The Awakening - The Evolution of Edna
Uploaded by Admin on Jan 10, 2001
In Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening, Edna Pontellier is forced to strive to fit in with everyone and everything around her. Born and raised in Kentucky, Edna is used to the Southern society, but when she marries Leonce Pontellier, a Catholic and a Creole, and moves to Louisiana with him, her surroundings change a great deal. This makes her feel extremely uncomfortable and confused; she feels as though she has lost her identity along with a great deal of her happiness. In order to regain this identity and to try to find out who she truly is, Edna tries her hardest to conform to the Creole society. 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.
A great deal of Edna’s unhappiness is due to the fact that her husband is very firm with her, he treats her with a great deal of “authority and coercion,” as is requested by Edna’s father, and he strongly believes that she should conform to the Creole society. In accordance with society, Leonce believes that Edna should be the stereotypical housewife who does everything she possibly can for her husband and her children. However, when Edna does something that contradicts this well-established Creole social code, Leonce reveals his disappointment. 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 Mr. Pontellier 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 Lebrun.
Throughout the novel, Edna encounters many “awakenings” of her own. One very significant awakening occurs when she recognizes her unrequited love for Robert Lebrun. 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...