,
the other ladies at Grand Isle "all declared that Mr.
How to Cite this Page
"growaw Kate Chopin's The Awakening - Edna Pontellier’s Awakening." 123HelpMe.com. 26 Sep 2018
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The Growth of Edna in The Awakening In Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening, Edna Pontellier is forced to strive to fit in with everyone and everything around her. Born and raised in Kentucky, Edna is used to the Southern society, but when she marries Leonce Pontellier, a Catholic and a Creole, and moves to Louisiana with him, her surroundings change a great deal. This makes her feel extremely uncomfortable and confused; she feels as though she has lost her identity along with a great deal of her happiness.... [tags: Chopin Awakening Essays]
648 words (1.9 pages)
- The Metamorphosis of Edna Pontellier in The Awakening The Awakening, written by Kate Chopin, tells the story of a woman, Edna Pontellier, who transforms herself from an obedient housewife to a person who is alive with strength of character and emotions which she no longer has to repress. This metamorphosis is shaped by her surroundings. Just as her behavior is more shocking and horrifying because of her position in society, it is that very position which causes her to feel restrained and makes her yearn to rebel.... [tags: Chopin Awakening Essays]
582 words (1.7 pages)
- The Epiphany in The Awakening Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, presents the struggle of an American woman at the turn of the century to find her own identity. At the beginning of the novel, the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, seems to define her identity in terms of being a wife, a mother and a member of her community. As the story progresses, Edna seeks to define herself as an individual. The turning point in her struggle can be seen clearly in a scene in which Edna realizes for the first time that she can swim. Having struggled to learn to swim for months, she realizes in this scene that it is easy and natural. This discovery is symbolic of Edna’s break from viewing herself... [tags: Chopin Awakening Essays]
819 words (2.3 pages)
- Unfulfilled Edna of The Awakening As evidenced in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and other novels of the 1800’s, women writers of this period seem to feel very repressed. Leonce Pontellier seemed to be fond of his wife, and treated her as one would treat a loved pet. In the beginning of the story it describes him as looking at her as a “valuable piece of personal property”. He does not value her fully as a human being more as a piece of property. However, he expects her to be everything he thinks she should be.... [tags: Chopin Awakening Essays]
763 words (2.2 pages)
- Identity in The Awakening Kate Chopin's The Awakening is about a woman's growing sense of identity. The novel takes place on an island south of New Orleans and in New Orleans. Edna Pontellier is 28 years old when she "wakes up". Her husband Leonce Pontellier is much older than she - forty years old. The Awakening opens when Mr. Pontellier - a businessman- is disturbed by the noise some parrots are doing. They repeat "Allez vous-en!" which means go away. It sounds such as an invitation to Edna to leave her cage of marriage.... [tags: Chopin Awakening Essays]
738 words (2.1 pages)
- Rebirth in The Awakening Kate Chopin, author of The Awakening, focused a spotlight on some very dark corners of our society. As a woman, I want to have a voice in my marriage, and I want to make decisions along with my husband, if I decide to marry. In The Awakening, Edna is a married woman who does not want to be a wife or a mother. She is bound to her home and her husband who makes every important decision in their marriage. Mr. Pontellier was a very demanding, know it all, kind of man.... [tags: Chopin Awakening Essays]
760 words (2.2 pages)
- The Search for Self in The Awakening In The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, Edna Pontellier is a married woman with children. However many of her actions seem like those of a child. In fact, Edna Pontelliers’ life is an irony, in that her immaturity allows her to mature. Throughout this novel, there are many examples of this because Edna is continuously searching for herself in the novel. One example of how Edna¡¦s immaturity allows her to mature is when she starts to cry when LeƒVonce, her husband, says she is not a good mother.... [tags: Chopin Awakening Essays]
1146 words (3.3 pages)
- The Awakening: Personal Growth and Death The Awakening is a novel about the growth of a woman becoming her own person; in spite of the expectations society has for her. The book follows Edna Pontellier as she struggles to find her identity. Edna knows that she cannot be happy filling the role that society has created for her. She did not believe that she could break from this pattern because of the pressures of society. As a result she ends up taking her own life. However, readers should not sympathize with her for taking her own life.... [tags: Chopin Awakening Essays]
