Suicide as the Best Option in Kate Chopin's Awakening
The Awakening, written by Kate Chopin, was considered controversial at the time it was first published in 1892 because of its intense sexual context. In fact, the critics of that era wrote in newspapers and magazines about the novel "it’s not a healthy book," "sex fiction," "we are well satisfied when Ms. Pontellier deliberately swims to her death," "an essential vulgar story," and "unhealthy introspective and morbid" (Wyatt). Edna, the main character, engages in sexual relationships outside of marriage. These encounters reveal true sexual passion to Edna, which she did not receive at home with her husband. As a result of these experiences Edna’s ability to continue living in a loveless marriage dwindles, and she eventually commits suicide. Although Edna had other options such as divorce, remaining in a loveless marriage, or simply deserting her family, suicide is most viable.
One alternative, a separation, could have been hard to accomplish for Edna because of the male-dominated society that she lived in. However, it was a possibility. In fact, an author by the name of Charlotte Perkins Gilman received a divorce from her husband, Walter Stetson, prior to the creation of The Awakening. Through serious bouts with depression Gilman’s marriage to Stetson became a struggle, and her divorce was granted in 1894. Stetson received custody of their daughter Katherine. Similarly, Edna would have probably lost custody of her children, but she said it herself that she is not a mother woman ("About Charlotte Gilman"). Gilman eventually moved on and remarried in June 1900. Edna’s aspirations of marrying Robert could have possibly come true.
With this possibility in mind, suicide still remained most feasible because of a number of reasons. The most important one was the Louisiana civil code. This code was derived from the Napoleonic Code, a set of 2,281 articles located in three books that were endorsed in 1804 by the ruler of the French empire, Napoleon Bonaparte. Originally, the Louisiana civil code was set up to protect the family unit. For example, it was harder to obtain a divorce and dissolve a family unit in Louisiana than most other states ("Differences Fading Over Time"). In addition to the Louisiana civil code, Edna’s financial status subsequent to marriage was another reason why suicide seemed more viable for her.
Edna would not have been able to survive without her husband supporting her financially. When Edna departed from her home and moved into the pigeon house, she desperately needed money from her father, from her mother’s inheritance, combined with the money she received from her paintings in order for her to purchase the house. Selling paintings was not sufficient enough to provide the funds for the pigeon house. Few female painters were highly acclaimed in that era. Mary Cassatt was part of the minute group of successful female painters. ("About Mary Cassatt"). Edna’s...