Kate Chopin's The Awakening – In Defense of Edna Pontellier

Kate Chopin's The Awakening – In Defense of Edna Pontellier

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The Awakening – In Defense of Edna

 

Does everyone have the right to happiness?  It is stated in the

Constitution that we as Americans have the right to life, liberty, and the

PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.   In the novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin the main

Character Edna has a comfortable life.  A sweet loving husband, cute

children, enormous amounts of money and an extremely large house.  Yet with all

of this Edna is not fulfilled. Edna never took time to examine her life to see

what she wanted out of it.  After marriage, Edna wanted the freedom to

explore her mind, find herself and find what this person liked.  In the

following I will defend the actions Edna took to find her happiness as

irrational as they may seem.

 

This story took place in the late 1800's when women's liberation was never heard

of.  In this era women were supposed to find happiness in serving their husbands

and taking care of the children.  There were no other options within the

restrictive boundaries of marriage, and divorce was never an alternative.

Women's lives were austere and self enrichment or self gratification were often

times cast aside relative to the more mundane tasks of daily life.  Most women

accepted this but Edna did not.  She figured that life was more than constantly

doing for someone else.  She wanted time for herself in order to figure out who

she was.  Some may see this as selfish but everyone is entitled to “me” time and

space.  Although I admit she did not go about it in the best way at times; Edna

still was in going in the right direction.

 

Edna's marriage to Leonce Pontellier was to spite her father the Colonel because

Leonce was of a different religious faith.  Also, Leonce was unceasingly devoted

to Edna which was something that had never occurred in any other relationship.

Edna, who had not experienced many male relationships before this was naive when

it came to men.  This naiveté affected her in such a way that she neither knew

love and it's limitations nor the experience it took to make it through a

relationship.  This showed Edna's immaturity which was a big issue in this story.

This shown as the woman inside who had been asleep all those years. Her

relationship with Leonce was what she sought to find happiness in.

 

After six years of marriage to Leonce,  Edna felt an ever-growing void in her

life.  She gave up all of her responsibilities such as taking care of her

children when they were sick and she never spent time playing with them.

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  This

shows a contrast between her inner self which was “awakening” and her outer self

as a mother and a wife.   At first, her character is portrayed as accepting of

the “outer role” in which she has to play.  Soon after though she finds out that

she can have fulfillment too.  Edna's “awakening” occurs and she is able to grow

spiritually, intimately and emotionally.  Her life is confined as if in a cage.

This confinement is represented by the parrot in the story squaking in French “

Get out!”.  He was caged and he was screaming to leave.  The same is true of

Edna's heart.   It was screaming for freedom and independence in her monotonous

life.  This resulted in her moving into the “pigeon house” that she purchased,

which was a small house she bought around the corner from the Pontellier's

mansion.  There Edna displayed her independence by her lack of acceptance of the

things that Leonce had bought for her and proved to everyone including herself

that no one had to be dependent on what society called the “moral way of living.”

 

 

In the end Edna swims naked into the ocean that was so free and open freeing

herself from societies restrictions.  She swam out smoothly and fearlessly and

there she gave up herself to the ocean.  Her decision to free herself of earthly

bonds was made with great resolve.  Edna had made her decision.  She swam out

and made the ultimate sacrifice...... herself.  Edna knew she was born in the

right place at the wrong time and there was nothing this life had to offer her.

There was no room for free thinking women.  She had two choices these being

either to live her whole life in misery and hide her spirit and soul, or to

sacrifice herself, that is her outer being and keep her dignity and essence.

Edna chose the latter as she gracefully left this world.

 

All of Edna's actions were not unintentional.  She knew what she wanted like

most, but Edna was the only woman to have the courage and the determination to

go on the road less traveled.  This story showed Edna's awakening, and her

realization that she had options and did not have to go along.  This was her

revelation but she knew that society would never accept it so she killed herself

with dignity instead of being just another shadow.

 
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