Category Archives: The Awakening

The Awakening: Releasing from Middle-Class Mediocracy and its Restriction on Desire

The Awakening by Kate Chopin published 1899 is a dramatic novel which elicits various topics concerning the societal obligations which many of us are confronted with. An obligation in the context of the society of the people in this essay is a requirement which seems completely obligatory from the view of the public, however, is indifferent towards whether it applies to the person themself. It could be constrictive, or deconstructive for the person, as they either align with or misalign with certain conformities. To demonstrate this, is the example of the lead character of this book, Edna Pontellier, who exhibits the struggles, and the blessings, of middle-class life. She pushes against the barriers imposed upon her way of life, forming new ideals and uncovering new lifestyles, ones that fill the void of her suppressed passion. Then the integrity and stability provided by society falls away, and Edna finds herself breached and despondent, now confronting a new set of problems within her moral self, the uncertainty of who she wants to be. Therefore, we see how societal standards provide, yet take away, from our psychological proficiency.

Edna, due to her role as wife of her family, has her duties to maintain the structure and image her family holds. “If it was not a mother’s place to look after children, whose on earth was it?”, (Ch. III) Edna is expected to cater to the satisfactions and demands of her children. “’Why, my dear, I should think you’d understand by this time that people don’t do such things; we’ve got to observe les convenances…’”, (Ch. XVII) where Edna is told she cannot be absent for her in-home day, where neighbours and friends stop by to visit: “do such things”, and that she must follow the regulations of propriety: “observe les convenances”. Her peers do not attempt to interpret how such expectations would not be fair to her, her husband Mr. Pontellier expects her to upkeep the form and function of their family, society would require her to maintain prim and proper relations, to be consistent in her behaviour, to show ‘class’. “’Why?’ asked her companion. ‘Why do you love him when you ought not to?’” (Ch. XXVI) The social expectations afflicted upon Edna are evidently without her input, therefore apply pressure to restrict her character and sense of being.

Such inhibitions to her sense of being, disallowance of her own expression affected Edna on a psychological level. “She could not have told why she was crying. Such experiences as the foregoing were not uncommon in her married life. They seemed never before to have weighed much against the abundance of her husband’s kindness and a uniform devotion which had come to be tacit and self-understood,” (Ch. III). Edna realizes that she severely lacks self-satisfaction and begins seeking spiritual outlets away from her monotonous life, building a new sense of being, “…Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her,” (Ch. IV). Things of freedom, wandering, free of constraint, “The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander…” (Ch. IV). Edna was finding she was opposed against all social constructions, segregations and structures on how to behave. She despises elements of the middle-class life like marriage, “The acme of bliss, which would have been a marriage with the tragedian, was not for her in this world.” (Ch. XXVII) An interesting exposition of Edna’s changes come from chapter seven, showing for one of the few times throughout the novel, the interior thought patterns of Edna, “Mrs. Pontellier was not a woman given to confidences, a characteristic hitherto contrary to her nature. Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself,” and “she felt she would take her place with a certain dignity in the world of reality, closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and dreams.” These quotes are significant, for they tell us in which specifically the changes in personality Edna undergoes. Even as a child, she experienced both sides of her conflict in personality, inhibiting her desires and passions, while holding fantasies of “romance and dreams”. It is possible that Edna truly desired her dreams at a younger age, however she may have been influenced by opinions of figures of society, to want a married “romance”, and dreams “money and respectability”. She would have stymied her true desires for fake longings, and it is arguable of that being responsible for her sense of confinement. Evident is how society causes a deficit in mental health of its subjects, causing internalization of feelings, and loss of sense of meaning.

Edna begins feeling passion again, finding things that speak to her person, doing wonders for her attractiveness, “…from the listless woman he had known into a being who, for the moment, seemed palpitant with the forces of life. Her speech was warm and energetic,” (Ch. XXIII). It would seem with following her passions, contradicting society, Edna’s vibrancy of character and appeal to be around grows, showing how being the way she wants worked amazingly for her, and for her health. Unfortunately, where happiness may come from flouting the law, reality still comes crashing down to ruin it. We begin to see how Edna begins feeling the oppression of society, “There was with her a feeling of having descended in the social scale, with a corresponding sense of having risen in the spiritual,” (Ch. XXXII). While having risen in the spiritual sense includes higher senses of happiness, it also involves deeper senses of sadness, of and regret. “It was not despair; but it seemed to her as if life were passing by, leaving its promise broken and unfulfilled,” (Ch. XV). “The present alone was significant; was hers, to torture her as it was doing then with the biting conviction that she had lost that which she had held,” (Ch. XIV) Edna regrets losing the stability, security provided by society, for when following passion, it requires strength, as there are no barriers preventing from being lost, or run over, or veering off in one direction, so to speak. Mme. Reisz, a friend, speaking to Edna said, “’The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth,’” (Ch. XXVII). Although interpretable in multiple ways, this quote coincides with what afflicts Edna, for with following her lust, she came upon the difficulties imposed by being independent from a society that imposes an alternate lifestyle. Edna soars “above” tradition, which is a formidable thing to do, as it involves avoiding being “bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.”

