Controversial Views In Kate Chopin's The Awakening

1273 words - 5 pages

The Controversial Views in Kate Chopin's The Awakening

Kate Chopin's The Awakening is truly a novel that stands out from the rest. From the moment it was published, it has been caused women to examine their beliefs. The fact that The Awakening was shunned when first published, yet now taught in classrooms across the country is proof that The Awakening is full of rebellious and controversial ideas.

One of the main themes explored in The Awakening is that of a woman's place in society. In that time period, a woman was considered in some ways to be property of a man (Mahin 2). This is shown repeatedly in The Awakening, through the many relationships between the characters. As with many ideas throughout the book, this is depicted well through the contrast between Edna's marriage and Madame Ratignolle's (Klein 4). While Madame Ratignolle is happy to do whatever her husband wishes, Edna will not indulge her husband at all, at one point even telling him "Don't speak to me like that again; I shall not answer you" (Chopin 80). Edna also had extremely rebellious views on her family life, thinking of her children as passing pleasures rather than the sole purpose of her existence (Klein 4). She even states to Madame Ratignolle "I would give up the unessential [for her children];... but I wouldn't give myself" (Chopin 97). These were definitely not the usual thoughts of a woman in that era, which is reflected through her husband's opinion. "It seems to me the utmost folly for a woman at the head of a household, and the mother of children, to spend in an atelier days which would be better employed contriving for the comfort of her family" (Chopin 108). Although women were supposed to automatically be good mothers and wives, Edna discovers that this did not happen naturally to her (Klein 4). Even though the Creole society seemed to be open in areas such as sexuality, it is very close-minded about a woman's place, which was mostly defined as that of a mother and wife (Mahin 2). Edna's unconventional ideas about her place in the society that she lived in is proof of the rebellious nature of The Awakening.

There are many other areas of Edna's story while illustrate the rebellious ideas that she represents. For example, her view of religion is very controversial for that time period. Throughout the story, we can see that Edna had no tolerance for the religious practices that were held so dear to the rest of society (Klein 3). It is not surprising that Edna refuses to "worship" any higher power, since we have also seen that she refuses to hold even her family to any higher regard (Klein 4). Additionally, Edna's attitude towards art builds on the unconventional themes of the story (Klein 6). Edna is told by Mademoiselle Reisz that ""o be an artist... you must possess the courageous soul... the brave soul. The soul that dares and defies" (Chopin 115). This seems indicative of the very soul that Edna strives to possess in...

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