Perspectives on Love in The Awakening
Though Kate Chopin wrote her novel, The Awakening, in the late nineteenth century, her insight of such things as love, romance, and relationships is remarkably modern. Through Mr. Pontellier, Edna Pontellier, and Robert Lebrun, Chopin presents her opinions of love versus "romantic love." Chopin uses the Pontellier's marriage to predict the modern view of love and the relationship between Edna and Robert to portray the concept of romantic love. These relationships are keen perceptions on Chopin's part of the attitudes toward love and romance almost a century later.
In the novel, Mr. Pontellier and Edna seem to have a very surface relationship. They realize the needs of the other, but neither of them feel compelled to extend more than necessity to their marriage. For example, early in the story Mr. Pontellier decides to go to a club called Klein's. When Edna asks if he will be back in time to eat dinner, he merely shrugs and they both understand that he probably not come to dinner. They comprehend each other well enough to accept this as part of their marriage, but they don't make more of an effort to better their relationship, nor seem to want to better it. Communication, which is a vital part of a healthy relationship, is of little concern to them. They simply accept their marriage as part of life, almost like a duty.
Their marriage seems a product of convenience and societal standards, not love and passion. This type of relationship tends to lead to the objectifying of either the man or the woman, if not both, within a marriage. In this instance, Mr. Pontellier views his wife as his possession. On page 44, Mr. Pontellier tells his wife that she is sunburnt and he looks "at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage." He seems to be more of a reprimanding father figure or a collector of priceless antiques than a husband. He treats her as an object and expects her to respond as a submissive housewife, void of her own personality. He does not appear to realize that Edna even has opinions, while concerning himself with society's opinions of their marriage too much. Though there may have once been some type of romance between them, there is certainly no romantic love between them anymore.
The friendship between Edna and Robert blossoms into romantic love, or infatuation. They enjoy being together. They talk with each other rather than at each other, with Mr. Pontellier and Edna often doing the latter. Robert is...