It is eventually society which ended Edna, for while benefitting from breaking free of her chains, she found that there was naught in her world which she still desired. “There was no one thing in the world that she desired. There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone.” (Ch. XXXIX) She lost her passion, personified by Robert, her long love throughout the novel. A void replaced her passion when she lost her potential of being with Robert, and that I would argue is what strove her to end her life. I am bewildered by how she would decide there is no passion elsewhere to discover, yet countless I regard her decision justified, for in the realm of emotion only figurative ideas can form decisions. The most logical conclusion is to say she found not enough in the world for which allowed her to be the way she desired, “’But I don’t want anything but my own way. That is wanting a good deal, of course, when you have to trample upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of others…’” (Ch. XXXVIII). The irony is that before, coinciding with social standards, Edna had felt she was missing an element in her sense of being, same thing after she changed, “Despondency had come upon her there in the wakeful night, and had never lifted,” (Ch. XXXIX). There are perils to both sides, and perhaps both sides lack an element the other side has. It might be, if Edna had persevered and continued to live, she would have pursued a more balanced lifestyle, one allowing expression of her passion while also giving her the foundation society provides.

The conflict of person vs. society is a common trope, not only in stories, but also among us in the real life. What The Awakening may have taught us is that there are benefits to being a stable and ‘respectable’ old-fashioned middle-class style personality, or a rebellious and free-spirited one. We all seek freshness, freedom of expression, yet we take up relationships with those we love, and follow routines. This is indeterminable by external factors, I would say, for the truth of what convenes best to us is found within, therefore makes little sense, and requires time and discovered understanding to eventually be able to answer. Often when we are young, we choose to break free from the society, to live free, without our parents, on the road. Then we return after a while, sit down, get a job, live stationary. This is a common observation, yet is the opposite in Edna’s case, who had spent much of her adulthood without the necessary step of already having explored her will for freedom. I would argue the massive shock of having all this longing to be free thrown at her may have been a bit much for her, for through understanding and following it, she went to the opposite extreme of where she was before, through the severity of her feeling. That is why I regret her death, and wish she would have seen through the extremity, to return perhaps to a place a better emotional stability.

The Awakening elicits many inquisitions on the nature of the human mind, making us wonder how we are influenced by the world we live in, and how that affects how we choose the way we wish to be. The novel gives one of the most in-depth expositions of the cognitive strife involved in breaking from an old way of being, for going ‘free’, like in many stories, showing in detail what type of incentives were required for Edna to break from society, and the influence that had on her. Edna enjoys no longer conforming to society’s expectations, yet by leaving the security of society, she faced the risk of losing her willpower and strength to be different, “’The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.” Therefore, the benefits of living conservatively, or freely, have their opposites benefits, and it is forever debatable which side is best to follow for anyone, and how we should go about approaching our lives between the two sides.

Personal Response to The Awakening

The Awakening, a novel written by Kate Chopin takes place in the very early 1900s New Orleans. The main character being Edna Pontellier, throughout the story we can see her struggles and death at the end of the novel. I was left with many questions at the end of the book like “Is Edna a bad person? A bad wife? A bad mother?”, “Is Edna selfish?”, “What is a good marriage?”, and “What obligations do parents have to their parents?”.

For the first question I have which is “Is Edna a bad person? A bad wife? A bad mother?”. I don’t think Edna is a bad person because it seems as though throughout a lot of the story she is mentally unstable, her life is almost at a constant flux of emotions and therefore she is not in the right headspace and if she was I feel as though she would be a better person, and when Mme. Ratingolle was sick she took care of her, despite her and Robert having a very lovey dovey conversation. She is in some form a “bad wife”, due to the fact that she is literally cheating on him with another man, and is very much so in love with another man other than Leonce. She isn’t a bad mother though, she still throughout the story seems to be very loving towards her kids and takes care of them and thinks of them.

For the second question I have which is “Is Edna selfish?”, I do think she is selfish, this is mostly due to the fact she is taking away her pain just to feel good, even though she is scarring plenty of her friends and close family members.

For the third question I have is “What is a good marriage?”, I feel as though that a good marriage is one where both people in the marriage love each other, they keep their distance from each other (so they don’t burn each other out), and neither are financially dependent on the other. For example if the father wasn’t working while the mother has a job, I feel as though it creates a power dynamic in the way that like one feels as though they are doing more and could cause tension between them that would get in the way of other things. That’s why I feel as though it’s good if both parents work and it also helps stop parents being burned out by each other.

For the final question I have is “What obligations do parents have to their parents?”, Some of the main obligations that parents have to their kids are like loving them, supporting them, and the obvious stuff. With the supporting them part I’m mostly talking about like whatever job they choose, whatever stuff they like to do, and stuff like that. The obvious stuff mostly includes like food, shelter, water, and clothes.

Reflection on The Awakening

Chopin’s The Awakening showcases individuality compared to society’s conventions. Edna Pontellier, who the main character of this book. She is trying to break away from society’s standard conventions of the time in order to find reason and individuality rather than listening to what others find proper or correct, instead of making decisions on her own and only letting her define who she really is.

