The Awakening by Kate Chopin is a book that could be labeled as a “feminist classic”. The main character Edna Pontellier experiences many feelings and struggles that women face in society. This makes her very relatable to many people including myself. My connection to Edna puzzled me because although we had many similarities Edna’s character was one I was annoyed by. Her actions of breaking gender roles and not conforming to society’s expectations are seen as revolutionary yet I still found her character rather irritable.This was a confusing feeling because I see myself in Edna and yet I don’t like her. This raised many questions and thoughts.
Edna Pontellier’s disregard for her responsibilities to her husband, children and society make her the perfect feminist. Edna feels trapped by the traditional roles and expectations placed upon her by society so she acts on her feelings. Her journey of self discovery leads her to independence from her husband. This is a scandalous act for her time yet she chooses to do what she wants and not fit into the box society made for her. She stops conforming to society’s ideals of a woman by disregarding her mother responsibilities. Instead she prioritizes her own happiness by painting. Her awakening leads her to questioning patriarchal norms. For example she is disgusted by the idea of marriage which was quintessential to a woman’s life in that era. Her actions slowly unfold her awakening and she decides to leave her husband and children which goes against societal expectations for a woman to prioritize her family above all else.
While all these actions make Edna a prime example of a feminist I still found her unlikeable. This thought was hard to wrap around at first. I was confused how as a woman who has struggled through similar experiences as Edna I could not like her? Does it make me a hypocrite or a bad person? For a long time I wondered what about Edna really made me dislike her. This feeling was like a piece of food stuck in your teeth that you could not get out. I later realized that the reason I dislike Edna is because she is the version of myself I wish to be. As previously stated Edna is the perfect representation of feminism and that’s what I aspire to be. My dislike for Edna is rooted from my envy for her ability to act on her impulses. I am jealous of the way she can disregard what is expected of her and just be who she wants to be. I wish to be able to not care about the standards set by men in today’s society and just be who I want to be. I’m spiteful that Edna got to let go of her responsibilities. I want to swim in my own sea.