992 words (2.8 pages)
- Kate Chopin's The Awakening Kate Chopin's novella The Awakening tells the story of Edna Pontellier, a woman who throughout the novella tries to find herself. Edna begins the story in the role of the typical mother-woman distinctive of Creole society but as the novelette furthers so does the distance she puts between herself and society. Edna's search for independence and a way to stray from society's rules and ways of life is depicted through symbolism with birds, clothing, and Edna's process of learning to swim.... [tags: Kate Chopin Awakening]
1023 words (2.9 pages)
- Kate Chopin's Awakening Kate Chopin's depiction of “The Awakening” is realistic as she develops Edna Pontellier’s character from a socially and morally respectable individual to an individual that turns her back on everything closest to her as she births her new self-being. Edna Pontellier struggles between her subconscious and conscious thoughts as unusual feelings stir unfounded emotions and senses. Some of Chopin’s characters lend themselves in Edna’s “awakening”. Through examination of Leonce Pontellier, Robert Lebrun, Madame Moiselle Reisz, Adele Ratignolle, and Alcee Arobin the life of Edna Pontellier turns into her ultimate death.... [tags: Kate Chopin Awakening Essays]
1462 words (4.2 pages)
husband in the world." And "Mrs. Pontellier was forced to admit she knew of
none better". By using words like "forced" and "admit" Chopin illustrates
Edna's true feelings towards Leonce. That she married him not because there are
none better, but because there are also none worse. Edna's leaving Leonce's
mansion is another important detail when considering her rebellion against the
mother-woman idea. By moving to her own residence, Edna takes a colossal step
towards autonomy, a direct violation of the mother-woman image. Throughout The
Awakening, Edna increasingly distances herself from the image of the mother-
woman, until her suicide, which serves as the total opposite of the mother-woman
Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz, the two important female subsidary
characters, provide the two different identities Edna associates with. Adele
serves as the perfect "mother-woman" in The Awakening, being both married and
pregnant, but Edna does not follow Adele's footsteps. For Edna, Adele appears
unable to perceive herself as an individual human being. She possesses no sense
of herself beyond her role as wife and mother, and therefore Adele exists only
in relation to her family, not in relation to herself or the world. Edna
desires individuality, and the identity of a mother-woman does not provide that.
In contrast to Adele Ratignolle, Mademoiselle Reisz offers Edna an alternative
to the role of being yet another mother-woman. Mademoislle Reisz has in
abundance the autonomy that Adele completely lacks. But Reisz's life lacks love,
while Adele abounds in it. Mademoiselle Reisz's loneliness makes clear that an
adequate life cannot build altogether upon autonomy. Although she has a secure
sense of her own individuality and autonomy, her life lacks love, friendship, or
What Edna chooses for her identity is a combination of Adele Ratignolle and
Mademoiselle Reisz. More honest in self-awareness than Adele, more dependent on
human relationships than Reisz.
In The Awakening the woman's existance intertwines with her maternal nature.
Edna's sense of herself as a complete person makes impossible her role of wife
and mother as defined by her society; yet she discovers that her role of mother
also makes impossible her continuing development as an autonomous individual.
So her thoughts as she walks into the sea comment profoundly on the identity
problems that women face: "She thought of Leonce and the children. They were a
part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her,
body and soul". Unable to have a full human existence, Edna chooses to have
none at all.
Allen, Priscilla. "Old Critics and New: The Treatment of Chopin's The Awakening." In The Authority of Experience: Essays in Feminist Criticism, ed. Arlyn Diamond and Lee R. Edwards. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1977, 224-238.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. A Norton Critical Edition: Kate Chopin: The Awakening. Ed. Margo Culley. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. 3-109.
Seyersted, Per, and Emily Toth, eds. A Kate Chopin Miscellany. Natchitoches: Northwestern State University Press, 1979.
Sullivan, Barbara. "Introduction to The Awakening." In The Awakening, ed. Barbara Sullivan. New York: Signet, 1976.
Toth, Emily. "Kate Chopin's The Awakening as Feminist Criticism." Louisiana Studies, 15 (1976), 241-251.