Society when this was written was extremely strict in what women could do and what their actions meant. Edna is an upper-class woman married to a profitable hardworking man who seems to view her just as a status symbol rather than someone who he loves. Some people wonder why she wouldn’t just get a divorce and find somebody who actually loves her for who she is, and she does the same too. Once women became divorced back then she is looked at as a used car as if it’s worthless. Therefore, women were pretty much forced to stay within these unhealthy marriages in order to keep value and respect to their names. Edna rebels against the rules of society and leaves home and moves into a new house down the street. When Mr.Pontellier learns of what Edna’s plans are, he puts their house under renovations to make it look like there was a reason for Edna to leave the house. Mr. Pontellier was never thinking of his relationship with his wife, “he was simply thinking of his financial integrity. It might get noised about that the Pontellier’s had met reverses and were forced to conduct their Menage on a humbler scale than heretofore.” (P. 110) Edna to Mr. Pontellier is just a symbol of their status. He only cares about how their family looks to the rest of the world rather than accepting the other person for who they are.

Edna, we see throughout the book become a woman who is independent who does not rely on others or belong to others. She chooses what she wants and focuses on her needs like she never has before. “I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. If he were to say, ‘here Robert takes her and be happy; I should laugh at you both.” Edna’s relationship with Mr. Pontellier has become meaningless and she does not see him as her husband who should control what she does anymore. This shows her becoming more aware of what she could do on her own without having to be dependant. Lower-class people constantly have to wake up every day and go to work in order to survive and have a hope that one day they will be able to retire happily. Middle-class women in the same stuck position as Edna, have lots of time to wonder what their purpose is, what they want to achieve, what goals do they have. Society sadly seemed to put a cap on the potential of women by locking them into boxes which they could which should never be done to anyone.

The question of what killed Edna Is interesting. You could say her husband or Robert but, I find that society killed her. Another view I considered was money. Edna was a middle-class woman who had all of these conventions of society created from money breathing down her neck. If you’re a middle- or upper-class person you have to look act and talk a certain way. We see this questioned in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Elsa a flower girl is changed into what Mr. Higgins considers a woman then, she goes to the embassy ball filled with people of high status and fits in perfectly. Money changes the way people look at anything just as Mr. Pontellier renovated his house only to protect his financial integrity since his wife had decided to leave the house.

The awakening Is an incredibly eye-opening book about women’s rights then and now. The story does a good job of lifting up characters rather than keeping them as only a protagonist or antagonist. This helped me see different views of each character and each character’s traits. The book also is a great representation that we should never put women in boxes that limits them to what they are able to achieve. I hope that we have moved on from this time and find it important to analyze this book.

 

The Awakening Personal Response

In the literary piece “The Awakening” by author Kate Chopin, we are introduced to enlightenment. When the reader first sees the title, we may believe it is referring to an individual becoming themselves. This although a good ideal, is far from the meaning behind the title. The title refers to one’s growth and understanding of their mistakes.
You see, Edna is a young woman who has lost herself over the years. She has allowed society and her needs to survive to drive her actions and words instead of doing what truly benefits her.

Throughout the story we are introduced to multiple characters who each carry their own burdens in life, whether it be giving up on themselves, losing track of their life, or simply living according to what their elders have instructed.

In the early chapters, we are introduced to a nocturnal beach setting, which one would naturally assume is calming, and a bit nerve-racking. What most do not notice is what the sea truly represents. You see, in the chapters surrounding this setting, there is a lot that Edna goes through about who she is and what she has truly accomplished in life, this also reflects in the sea, due to its broadness and unknown depths carrying beauty and creatures which haunt some. The sea characterises her true feelings and thoughts about herself.

My absolute favourite part of this entire novel, if you may call it that, is the sense of individualism which is reached near the end. Edna matures mentally to a state of independence and self-assertion. This is one of life’s mysteries which many do not accomplish until much later in life.

I really enjoyed this novel, but I would not encourage younger audiences to read it yet, since they are not in a mental space to properly understand the meaning of the novel.

Personal Response to The Awakening

The Awakening by Kate Chopin was a ground breaking work of fiction at the time, and heroine Edna Pontellier was a controversial character. She shattered a lot of nineteenth-century gender stereotypes and standards. Her rejection of her status as a mother and wife was one of her most surprising behavior. Kate Chopin eventually reveals her rejection, but motherhood is a key theme throughout the book.

Chopin gives Edna two foils to be focused on and compared to, Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz. Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz are what the men in Edna’s life compare her to and from whom they derive their hopes for her. Edna, on the other hand, sees all role models missing and realizes that the existence of independence and autonomy she desires is incompatible with society. Rather than idenifying herself independantly, she is identified by her role as Leonce Pontellier’s wife and mother of Raoul and Etienne Pontellier which cause her to struggle against the social and natural constructs of motherhood. The inevitability of her destiny as a male-defined being drives her to desperation, and she decides to end her life the only way she knows how.

