Growaw Epiphany Of Edna Pontellier In Kate Chopin's The Awakening

828 words - 3 pages

The Epiphany in The Awakening

 
    Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, presents the struggle of an American woman at the turn of the century to find her own identity.  At the beginning of the novel, the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, seems to define her identity in terms of being a wife, a mother and a member of her community.  As the story progresses, Edna seeks to define herself as an individual.  The turning point in her struggle can be seen clearly in a scene in which Edna realizes for the first time that she can swim.  Having struggled to learn to swim for months, she realizes in this scene that it is easy and natural.  This discovery is symbolic of Edna’s break from viewing herself in terms of what society expects her to be, and her new awareness of herself as an autonomous human being.

Prior to this scene, Edna does have some awareness of the duality of her existence.  The narrator tells us that “[e]ven as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself.  At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life--that outward existence which conforms, the inward life that questions” (14).  As Edna grew older, that awareness was pushed aside.  Chopin makes a comparison between Edna’s religious faith and how she conducts her secular life. She describes how, as a child, Edna once ran away from church and wandered aimlessly through a field of tall grass.  She was simply following her impulses and her desires unthinkingly.  As Edna grew older, her feelings towards religion changed: “During one period of my life religion took a firm hold upon me,” she states, “after I was twelve and until--until--why, I suppose until now, though I have never much thought much about it--just driven along by habit” (17).  She goes on to express that “sometimes I feel this summer as if I were walking through the green meadow again: idly, aimlessly, unthinking and unguided” (17).  As with her religious faith, Edna has viewed her domestic life with the same unquestioning attitude.  Her entire adult life has been driven along by the force of habit.  She marries, has children, engages in appropriate hobbies and accepts what society deems standard for a woman of her class because it is expected and normal.  Only in the months in which this story takes place does Edna once again begin to question her complacency.  She begins “to...

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