Personal Response to The Awakening

In Kate Chopin’s, The Awakening, she presents a radicalized idea of society through the viewpoint of Edna Pontellier. Chopin contrasts Edna with two others feminine characters, Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz, constructing a spectrum of “Victorian femininity”.

Adele falls on one extreme side of the spectrum. She is presented as the opposite of Edna, the Victorian feminine ideal. An embodiment of the perfect women, Adele has no desires or real identity outside her role as a mother and wife. She centers her life around her family and domestic duties, prioritizing their wants and needs. By introducing Adele as a close friend of Edna, Chopin provides readers with a clear and striking contrast. This emphasizes the conflicting views of the characters, increasing the significance of Edna’s refusal to conform to societal norms. On the other side of the spectrum, Mademoiselle Reisz is characterized as a rude and ill-tempered woman. She rejects the socially accepted lifestyle of Adele, opting for a life solitude and independence. Mademoiselle serves as a muse and inspiration to Edna, the catalyst of Edna’s radicalization. The relationship between Mademoiselle Reisz and Edna acts as an eye-opener for Edna, allowing Edna to seek an unknown side of her identity, exploring her new-found emotional dept and spiritual freedom.

Throughout the novel, Edna is presented with a dilemma. She could either conform to the socially accepted identity of a Victorian women, living a boring albeit comfortable life, or break away from society’s fixed boundaries, prioritizing her own wants and needs. Choosing the latter, she is immediately met with criticism, stemming from both within and outside the bounds of the novel. Edna is frequently described as “selfish,” a word I find unfitting. The word “selfish” has a negative connotation, portraying Edna in bad light. In my opinion, Edna brings up an intriguing discussion about society.

The concept of society has always been present. However, I question the extent to which society should play a role in dictating the lives of its community. While society is natural and essential for continual of human life, it creates rigid boundaries for its community. Anything that falls outside these margins is automatically rejected and condemned, whereas actions that conform to these norms are accepted and praised. Although society is beneficial to some, to others it acts as a handcuff, restraining their true passions and desires. This realization made me question the true purpose of society, whether society may be what is holding us back from becoming the best versions of ourselves. A difference in opinion has led to the change in norms
and radicalization has made progress throughout time. Ideas that were previously seen as unacceptable are more prone to acceptance in the current time. Nevertheless, change is a long and frustrating process, and I wonder whether the concept of society is source of problems, whether it would warrant systemic change.

5 thoughts on “Personal Response to The Awakening”

  1. Klangnao! what a wonderful response. I enjoyed reading this personal response and agree with you when you mention the affect society has on becoming the best version of ourselves.

  2. Good job Klangnao : ) I liked how you contrasted Edna and Adele and I agree that they are polar opposites of the spectrum. I was wondering what the effect of this polarization had on you specifically as a reader.

  3. This response was amazing! I was intrigued by your thoughts about how society plays a huge role in people’s lives. I’m also impressed that you noticed how Chopin frequently uses the word selfish to describe Edna’s actions.

  4. I really liked your response Klangnao! You really show the comparison between these women and opened a new way for me to look at the book. You deepen the idea of social convention and show examples in the characters. Really nice!

  5. Wow Klangnao, your comment made me further question the problems we have in our society. I wholly agree with you. I think that a lot of people perceive that Edna is a selfish mother and wife because they are all influenced by the social convention, and their morals were built from the different conventions, so they fail to realize maybe we can step out of the loop.

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