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The Awakening, By Kate Chopin Essay

1150 words - 5 pages

In Kate Chopin's The Awakening, a woman's entrapment within a patriarchal society reveals to her the bonds of having to live up the society's standards which further demonstrates the corruption and skewed perspectives of the post-Victorian era. In the novella, Edna Pontellier's, a wife of a rich Creole businessman, sexual and spiritual desires surface themselves which distinguishes a separation between her pursuit of happiness and her responsibilities as a mother and wife. As an oppressed character, she does anything in her power to achieve freedom, no matter how sinful the acts to getting there may be. Chopin employs a critical tone to this manner of behavior yet remains sympathetic to Edna's struggles. The frequently recurring motif of children accentuates Edna's rebellion against her roles as a woman within her community.
At the fin de siecle women still possessed many cultural restraints carrying over from the time of Queen Victoria's reign. The views and ethics of that time period contrasted greatly from that of the previous Georgian period. Victorian morality can be defined as a set of moral values that entail extreme prudery, sexual constraint, low tolerance of crime, and a very strict code of conduct. This suppression gave rise to a large scaled social movement as women began to break apart from their role in society as “mother-women” to achieve independence. Many historian's refer to the this progression as the movement towards the “New Woman.” The name may be paralleled to that of the “New Negro” as it represents a generation that has realized its dehumanized statures in life and began to pursue equality and self-sufficiency. Edna plays the role of the “New Woman” in The Awakening however her actions may be seen as too radical and extreme for her time.
Primarily, Victorian morality appears in the expectations of society for women to behave in a certain manner. Women hold a weak position in the rich Creole community of New Orleans and Grand Isle in the sense that they serve but two purposes: to care for children and the household, and to provide their husbands with a presentable woman that they may flaunt to the public. Unlike the men, the women must stay at home the whole day with no excuses. For instance, on a particular occasion, Leonce decides he would fancy a trip to Klein's hotel in the city to socialize and talk business with the other men there. Meanwhile, Edna must sit home with the children without knowing how long to wait or what to do. Apart from this, he rejects his paternal role when he returns from his outings and visits his sons in their bedrooms. It appears to him that one has caught a fever and instead of taking care of the problem as a parent he disrupts Edna in he sleep and throws the responsibilities on her. “When Edna replies that the children are fine and don't need to be checked on, Leonce accuses his wife of neglect. 'He reproached his wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children. If it was...

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