Feminism In The Awakening By Kate Chopin

1682 words - 7 pages

Kate Chopin boldly uncovered an attitude of feminism to an unknowing society in her novel The Awakening. Her excellent work of fiction was not acknowledged at the time she wrote it because feminism had not yet come to be widespread. Chopin rebelled against societal norms (just like Edna) of her time era and composed the novel, The Awakening, using attitudes of characters in favor to gender, variations in the main character, descriptions and Edna's suicide to show her feminist situation. Society during Chopin's time era alleged women to be a feeble, dependent gender whose place laid nothing above mothering and housekeeping. In The Awakening, Chopin conveys the simple attitudes of society toward women mainly through her characters Leonce, Edna, Madame Ratignolle, and Madame Reisz. She uses Leonce and Madame Ratignolle to depict examples of what was considered adequate in society. In a critical essay written by Emily Toth, she states that "The Awakening is a story of what happens when a woman does not accept her place in the home. The novel moves us because it illustrates the need for women's psychological, physical, social, and sexual emancipation--the goals of feminists in the twentieth century as well as the nineteenth" (Toth). However, Chopin takes account of the opposing characters of Edna and Madame Reisz in a determination to express desires and wants concealed by the female gender.
Leonce Pontellier, Edna's husband, is portrayed as the classic male of the time era and a "businessman twelve years her senior" (Toth). Leonce thinks of Edna to be not much more than another one of his sophisticated belongings and a companion who should be ready and enthusiastic to talk on his level, at any time. In the beginning the novel, Leonce stares at his sun burnt wife, "looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of property which has suffered some damage" (Chopin 3). Mr. Pontellier continues during the course of the novel to refer to his wife as just another one of his possessions, "he greatly valued his possessions, chiefly because they were his" (Chopin 67). It is supposed that under Edna's role of wife and mother, she should enthusiastically listen to her husband's pointless stories and take care for her children at all times. As Leonce pondered, "If it was not a mother's place to look after her children, whose on earth was it?" (Chopin 6). Leonce becomes exceptionally disheartened with his wife, that she "who was the sole object of his existence, evinced so little interest in things which concerned him and valued so little his conversation." (Chopin 6). However, it was not unusual during this era for a man to think of his wife to be in his control, "as a means of maintaining male power and dominance" (Pizer 7). It was also stated "in the world of The Awakening, women inherit the duty, care, and responsibility for, but not the possession of children" (Patterson). Nevertheless, this didn’t really make Mr. Pontellier a sexist man, per say....

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