Feminism and the Role of Women in the Awakening

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Feminism and the role of women in The Awakening

Thesis Statement:

The pressures of the feminine norms prevalent during the male-dominant/patriarchal Victorian society impel Edna towards seeking independence and establishing her sense of identity.

Primary Passages for Examination:

“In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels” (Chopin 10).

This quote evidently demonstrates the role of women, as both wives and mothers, in Edna’s society. They are subject specific duties that cater to the needs of their husband and children, meanwhile the men are considered breadwinners. I can use this to support how the portrayal of women as docile and domestic individuals further reinforces gender stereotypes. All the women around Edna seem to have contentedly accepted their duties in these inferior positions, however, Edna begs to differ. She views these duties more as obligations society has placed on her, and she instead wants to find her own identity.

“She perceived that her will had blazed up, stubborn and resistant. She could not at that moment have done other than denied and resisted. She wondered if her husband had ever spoken to her like that before, and if she had submitted to his command. Of course she had; she remembered that she had. But she could not realize why or how she should have yielded, feeling as she then did” (Chopin 41).

This passage is especially helpful to support how among all other men, even her own husband asserts control over Edna. She has been submissive of his demands in the past, but here she begins to lose sight of why she did. As the first time she has the courage to disobey her husband and stand up for herself, this is her initial moment of self-realization that contributes to her “awakening” in the story. The fact that after this instance her husband felt the need for her to visit a doctor is also noteworthy and just goes to show how unprecedented female defiance truly was.

"I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me." (63)

Here, Edna expresses her desire to be free from the oppression of her society. Conforming to these social expectations and the resulting repression of individual freedom proves to be too demanding for Edna. It instead limits her actions as an independent woman beyond the definition of a wife and mother. I can use this quote to justify how Edna ultimately realizes how she needs to go beyond devoting herself to her family—or anyone else in her society for that matter—in order to to find her identify. Although she still has the innate motherly love for her children, this is the only why that she can be more satisfied with her life and achieve fulfilment. 

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Feminism And The Role Of Women in The Awakening. (2019, Jul 16). Retrieved July 21, 2024 , from

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