Edna’s awareness of her natural role as a mother and woman, along with the social role she is supposed to play, causes her to commit suicide. “Think of the children, Edna. Oh think of the children! Remember them” (p. 131), Adele says to Edna before leaving the Ratignolle’s the night of the birth. Edna’s conscience is invaded by Adele’s appeal, which becomes the deciding factor in her decision to leave her new life behind. The idea of sharing her body with another person, of becoming genuinely a part of something other than her individual self, is fundamentally opposed to anything Edna has been seeking. Raoul and Etienne will be a persistent presence in her life, she realizes, and her innate position as a mother keeps her from living without them. After all, a woman’s primary responsibility is to raise her children to adulthood, and they, in essence, give meaning to her life. Edna refuses to spend the rest of her life as Raoul and Etienne’s mother, as well as Leonce’s wife.

She understands that doing so would mean sacrificing herself, which she vowed she would never do. “The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her soul’s slavery for the rest of her days” (p. 136). Edna refuses to be bound by its natural and social labels, and she commits suicide in order to save it from these constraints. Edna’s embrace of death is a regeneration in itself. Edna’s enlightening summer in Grand Isle has reached nine months, and her fetus-self is about to be delivered. “…and for the time she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her” (p. 136).

Edna accepts her rebirth as a way to relieve the burdens of adulthood. Edna pines for the innocence of children, who are blissfully unaware of the pressures of producing children and their fixed social positions. By encouraging herself to forget her life and immerse herself in death, Edna lets go of the concerns that nature and society put on a woman. Society were the two most powerful forces trying to shape Edna Pontellier into the woman they desired, but Edna is eventually able to break their grip by her suicide. Raoul and Etienne had power over her soul, reminding her endlessly of the torture of childbirth that nature demands of her. Leonce and society owned her soul, telling her to be submissive, to keep home, adore her children, and keep up appearances, but it was Raoul and Etienne who imprisoned her soul. Edna’s passion for identity and self-definition stopped her loving her children and announcing that she would give up nearly anything for them, but her desire for individuality and self-definition led her to her deathly rebirth.

Personal Response to The Awakening

In The Awakening, Kate Chopin invites the reader to question society’s conventionality, using her characterizations of Edna and her foils. From the start of the novel, Edna is never presented as someone who is happily married. She immediately appears disconnected from her husband and children, though she still cares for them. When talking with her friends, 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). This passage shows the sense of  indifference Edna has towards him. Then, Edna is described as, “not a mother woman” (p. 9), furthering our idea of her disconnection from her family. When examining Edna next to Mme. Ratignolle, we can see the clear contrast. Serving as one of Edna’s foils, Adèle is warm, feminine, and “delicious in the [mother-]role” (p. 9). She is someone who believes that, “a woman who would give her life for her children could do no more than that” (p. 56), contrasting to Edna, who says, “I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself” (p. 56). Chopin uses Mme. Ratignolle to depict the societally conventional woman: an excellent wife, loving mother, and devout catholic. She seems pleased with and admired for her conventional lifestyle, leading us to wonder if this is the best route.

Edna’s other foil, Mlle. Reisz, lies on the opposite side of the spectrum. She is an independent, single woman who lives separate from social expectations. For these reasons, she’s often characterized as unfeminine, such as the diction presenting her as “strikingly homely” (p. 73), with “strong wiry hands” (p. 73) and a “disagreeable” (p. 29) disposition. People don’t like Mlle. Reisz as much as they do Mme. Ratignolle. Due to her lack of conformity, she’s somewhat shunned from society, leading us to believe that traditionalism is not only the best option, but the only one. As the novel progresses, so does Edna’s radicalism. Her mind and body awaken, leaving her at odds with society’s expectations of her. Suddenly, we’re surrounded by questions about priorities: should we relinquish our radicalism to be embraced by society, or should we abandon society to stay true to ourselves? Can radicals and conventionalists exist harmoniously, or must they remain divided? Kate Chopin utilizes these contrasting characters to accentuate the differences between traditional and progressive, allowing us to explore how each side of the spectrum upholds our society.

Along with questions about conventionality, Chopin uses Edna’s romantic relationships to open discussions on the question, What is love?. From her marriage to her affair with Robert, Edna experiences love in several capacities. At the start of her relationship with her husband, Léonce, Edna realizes that she must give up all her dreams of romance, due to the fact that there is “no trace of passion” (p. 21) between the two of them. Edna grows to resent marriage and the restrictions that accompany it. Not only are we shown this indignation through Edna’s words, but also through Chopin’s symbolism. The beginning of the novel showcases an encaged bird, speaking “a language which nobody understood” (p. 1), representing Edna’s captivity in her conventional marriage. This idea is reiterated when Edna  awakens from her previously oppressed state, seeking independence rather than confinement. This is what I believe provokes her subsequent affairs: her desire to self-control, and relinquish herself from society’s hold. As she tells Robert, “I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose” (p. 128). Due to this resistance to confinement, it may seem counterintuitive that Edna is falling in love with Robert as she experiences her feminist awakening. However, we soon realize that her love for Robert is completely unrelated to marriage and promise. Love, to answer the initial question,  is a disguise for what the characters truly want from life. Edna sees Robert as an escape from conventional life. He’s exciting and new, and she has no obligations to him. When Robert dreams about Edna, he dreams about marriage. But when Edna dreams about Robert, she dreams about self-governance and freedom. Edna has experienced marriage, and it did not equate to love. She “grew fond” (p. 21) of Léonce, but marriage is a failed experiment in Edna’s mind. Therefore, when Robert tells Edna about his “wild dream of [Edna] becoming [his] wife” (p. 127), she is put off. Chopin has written Robert as a conventional character—one that almost resembles a younger Mr. Pontellier. By doing so, Chopin is accentuating Edna’s ideas about love and marriage. To Edna, those two words are not synonymous. Marriage is a prison that detains, oppresses, and suffocates her. Contrarily, love is an escape; a reflection of Edna’s liberation, a release from conventional society. Does this—the desire to break free—make Edna selfish?

