In the novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the main character Edna Pontellier experiences being a woman who was brought down in society, preventing her from being herself. She realizes her awakening points happened whenever she was in the water at the beach. She was introduced as a passionate, rebellious woman. This is significant to Edna because she is determined to find her individuality as a woman. Edna’s awakening explains her rationality to communicate the larger purpose of the novel and has self-motivation for freedom. Edna has her own thoughts and beliefs of what a woman’s role should be and she tries to gain that independence as she strives for that goal throughout the novel. But, in her society, she is kept at a certain standard. Edna’s awakening communicates to her search of fulfilling one’s instinctive desires of a woman’s individual rights. Because of her desire for independence during her love life, she is rebellious against a typical woman’s behavior during that time. Edna’s rationality communicates her larger meaning as a whole because she realizes how much she wants to be herself but can’t do that in the society she lives in and she is learning how to handle and understand the feelings that she is going through. Edna makes tough decisions in her life like giving up her husband, having an affair, and leaving her husbands house to go to the Pigeon House.
Edna’s rationality communicates a larger meaning as she decides to make tough decisions like giving up her husband. She does this because she felt like she was in control of her freedom. She made decisions based on her logic of suffering that she went through. She notices that her husband doesn’t really appreciate her hard work as a mother because he doesn’t seem to acknowledge her as a wife. Leonce Pontellier is critical of Edna’s parenting and accuses her of being a bad mother. She can’t do anything about the way her husband treats her so she goes to the beach to listen to the sound of the sea to help escape her problems. Mr. Pontellier approaches his wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children. If it was not a mother’s place to look after children(Chopin 178), this shows that he brings her down and doesn’t understand the role of a mother. Edna’s experiences of motherhood show that it’s difficult and her husband doesn’t show any affection to her. This leads to the purpose of why she wants to be free because she goes swimming in the ocean to clear her mind, while experiencing the loss of love with her husband. The sea symbolizes Edna’s awakening because there are no boundaries nor limits. Everything that she acts on has a purpose because she’s thinking about freedom. Chopin uses imagery to indicate how angry Edna was about her marriage, taking off her wedding ring, flung it upon the carpet she stamped her heel upon it, striving to crush it(Chopin 252). She is feeling disappointed, frustrated, and hopeless about her husband and she attempts to break the glass. This goes back to her giving up on her husband and she doesn’t know what do anymore. Edna slowly starts to drift apart from her husband.
Edna’s rationality communicates to her decisions she has with having an affair. She starts to develop feelings for with Robert Lebrun. She’s been having a secret love for Robert. When she’s around Robert, she feels loved by him, but he refused to get in a relationship with Edna because she was married. However, Robert has feelings for her and is afraid to show her that love back and knows it’s wrong to love her back. While Robert is in Mexico, he was very distant from her. Edna then leaned over and kissed him–a soft, cool, delicate kiss, whose voluptuous sting penetrated his whole being–then she moved away from him (Chopin 338). She kissed Robert and he makes Edna feel as if she was young again. Robert opens up a world she had never known through motherhood with passionate love. Edna can’t stop thinking about Robert Lebrun. Edna states, …the thought of him was like an obsession which how her love for him was unstoppable (Chopin 254). It shows that she tried forgetting about him but then she just ended of thinking about him more. This is significant to Edna Pontellier because Robert Lebrun was one of the awakening points in the novel that helped shape her character as she looks for her freedom. There was something special about the way Edna saw Robert’s personality which drove straight to her heart. While Robert is far away, Edna starts to have a crush on Alcee Arobin. She falls for him and he awakens Edna in a passion which she had never known about, and he was easy to talk to. Arobin decided to leaned forward and kissed her, she clasped his head, holding his lips to hers. It was the first kiss of her life to which nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch (Chopin 301). He kisses her and she regretted the kiss because it was truly not sensational, she didn’t feel a connection. She realizes everything she has done is coming upon her because she has an overwhelming sensation of her individuality. She starts to think about her relationship with Leonce Pontellier and then her love for Robert. She chose to kiss the two boys because she had feelings for both of them and couldn’t decide which one was her true love. She finally does admit her love for Robert, however, and that Arobin was just a crush she had while she and Robert were away from each other. Robert isn’t the only one responsible for Edna’s changed behavior, though. Arobin was also an impact because he was also an object that she was passionate about. Throughout the novel, we get to see the sacrifices Edna makes because she made every moment a significant one that helped her gain her freedom.
Lastly, Edna’s rationality communicates to the larger meaning of her purpose as she decides to leave her husband’s house to move into the Pigeon House. She leaves home for the Pigeon House and has her last supper before she leaves her ideal life of womanhood, societal conventions, and her old life entirely. It enlightens a new world where Edna goes to find her true fulfillment. When she does, she put herself in a higher moral standard because she is rebellious and manages to escape her caged life. She is no longer seen as one of Leonce’s possessions and she chooses to be whoever she wants to be. Edna starts to see her childhood memories and how desperately she wants to leave her relationship with her husband. However, she knows he would never let that happen. Chapters twenty-nine and thirty focus a lot on Edna moving to the Pigeon House. This was her breaking point because she left everything she had behind and went to a new place to make her own decisions and to find herself as a person. This was truly important because everything she did before was under the control of her husband, but she starts to lose the love she had for him. Edna’s rational behavior guides her throughout the novel because she wanted to be free and find her individuality. All her actions lead to her conclusion of going outside her boundaries to have no limits. Her experience of motherhood was also a struggle.
The Awakening of Edna’s rationality communicates her larger meaning as a whole because she realizes how much she wants to discover herself but is prevented from doing so in her society. Edna makes decisions in her life like giving up her husband, having an affair, and leaving her husband’s house to go to the Pigeon House. Her affair with the two boys was challenged because she had a love for both of them but she had to choose one. However, it still wasn’t enough for her because he knew she was married. She couldn’t take that pressure and swimming takes her away from her emotions lead her to never go back to the life she was in. Kate Chopin uses different settings in The Awakening point as Edna copes to find her freedom. Edna’s awakening in the novel was social commentary about women’s restrained roles in society.
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