Psychological Criticism in the Awakening

 That she was seeing with different eyes and making the acquaintance of new conditions in herself that colored and changed her environment, she did not yet suspect (Chopin 62; ch. 14).  Although Edna Pontellier, identified as the protagonist within The Awakening, had seemed to be overwhelmed by the pressure of social constructs, Edna refused to succumb to the orthodox way of life. From a Freudian approach, psychoanalytic theory can be defined as the personality theory, which is based on the notion that an individual gets motivated more by unseen forces that are controlled by the conscious and the rational thought (Business Jargons).

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Moreover, behavior is created through an interaction between three vital components of the mind, i.e. Id, Ego and Super Ego. Kate Chopin, a well renounced author especially in the case of The Awakening. Likewise, it is perceived by many historians as well as literary analysts that Chopin’s cognition mirrored her subconscious onto The Awakening by the use of eponymous characters. Furthermore, this essay will outline the fluid relationship between the reflection of Chopin’s subconscious in retrospect to several characters within The Awakening.

        Firstly, Sigmund Freud defines the id as predominantly passional, irrational, unknown, and unconscious part of the psyche (The Canadian Bill of Rights). In the case of Chopin herself, it is presumed by historians that the The Awakening had been written written based on the livelihood of a woman living in The French Quarter of New Orleans. Akin to the protagonist herself, there’s little distinction between the two as both Chopin and Edna strived to be well defined within her marriage and her way of life.

        Likewise, Edna becomes a distinctive representation of the id. With her steadfast demeanor, she manages to disregard anything that can be presumed as gravely important. By resisting social conformities, she profusely neglects both her husband and her children and evidently finds residency somewhere else.

Some way I don’t feel moved to speak of things that trouble me. Don’t think I am ungrateful or that I don’t appreciate you sympathy. There are periods of despondency and suffering which take possession of me. But I don’t want anything but my own way (Chopin 135; ch. 38).

        At this point Edna has become not only nonchalant but despondent in relation to the things that are suppose to bring her bliss and jubilation i.e her children, her husband. Likewise, Edna also doesn’t feel the need to speak about her troubles with anyone as her burdens are simply her own to carry. Moreover, Edna insists on having her personal happiness without being deemed of consequences. She has no desire on jeopardizing her children’s safety however this quote seems to covey that she would hurt them if means securing her own shot at potential happiness.

        Secondly, Mademoiselle Reisz and Chopin shared various similarities but one worth analyzing is the idea of becoming distinct entities in society. They too, surpassed social constructs in a manner ordained favorable. Coincidentally, Edna and Mademoiselle also share similar attributes as they too, try to stray away from the societal, gender-bias statutes posed towards women during the Victorian Era. Don’t stir all the warmth out of your coffee; drink it (Chopin 85; ch. 21) was Mademoiselle response to Edna’s absent minding stirring. The coffee had symbolized the entirety of Edna’s life and the warmth represented the blessings that you have within the moment. Edna’s idle stirring portrayed the way she failed to recognize the essentials in her life until it was too late; failing to take sips while the coffee was warm and easier to fathom. Likewise, Mademoiselle Reisz represents the epitome of the psyche ego. It is thought that Mademoiselle’s freelance way of life is what Edna’s life could have been only if she had lived a more self-sufficient lifestyle without dependents. Similarly, Mademoiselle Reisz portrays the psyche ego is due to the fact that she does what the psyche id wants, which is what Edna wants; to live a secluded, unrepressed lifestyle distant from social constructs.

 In fact, “She was seeking herself and finding herself in just such sweet, half-darkness which met her moods. But the voices were not soothing that came to her from the darkness and the sky above and the stars. They jeered and sounded mournful notes without promise, devoid even of hope (Chopin 74; ch.17). Similarly, Mademoiselle aids Edna into conceptualizing her emotions which acts as a gadget for Edna from a psychological perspective. Nonetheless, Edna yearns to be like this self-devoted, eminent, unperturbed woman.

They were women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels. Many of them were delicious in the r??le; one of them was the embodiment of every womanly grace and charm. If her husband did not adore her, he was a brute, deserving death by slow torture. Her name was Ad??le Ratignolle (Chopin 29; ch. 4).

        Lastly, Ad??le is presumed to be the quintessence of what it is to be a mother-woman’ in The Awakening. Ad??le stands at the forefront of household and family which propels her to the other end of the scope in comparison to both Edna and Mademoiselle Reisz. Chopin in comparison to Ad??le were at different ends of the spectrum, where Ad??le wanted to be at the foot of her family affairs all times, a stickler to societal statutes and living within the norms of societal constructs. She was always talking about her condition. Her condition was in no way apparent, and no one would have known a thing about it but for persistence in making it the subject of conversation (Chopin 30; ch. 4). Likewise, Freud describes the superego as a projection of the ego (The Canadian Bill of Rights). Ad??le seemingly portrays the superego psyche as she is a stickler to social constructs and falling between the lines. By fully attributing her role as mother and wife, standing at the forefront of her household as well dedicating her life to serving her family, she opposed both Edna and Mademoiselle Reisz in every subservient and subordinate way.

I would give up the inessential; 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 clearer; it’s only which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me (Chopin 69-70; ch. 16). Her selfless demeanor towards her family and her image in society speaks wonders in the face of Edna and Mademoiselle Reisz as they find more bliss in. The process of finding themselves instead of losing themselves in the process of becoming a mother-woman.

There would have to be an understanding, an explanation. Conditions would some way adjust themselves, she felt; but whatever came, she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself (Chopin 103; ch. 26). To conclude, Sigmund Freud’s approach to the psyches id, ego and superego fits suitably with the persona’s of the character outlined within the novel. Chopin illustrates all three psyches throughout the excerpt, whilst demonstrating how each subconscious played a factor in character development in the novel. Chopin’s fluid use of the subconscious allows readers to easily interpret the conveyed message of each character but to understand the author herself         

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