Rather than selfish, I argue that Edna is exploring her identity, self-ownership, and place in society. The word “selfish” has a negative connotation, portraying her as a villain for being unhappy and curious. Through her awakening, Edna becomes more in touch with her mind and her body. She begins to make her own decisions, rather than complying to the subservience that society and her husband ask of her. For instance, when Edna chooses to stay outside one night, Mr. Pontellier orders her to come inside. But instead of “submitt[ing] to his command” (p. 36), Edna doesn’t yield, and asserts herself by saying, “Don’t speak to me like that again” (p. 37). From then on, she decides where she goes and what she does, giving herself where she chooses. Personally, I appreciate this self-exploration. Through several means, Edna is getting in touch with her radicalism, and is fighting against the patriarchal, conventional society. Nevertheless, she has made commitments to her husband and children, which complicates the scenario. Edna’s foil, Mlle. Reisz is able to live an independent, radical lifestyle, because she never makes any commitments to other people. Ultimately, this commitment is what restricts Edna. She cannot continue living as a mother and a wife, but she also cannot live independently without causing scandal. Once again, we see this depicted by bird symbolism: her marriage is compared to a birdcage, and her independent home is referred to as a “pigeon house” (p. 101). She is left with no good options; trapped in between the radical and the conventional—the birdcage and the pigeon house. Once she is exposed to the ideas of self-ownership and independence, how is she expected to return to oppressive mundanity?

I was immensely moved by this novel. Not only does it examine a woman’s role in society, but also her obligations to herself. Edna lives in a society where conventionality is prioritized over self-ownership. Women didn’t have the option to control themselves, making Edna’s resistance to societal norms so radical. Edna doesn’t want the conventional life that has been placed onto her, and instead desires freedom to do as she pleases. Her fight against conventional entrapment correlates with her awakening, leading me conclude that radicalism originates from awareness of yourself and the world around you. Throughout my education on societal standards and the oppressive systems that dominate society, my own radical values have increased. In many ways, my education has “awakened” me, like Edna awakened through her emotional experiences. This novel has allowed me to question my values in relation to conventionality; how I want to conduct my lifestyle and continuously progress.

Personal Response to The Awakening

The book The Awakening by Kate Chopin to me was an interesting story to read. When first reading this story, I thought it was going to be another one of those boring “love story’s” but after finishing the story it got me intrigued and asking many questions which left me in confusion trying to answer them.
One of the biggest questions that came to mind is “Was it necessary for Edna to kill herself?” This all started when Edna fell in love with Robert while still being married to Léonce and she couldn’t control herself. This love with Robert, being married to Léonce, and having an affair with Arobin was slowly killing her and giving her that bad reputation. Then once Robert came back from Mexico and visited Nora, she had to leave due to Adèle in labor. Once Edna returned home Robert had left leaving a note saying “I love you. Good-by—because I love you” (pg. 133) then the next day Edna took a train to her summer home, went into the ocean, and drowned herself.
Answering this question can be tough since there are two sides to it. One side is she was being selfish and a child with her kids will not be able to grow up with a mother around. But looking at it from another viewpoint, you notice she was only trying to protect her reputation for her kids when they grow up. You first see this when Adèle whispers to Edna after labor “Think of the children, Edna. Oh think of the children! Remember them!” (pg. 131) and before Edna drowns, she thought of Léonce and the children being part of her life which both refer to her thinking of her kid and how she’d want them to think of her.
Another big question that is raised by this book is about society. “Does society have unwritten rules or standards we need to follow?” Everyone has said to have a free choice of will and not to be afraid to do anything. Yet society can be very judgemental of things we do in our lives so people must do/not do certain things to stay normal and not to be looked at differently. This comes up in the book when Edna is having an affair and being in love with Robert. When Edna drowns, this brings up the question that if Edna stayed alive, would she have broken that unwritten rule and be frowned upon by society for being with different men? The pressure of society has been the cause for many deaths since everyone must not break those “unwritten rules” to live a normal life and to be accepted as a human.
The last big question from this book is “Was it worth it for Robert to leave?” there are many different perspectives on why Robert left Edna with the note “I love you. Good-by—because I love you” (pg. 133) some have said he left because he didn’t want to be with Edna. I believe he left to try and save Edna from herself and stay loyal to her husband. When he said in the letter “Good-by—because I love you” (pg. 133) It sounds like he only wanted the best for her and she could save herself.

