The Awakening by Kate Chopin was about Edna breaking free from her traditional role in society and becoming free as a woman. The story begins with Edna in a marriage with two children. From the get go we get a feeling of disconnect from her family and her marriage to Léonce. An example is when Edna is talking with her friends and we get the passage, “they all declared that Mr. Pontellier was the best husband in the world. Mrs. Pontellier was forced to admit that she knew of none better” (p. 8). Léonce her husband is set up as a typical husband from the 1800s who is very controlling over his wife. Edna from the start feels like an object or valuable piece of jewelry to her husband as shown when Edna says, “I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose” (p. 128). This situation that the story begins in, sets up the rest of the story for her awakening and makes the problem the book is addressing clear.
One of the key characters in the story is Adele. She is set up as a perfect motherly figure in order to show contrast between her and Edna. Adele is in the story shown as beautiful, earthly, never complains and basically a perfect mother. She is also pregnant which further fits her into her role in traditional society in the 1800s. On the other hand we have Edna who is shown to care for her children but doesn’t make them her life and instead prioritized herself. The existence of Adele makes Edna’s want of being a free woman more impactful and clear to see as a reader.
This story uses other men to also show Edna’s awakening from society. She loves Robert, hooks up with Alcee Aroban, and is married to Léonce Pontelier. On the surface this may seem like she is not a very good woman however in the context of the story it makes sense. Edna wants to be free of her societal role so she doesn’t bother to stay loyal to her husband who treats her as an object and instead loves who she wants to love. This is an awakening for edna to be able to love whoever she wants however I think she is still somewhat trapped to society as shown when she commits suicide in the last chapter. I believe this is saying that the pressure from society on women is enormous and even if you try to break free society you will just ruin yourself and be all alone. This makes me wonder if the author Kate Chopin felt the same as Edna and is trying to tell us the reader that society doesn’t have room for those who break free from it. It’s as if she is criticizing the way the world is and wants society to change and becoming willing to accept people who break free from the standards.