The Awakening

The Awakening

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The Awakening

Edna’s awakening, from the beginning in Grand Isle, to her life in New Orleans and finally her death back in Grand Isle, takes place quite suddenly. She goes from a quiet, reserved lady, to an outspoken, strong-willed woman. Despite this dramatic change, one characteristic remained constant throughout the book. She was very confused about who she was and what she wanted in life. She is pursued by Robert, and is surprised when feelings for him stir inside her. At the beginning of the book, she dismisses him, mainly because she was married.

“Mrs. Pontellier was glad he had not assumed a similar role toward herself. It would have been unacceptable and annoying.”

As the weeks go on, her attitude changes greatly. Her response to Robert is one of love and passion.

“I love you,” she whispered “only you, no one but you…” (page 179, fifth paragraph).

Edna often doesn’t understand her emotions and what is going on in her head, and she also frequently misinterprets them. Because of this she is a very unpredictable character, her actions and words are inconsistent in their messages.

Edna Pontellier could not have told why, wishing to go to the beach with Robert, she should in the first place have declined, and in the second place have followed in obedience to one of the two contradictory impulses which impelled her."

“Yes,” she said. “The years that are gone seem like dreams- if one might go on sleeping and dreaming- but to wake up and find- oh! well! perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even if to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.”

She seemed to welcome her awakening and, at first, enjoyed it. There were drawbacks to it though, just as benefits. People around her were deeply hurt by some of her independent, and sometimes self-absorbed, actions. By letting her feelings for Robert in, she discovered passion, but at the same time, pain and loss. The thought of continuing her life the way it was, and not being able to be with Robert drove her to such despair she came to the conclusion it was better off not living. As sad as this seems, she was at peace with herself when she died, which ultimately was all that she was striving for.

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I think that Edna made the decision to end her life at the end of the novel because she felt completely hopeless in her life. She had reached a point where she didn’t think anything would be changed for the better and thought if she continued living she would be stuck in this dreary, depressing life forever. She had seen how good life could be, without the social confines that engulfed her. Her infatuation with Robert had grown to become an obsession and in her mind she had come to a point where life without his love and companionship was not possible. In some ways this might seem like the coward’s way out, just Edna escaping her problems. In reality it was more than that, it was Edna finally coming to terms with what she wanted in life, and what she wanted, she couldn’t possibly have. Throughout her awakening she had times of happiness, but mainly was unhappy in her life. When she entered the ocean that day, she was perfectly content and peaceful, not scared or miserable. It brought back memories of her happy childhood and places she loved. If she couldn’t be happy in life, at least she could be happy in death.
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