Edna Pontellier Of The Awakening: A Woman Before Her Time

1352 words - 5 pages

Edna Pontellier is a woman of great needs. Although she has a husband who cares for her and two children, she is very unhappy. She plays her roles as a mother and wife often, but still keeps doing things unmarried, barren women should do: enjoy the company of other men, ignore her children's cries, dress unladylike for the times. The story is set in the late 1800's, when women were to be in the kitchen preparing a meal for their family, giving birth to more children to help with daily chores, or sitting quietly at home, teaching the children while the husband was at work. Edna Pontellier was a woman not of her time. At only 28, she would have rather been out gallivanting with different men, traveling with them, and painting whenever she got the urge. She could never have traveled with Robert, however bad she wanted to, because she was married. Divorce was unheard of. No one would want to marry a woman who had been married and divorced because she was spoiled or ruined. Not only would the men have shunned a divorced woman, many of the other women would have thought that the divorced woman was not filling her God-given role of a mother or wife. When Madame Ratignolle hears of Edna living alone and leaving her husband, she tells her that she "seems to [her] like a child" (Chopin, 127).

Two ways she does escape while still with her husband are her painting and her friendship with Madame Adele Ratignolle. Her friendship is refreshing and Edna learns a great deal from Madame Ratignolle. The madame is very expressive in her thoughts. It is suggested that this is because she is Creole. For Edna, being around Madame Ratignolle and her brash ways helps her to find out her true feelings. The strong friendship gives Edna the courage to express her desires and emotions that were buried before. Edna knows, as does her husband, that she will never be quite the wife or mother that most women become. She was pressured to marry Leonce by her father and older sister. Along with marriage came the pressure to have children. She is forced into these roles but never actually succumbs to them. Edna not only has Madame Ratignolle's friendship and her marriage to wake her up to her dreams and emotions, her affairs wake up to her desires. The way the different male characters treat her reminds her that she will never happily fit into the role of a wife and mother, therefore awakening her.

Leonce Pontellier was Edna's husband and the father of her children. Although she was married to him, it was not by her choice. Her oldest sister, who had stepped into the role as her mother when their mother died, and her father had the biggest say in whom Edna was to marry. "Her marriage to Leonce Pontellier was purely an accident, in this respect resembling many other marriages which masquerade as the decrees of Fate" (23). In the 1800's, women were perceived as property. They were first the property of their fathers, then property of their...

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