The Awakening: Personal Response

The Awakening written by Kate Chopin is a fascinating novel which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I thought that it carried deep and emotional subjects. In The Awakening Edna a mother of two is founded in a loveless marriage. She escapes her reality in finding a romantic interest towards Robert. Robert takes off, and she is alone rediscovering herself. Throughout the novel we see her having multiple different “awakenings” from sexual to emotional. I will be analyzing Edna’s final decision, and if this was the right choice for her.

Symbolisme is a huge factor in the novel. It helps define Edna awakening and emotional suffering. One of the two most notable symbols in the novel is the sea. To Edna, the sea (or the idea of the sea) represents freedom. It is her getaway. The sea is there in the beginning of the novel before her awakening. Often represented as “…seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamouring, murmuring…”(p.15). It is this seductive, secretive sea that ended Edna’s struggle. The sea often foreshadows what was yet to happen; “The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.”(p.15) It is as if the narrator themselves saw the sea as an escape from society, like a soft and grand bed to sleep on after a hard day’s work. Throughout the novel, we see Edna’s strong connection with the sea improve. We notice this with Edna’s experience learning how to swim. Edna randomly feels empowered to swim, though she struggled with it for most of summer. “A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul” (p.32). This was the first time where Edna feels like she is in control and she gets so excited and entranced with her new power, she doesn’t realize how far she has swam. Getting scared, she swims back. In the later chapter of the novel (where Edna finally decides to end her own life) she isn’t scared. She is calm, thinking of the summer and her childhood. She no longer cares for what society thinks of her and this is what makes her not go back to the shore. She has gone too far, where she can’t go back. Even if Edna decided to live her mundane life, she simply wouldn’t. She now knows what it is like to be free and to feel awake where she’d rather die than live her life. This gives Edna power for this is the only thing that she can control in her life. 

Throughout the novel, we, readers, often question Edna’s relationship with her children. For the first part of the novel, she is seen as distant and far from her children. She doesn’t really care where they are nor what they are doing. “If one of the little Pontellier boys took a tumble whilst at play, he was not apt to rush crying to his mother’s arms for comfort; he would more likely pick himself up, wipe the water out of his eyes and sand out of his mouth, and go on playing” (pp.8-9). When she gets more involved with her personal awakening, we start to see her have more appreciation for her children, but only when they are with her. “How glad she was to see the children! She wept for very pleasure when she felt their little arms clasping her, their heard ruby cheeks pressed against her own glowing cheeks”(p.111). We never see her think about her children alone until the end of the novel deciding her own death. So is Edna a good mother? When being compared to one of her foil, Mme. Adele, it is easy to consider that Edna wasn’t a very loving mother. However, Edna is a caring mother for what she can do in her situation. It isn’t her fault that she is stuck in this society where her only value is to give birth. She didn’t ask to be here, to marry nor to have children. She still loves her children but only because they are her offspring. She doesn’t love them for who they are, simply because she doesn’t know who they are and they are too young to have a defining personality. She is busy holding up womanly values (which she doesn’t believe in) to be a mother for her children, such as staying home on Tuesdays. She knew that she wouldn’t be able to live life to societal conventions. She’d rather die and give her soul to the sea then create a scandal for her children in suicidal aftermath which would forever ruin their reputation and opportunities. So she does 7have consideration for her children. 

Was it the right decision for Edna to end her own life? Personally, I will never conclude that killing oneself is the best option when dealing with difficult times. However, in this context, a literary source; in understanding Edna’s consternations, character and situation, I believe that she made the best decision for herself. She is freeing herself and saving her children from a life of scandal. I also believe that Edna didn’t think she belonged in this world where her roles were very limited. When being compared to her two foils, she simply doesn’t fit in. She isn’t the motherly type nor the independent woman type. The decisions she made in her past has left her now feeling helpless, unable to escape an unloving marriage without causing scandal for her children. Societal pressures obviously lay very heavy on her. I believe that Edna also feels that even if she did come to love someone else, she would still not want to oblige to the “ideal” marriage they would likely want. 

While reading the story of Edna and her ends, I feel a sense of wanting to cry but not having enough tears to do so. To think about how many women often felt trapped in a society that controlled every aspect of their lives. This idea and concept of women is still present in today’s society, from beauty standards to sexual harassment and child marriages. A lot of women around the world constantly feel pressured and harassed to fit the role of “the perfect woman.” I, personally, sometimes don’t even know whether my own opinions are my own, or if they have been formed through thousands of years of social conditioning to undermine women. I hope that one day all women will feel valued in the society that they live in.

WDolan The Awakening Personal Response

In Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”, the reader learns the story of a woman named Edna, who grappled with the ideas of being a wife living a traditional life, being self-reliant, and free-willed individual. Edna represents the idea of teleology. She has reasons for why she has many affairs, but does not necessarily know about the causes in which they arise. However, seeing how this is frowned upon in the story, it seems society follows more consequentialist principles.

