Uploaded by KyraDean on Oct 29, 2002
In Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening, Edna Pontellier is forced to fit in with everyone and everything in her surroundings. Edna is used to the Southern society because she was raised in Kentucky with her family, but when she marries Leonce Pontellier, a Creole, and moves to Louisiana, her surroundings greatly change. This makes her feel extremely uncomfortable and confused; she feels as though she has lost her identity, along with a great deal of her freedom. Edna tries her hardest to conform to the Creole society in order to try to regain her happiness from lack of freedom.
Though Edna tries extremely hard to accept this Creole society as her own and to become part of it in order to claim her identity, she fails to find both her true happiness and her identity, which, in turn, causes her to commit suicide by drowning herself. A great deal of Edna’s unhappiness is due to the fact that her husband is very strict with her. He treats her with a great deal of authority, and Edna more and more often refuse to obey his commands, such as keeping visiting hours for company on Tuesdays.
In accordance with society, Leonce believes that Edna should be the stereotypical housewife who does everything she possibly can for her husband and children. However, when Edna does something that contradicts the well-established Creole social code, Leonce becomes disappointed and frustrated. For example, when Edna is sunbathing at the beach on Grand Isle, her husband approaches her and says, “What folly! To bathe at such an hour in such heat! You are burnt beyond recognition.” Kate Chopin adds that Leonce looks at his wife “as one looks at a valuable piece of property which has suffered some damage.” Over time, the negative attitude that Leonce has toward Edna causes her to look for security, happiness, and love in other people and places. It is then that she meets, and eventually falls in love with, Robert.
Throughout the novel, Edna encounters many “awakenings” of her own. One very significant awakening occurs when she recognizes her unrequited love for Robert. Edna realizes that Leonce no longer matters to her and that she would be much happier if she were with Robert. Thus, Robert becomes the one person and the virtually unattainable goal Edna lives for; consequently, when he finally leaves her, she is devastated. She feels that the only way to...