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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. ¡§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?¡¨(13). Edna, instead of telling her husband that she had taken care of her children, began to cry like a baby after her husband reprimanded her. ¡§Mrs. Pontellier was by that time thoroughly awake. She began to cry a little¡Kshe thrust her face, steaming and wet, into the bend of her arm, and she went on crying there, not caring any longer to dry her face, her eyes, her arms,¡¨(13,14). These tears made Edna look as if she was still a child and that she is tired of being treated as a child by her husband. These tears also showed her she did not like where she was, a sign of maturity. Her tears symbolize her first awakening.
Although the next morning, after Edna had cried the night before had to go and say good-bye to her husband because he was leaving on a business trip. Edna acted immaturely around him again when he gave her half the money he won the night before. ¡§¡¥It will buy a handsome wedding present for Sister Janet!¡¦ she exclaimed, smoothing out the bills as she counted them one by one,¡¨(15). Edna is spoiled by all of her husbands money.
Another example of how Edna¡¦s immaturity allows her to mature is when Edna swam like a baby when she went swimming for the first time, and she had over estimated her power. ¡§Once she turned and looked toward the shore, toward the people she had left there. She had not gone any great distance¡Kshe made no mention of her encounter with death and her flash of terror, except to say to her husband, ¡¥I thought I should have perished out there alone.
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Another example of how Edna¡¦s immaturity allows her to mature is when she begins to think about Robert again. While her husband is away on business, Edna neglects her duties on Tuesday¡¦s and does not stay home to see her guests. Instead, Edna goes out into the city, and at the time was considered foolish and immature to be doing. Edna would go out and visit Mademoiselle Reisz at her house. She would go to her house and read letters that Robert had written to Mademoiselle Reisz. ¡§Show me the letter and play for me the Impromptu. You see I have persistence. Does that quality count for anything¡K¡¨(106). This shows that Edna is now beginning to emotionally mature. She is now learning and just starting to find out about her true feelings towards Robert Lebrun. ¡§¡¥I love you,¡¦ she whispered, ¡¥only you, no one but you. It was you who awoke me last summer out of a life ¡Vlong, stupid dream¡Know you are here we shall love each other, my Robert. We shall be everything to each other. Nothing else in the world is of any consequence,¡¦¡¨ (179). Edna feels as if she has matured so much in the novel that now she knows that Robert is her soul mate, her true love, and her emotional maturity. She was only able to find this maturity after cheating on her husband.
Another example is that demonstrates Edna¡¦s road to maturity through immaturity is when she refuses to go inside. One night she chooses to go sleep outside in the hammock. Her husband tells her to come inside, yet she refuses to do so. She tells him she does not want to go inside, and this shows the reader that she has a mind of her own and once again is learning to make her own decisions ¡V making these decisions is showing maturity on her part.
One more example of how Edna¡¦s immaturity allows her to mature is by the way that she allows her infatuation for Arobin to get in the way of her normal everyday life. She allows her infatuation for him to get in the way because she starts to listen to him more, and spend more time then she should with him. Her husband despises him, yet Edna continues to act immaturely and still see him. Edna gets to a point in her infatuation of Arobin that she wishes she slept with him and she even dreams about it. ¡§She regretted that she had not made Arobin stay a half hour to talk over the horses with her¡K it was no labor to become intimate with Arobin,¡¨(126,127). That shows her immaturity even more so because she is a married woman. ¡§It was Arobin that took her home. The car ride was long, and it was late¡Khe filled his match safe, but did not light his cigarette until he left her, after she had expressed her willingness to go to the races with him again,¡¨ (125). By her staying with Arobin, and defying her husbands¡¦ wishes, which is immature, she is in a way maturing ¡V this demonstrates the irony in Edna¡¦s life, to be mature she must first be immature. She is learning to make decisions on her own. ¡§Madame Lebrun might have enjoyed the outgoing, but for some reason Edna did not want her. So they went alone, she and Arobin,¡¨ (127). Again Edna is acting immaturely, and foolishly by going with Arobin alone, which will help her to mature.
In conclusion, for Edna Pontellier to mature, she had to first act immaturely which made Edna¡¦s life a complete paradox, continually contradicting itself. ¡§The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude¡Kthe water was deep, but she lifted her white body and reached out with a long, sweeping stroke. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace,¡¨(189). Edna ended her life in the sea, her final awakening.