In the beginning of the story, I had the impression that Edna was selfish. It seemed she wanted whatever she liked and was not considerate of other people’s feelings. On page 136 she says: “To-day it is Arobin: to-morrow it will be someone else”. This may seem selfish, but when an individual is unhappy, their feelings are valid. However, they are not always right. Was Edna justified to end her life and leave her children? Was it better for them to not have a scandal caused by Edna inflicted on them? Her final thoughts are about people she cares about. She thinks of Robert, (“There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert…” pg 136), and her children. Despite this, it does seem she realizes all the positivity within her life has been stripped away from her, once she was abandoned by her family. Did she really love the ones she was surrounded by? Or were they obstacles and preventing her from having other affairs?

I think it is important to debate Edna’s appreciation of her partner. I am not sure I would refer to them as family since they aren’t married and she has many affairs. On page 81, Madame Pontellier suggests that Edna may be more united if Robert stayed around longer. However, Edna responds with “Oh! Dear no! What should I do if he stayed home? We wouldn’t have anything to say to each other”. Did she respond this way fearing that if Robert stayed home, it would interfere with her freedoms? If this is the case, I would find her response reasonable since women were not given much freedom during this time frame. Her marriage appears to be a type of imprisonment for her. Therefore the only ending available to Edna is death. This relates to an earlier topic discussed about paradise and death. Edna would love to have everything she desires and have other individuals behave the way she deems appropriate. However, if she were to receive all this, her life may have become a mini paradise, and she would still not be satisfied, because she cannot alter the perfect nature of her life. This creates a kind of death within her life, which may have lead to the same ending of the story, where Edna takes her own life.

In summary, the book has many symbols, amd metaphors throughout, adding to its complexity. The book appeals to one gender over the other, because, in my opinion, the romantic scenes were too graphic. It provides excellent insight into what the earlier developments of feminism looked like, and how the story shaped the future. I learned about other people’s perspective on the meaning of life, and what makes their lives important.

The Awakening: Personal Response

For me the book The Awakening by Kate Chopin was exhausting and boring to read. I likewise think Edna is exceptionally childish and selfish. That’s what I thought at first, however as I read and began understanding her intentions, I have an alternate idea on the book. She is trying to find herself, it is about self-revelation and recognition. Although some of her actions still show selfishness and narrow mindedness, I understand her motives behind everything. 

In the context of the 19th century, women’s first priority should be to take care of their children. On the other hand, Edna is described as not a “mother”. When exchanging views on the mother’s debt to the child, Edna declared that her personality is more important than her mother. I will pay my money, I will give my life for my children, but I will not give myself” (page 57). Edna’s adolescence prompted her to fight for self-discovery, which resulted in She neglected responsibilities such as childbirth. Edna is not a conscientious mother. I can’t accept this ending. Although some people say that her children can be taken care of by their grandma and Léonce, if I am the child, I would rather see my parents divorce, to be more accurate ‘not in love anymore’ rather than hearing about my mother’s death. Edna loves her children and she still cares about them. “She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would sometimes forget them” (p. 21).

Approaching the end of the novel, Edna shares her final thought about Robert before she commits suicide, “he did not know; he did not understand. He would never understand” (p. 116). Instead of contemplating how she would break her dearest companion’s heart with her final act, she only reflects on how he had never understood her. Edna deserts everyone who had cared for her and who she had relied upon, without much consideration. 

Edna’s actions can be justified with the social standards today. However, She did them all in aiming to fill the void in her miserable life, where she had no control over anything without the approval of a man. Edna sees more to her life, potentials and dreams, although she never had the chance to proceed as she could not handle the consequences it came with. As a mother and as a lover, Edna is selfish. As an individual, her choice of putting herself first in any circumstances and to control her own destiny, makes her almost admirable.

 

Personal Response to The Awakening

I cannot discuss whether or not Edna’s choice to suicide was “right” or “wrong.” It isn’t the right choice to make, but it is her only choice.

As her reputation will likely be ruined, she kills herself to protect her children. “It makes no difference to me, it doesn’t matter about Léonce Pontellier—but Raoul and Etienne!” (p. 136). To me, it feels like her children’s presence drove Edna to death.

“The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul’s slavery for the rest of her days.” (p. 136)

Her children are her “burdens”. If Edna did not have Raoul and Etienne, she can continue her acts of infidelity even if she ruins her reputation. But because Edna gives birth to her children when she is not prepared to be a mother, raising them is “a responsibility which she had blindly assumed and which Fate had not fitted her” (p. 21). Being a “good mother” like Madame Ratignolle means it is her priority to take care of her children at all times. That is why Edna is particularly “selfish” in a way that she wouldn’t “sacrifice herself for her children, or for anyone” (p. 56). Especially after her “awakening,” she realizes that becoming a “perfect mother” requires her to sacrifice too much of her individuality and soul. In order to preserve her soul, she gives her life.

