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Restrictions Of Society In The Awakening

2015 words - 8 pages

Edna Pontellier’s Struggle for Freedom in The Awakening by Kate Chopin

In Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, the constant boundaries and restrictions placed on Edna Pontellier by society will lead to her struggle for freedom and her ultimate suicide. Her husband Leonce Pontellier, the current women of society, and the Grand Isle make it evident that Edna is trapped in a patriarchal society. Despite these people, Edna has a need to be free and she is able to escape from the society that she despises. The sea, Robert Lebrun, and Mademoiselle Reisz serve as Edna’s outlets from conformity. “Edna's journey for personal independence involves finding the words to express herself. She commits suicide rather than sacrificing her independent, individual existence as social conventions demand of her” (Ewell 153).
There are constant boundaries and restrictions imposed on Edna Pontellier that initiate Edna’s struggle for freedom. Edna is a young Creole wife and mother in a high-class society. The novel unfolds the life of a woman who feels dissatisfied and restrained by the expectations of society. Leonce Pontellier, her husband is declared “…the best husband in the world” (Chopin 6). Edna is forced to admit that she knew of none better. Edna married Leonce because he courted her earnestly and her father was opposed to her marriage to a Catholic. “Edna felt that her marriage would anchor her to the conventional standards of society and end her infatuation” (Skaggs 30). She is fond of Leonce, but he does not incite passionate feelings. Edna represents women in the past that were suppressed. These women weren't allowed to give their opinions and were often seen as objects, which explains the way her husband never really saw Edna as his wife, but more as a material possession. “You are burnt beyond recognition, he added, looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered great damage” (Chopin 2). In this society, men viewed their wives as an object, and she receives only the same respect as a possession. Edna did not respect her husband as the other women did. While he talked to her, Edna was overcome with sleep and answered him with little half utterances. “Leonce thought it very discouraging that his wife, who was the sole object of his existence, evinced so little interest in things which concerned him, and valued so little conversation” (Chopin 4). Leonce condemned Edna for neglecting their children. “If it was not a mother’s place to look after children, whose on earth was it” (Chopin 4). Edna realizes that the patriarchal society is quick to condemn particularly a freedom-seeking woman who neglects her children since she is “intended by nature” to take care of them (Dyer 126). She is "uneven and impulsive" in her affections for her children. When they leave to visit their grandmother, she is relieved because she is not suited to the responsibilities of motherhood. Edna’s mind was at rest concerning the...

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