Kate Chopin Essay

1171 words - 5 pages

PhDr. Mariana Machová, Ph.D.UAN/DAML16.01.2014Is Edna's end in The Awakening a victory, or a failure?The Awakening, a novel written by Kate Chopin, was first published in 1899 and did not receive very positive critics as it deals with the subject of a woman's struggle for intellectual and sexual equality. A twenty-eight-year-old Edna Pontellier is not just a simple character of a married woman with a wealthy husband and two children, but, above all, a young sensitive woman longing for her own physical, mental and social independence in the 19th century society where women were supposed to satisfy men´s needs and respect their own social roles. At the moment when Edna finishes her "process of awakening" dying in the sea, the key question if her end is a victory or a failure undoubtedly arises. However, the answer is not as definite as it may seem to be since Edna´s final decision is a result of several steps she has gradually made towards her self-discovery.First, it is important to point out that Edna was born into a well-off Presbyterian family in Kentucky, and having lost her mother very soon, she was brought up in quite cold, rather impersonal family backgrounds where emotions and feelings were unacceptable. She marries a wealthy New Orleans businessman, Léonce Pontellier, probably because she wants to rebel against her father who is not satisfied with her choice: "She fancied there was a sympathy ofthought and taste between them, in which fancy she was mistaken. Add to this the violent opposition of her father and her sister Margaret to her marriage with a Catholic, and we need seek no further for the motives which led her to accept Monsieur Pontellier for her husband." (Chopin 22)Unfortunately, she is a kind of woman who is not able to become a model wife and mother like another character of the novel Adèle Ratignolle who has found a true happiness in her marriage and maternity. Edna realizes that her husband Léonce ignores her as a partner: "You are burnt beyond recognition," he added looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage." (Chopin 7) Nevertheless, she is supposed to be happy as he provides the family and expects her to care for him and the sons. Therefore he is really surprised, or even shocked by her opinion: "A wedding is one of the most lamentable spectacles on earth. Nice thing for a woman to say to her husband!" exclaimed Mr. Pontellier, fuming a new at the recollection." (Chopin 71)Edna´s disagreement with the wife´s duties and her protest against social conventions of the 19th century is obvious. She rebels, but she is not prepared to leave yet. She cannot deny the fact that she is married with children. It could be the community of the French Creole, the atmosphere of the island, summer, and the sea that teaches her to feel more open and emotional. After having learned to swim she feels free and accepts this with...

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