But if Edna didn’t need to worry about her children and runs away with Robert, she wouldn’t be happy either. She knows that her love towards Robert will not last long. Although “there was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert,” she knows that “the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone.” (p. 136) At this point, Edna is already beyond her younger years of having romantic fantasies. Although she loves Robert, he doesn’t understand her in a way that he, like Léonce Pontellier, doesn’t understand what she means when she says “I give myself where I choose.” (p. 128)

But society, or more specifically, the middle-class society that Edna lives in, will not allow a married woman like her to “give where she choose.” The Pontelliers, like all other middle-class families, need to “observe les convenances” to “keep up with the procession” (p. 60). But the middle-class life is very decent ; Edna’s house is very “charming” (p. 58) and they had servants and cooks. However, she is bound to her home, her family, and the middle-class society.

Disliking the social norms doesn’t justify her infidelity. There is more to why Edna falls in love with Robert and associates with Alcée. At “the beginning of things,” where the world is “necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing” (p. 15), “middle class morality” didn’t exist. But because many people are stuck inside this middle-class life forever, they never “wake up,” and their souls “perish in its tumult” (p. 15). Edna discovered herself at the sea, where life first emerged. The water possesses all the treasures to life. She sees a world without “middle-class morality.” As Kate Chopin writes, and repeats:

“The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation.” (p. 15, 136)

Despite suicide being Edna’s only choice, there is something incredibly sad about the death of a “new-born creature,” a beautiful creature that just began to live. Because she possesses a “ponderous weight of wisdom” that even the “Holy Ghost” is unwilling to “vouchsafe” to a “woman” (p. 15), of course her society wouldn’t tolerate such things.

The Awakening: Personal Response

While discussing the book The Awakening by Kate Chopin with a few of my friends, I got many responses on how the book was boring and repetitive. I asked them what they thought about Edna’s character, and the only responses I received were that she is selfish. I, personally, thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. There is much more to the book than just a woman leaving her husband because she is in love with someone else. It is about a woman trying to find herself; it is about self-discovery and recognition. I do not see why Edna is selfish just because she is trying to be happy with herself.

Edna is not a mother-woman and has been classified as selfish because she chooses to do other things rather than look after her children. I solely oppose the point that she is selfish because she does not look after her kids like other mothers do. “She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would sometimes forget them” (p. 21). Edna loved her children; the book only mentions the events over a year or two; it does not mention anything before that. We are not aware of how she treated her children before that; maybe she would have taken care of them all the time over the last few years. Edna was supposed to help Léonce with his business; she cannot possibly be present with her kids 24/7; she needs some time to herself, which does not make her selfish. Besides, Etienne and Raoul never complained of her absence; the kids were young and enjoying themselves.

Even though the book suggests that Léonce fell in love with Edna    (p. 21), it is evident that this was not the case. “Then her absolute disregard for her duties as a wife angered him” (p. 67).  It seems as if Edna was stuck in a box and was desperately trying to get out of it and be free. According to societal standards, Mr. Pontellier is the perfect husband, but he is courteous towards Edna only when she is submissive. There is a difference between her being selfish and her being confused. Now that Edna decides to do as she pleases, it is damaging to his business; Léonce lashes out and becomes angry and rude. She did not stick to her duties because she was trying to enrage Léonce, but she wanted to find her true identity. Everyone needs to know who they are. I do not see any evidence that suggests Léonce loved her, and he treats her like an employee rather than his wife.  “He was simply thinking of his financial integrity” (p. 110). Mr. Pontellier shows no affection towards Edna; he is inconsiderate and egoistic unless it regards his business.

I do not think Edna ever loved Mr. Pontellier, and so she sought love from Robert. “She could hear again the ripple of water, the flapping sail” (p. 68). Every time Edna thinks of Robert, the author changes the structure of words and makes it romantic, sensual, and calming. Thinking about him gives her a sense of freedom. She had romantic feelings for Robert, but these were never present with Léonce or Arobin. This is because Robert is everything she wants in a person, unlike Léonce and Arobin, who are self-centred. I hear many people saying that Edna cheated on Robert because she kissed Arobin. “It was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded” (p. 98). This is not true because even though she had deep feelings for Robert, they were never in a committed relationship; they didn’t have to be faithful to each other. Although this does prove that she cheated on Léonce, she was not in love with him.

Edna never considered not having children because it was never an option when she got married. She wanted to have children, but she also needed time to herself. Even though Edna had to die in the end, I enjoyed the ending as well. Her suicide was not because she couldn’t handle her emotions anymore and wanted to be free from them, but because no matter how hard or for how long she fought against the ridiculous societal conventions, she would still be looked down upon and would have never gotten to be with Robert. Her love for Robert still did not change the fact that she did not want to get married or have children again; she wanted an affair. If Edna waited a while more to die, the ending would be a mess. Instead of the lovely person she was, everyone would view her as a cheater or a demented and unpleasant woman, similar to how people view Mademoiselle Reisz. Her death leaves all the characters in suspense as to why she chose to do it. The sudden ending makes it clear that no one would understand how she felt. I think the main focus of this is that Edna was not trying to achieve freedom by finding herself; she was simply trying to feel happy during the process of achieving something, and society would not allow that.