Breaking The Social Norms: Kate Chopin's The Awakening

1942 words - 8 pages

In the novella The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the main character Edna Pontellier “becomes profoundly alienated from traditional roles required by family, country, church, or other social institutions and is unable to reconcile the desire for connection with others with the need for self-expression” (Bogard). The novella takes place in the South during the 1800’s when societal views and appearances meant everything. There were numerous rules and expectations that must be upheld by both men and women, and for independent, stubborn, and curious women such as Edna, this made life challenging. Edna expressed thoughts and goals far beyond her time that made her question her role in life and struggle to identify herself, which caused her to break societal conventions, damage her relationships, and ultimately lose everything.
The most prevalent and obvious gender issue present in the novella was that Edna challenged cultural norms and broke societal expectations in an attempt to define herself. Editors agree, “Edna Pontellier flouts social convention on almost every page…Edna consistently disregards her ‘duties’ to her husband, her children, and her ‘station’ in life” (Culley 120). Due to this, she did not uphold what was expected of her because she was trying to be superior, and women were expected to be subordinate to men. During that time, the women were viewed as possessions that men controlled. It was the woman’s job to clean the house, cook the meals, and take care of the children, yet Edna did none of these things. Her lifestyle was much different. She refused to listen to her husband as time progressed and continually pushed the boundaries of her role. For example, during that time period “the wife was bound to live with her husband, and follow him wherever he [chose] to reside” (120). However, Edna not only moved out of her home, but she did so without her husband’s knowledge or permission. Edna explains that she was excited to move because she “liked the feeling of freedom and independence” and admits that she has not informed her husband and states, “he will think I’m demented, no doubt,” yet she does it anyway (Chopin 76). Later in the novella when her husband discovers what she has done, he is shocked and angry because her choice reflects on him and his reputation, as well as hers. Another example where she completely disregards her duty as a wife is on her reception day where she is to be at home to receive visitors. At this point in the novella, Edna is becoming more independent and refuses to be controlled by anyone. As stated in the novella, “She completely abandoned her Tuesdays at home, and did not return the visits of those who had called upon her. She made no ineffectual efforts to conduct her household” and did as she pleased, rather than following the rules of society (Chopin 54).
Not only did she not fulfill her role as a wife, but also as a mother. During the 1800’s, women were expected to marry and have children. Edna had all of...

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