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The Awakening, By Kate Chopin Essay

1585 words - 6 pages

Illogical, submissive, and sensual are some of the words used to describe the view of women during the nineteenth century. In the novel The Awakening, Kate Chopin tells the controversial story of a woman, Edna Pontellier, and her spiritual growing. Throughout the story, Edna constantly battles between her heart’s desires and society’s standard. The novel shows how two women’s lives influence Edna throughout the novel. Mademoiselle Reisz and Madame Ratignolle are both in their own way strong, motherly influences in Edna’s life. Mademoiselle Reisz is Edna the mother who wants Edna to pursue her heart’s desires. Madame Ratignolle however, is the type of mother to Edna who wants Edna to do what is socially right. The way the two live their lives not only plays an important role in Edna’s mothering role, but it also represents the only two outcomes that Edna thinks she has for her life.
In the manner of most mentors, Mademoiselle Reisz supports Edna as she begins to obtain the responsibility free life she yearns for. Mademoiselle Reisz is a free-spirited, hot tempered, childless, and unmarried woman. She is an outcast in her own town because of the way she lives her unconventional life. One of Mademoiselle Reisz’s neighbors says, “ In truth he did not want to know her at all, or anything concerning her – the most disagreeable and unpopular woman who ever lived on Bienville Street” (69). During the summer people’s view of Mademoiselle Reisz is still the same. Everyone seeks her out because she plays the piano well, but no one truly likes her other than Edna. As she walks into the entertainment room at Grand Isle where everyone is seated, “A general air of surprise and genuine satisfaction fell upon everyone as they saw the pianist" (Chopin 29). The novel describes her as eccentric, ugly, irritable, and an artist. In the nineteenth century, these characteristics are neither expected nor accepted by men or women. As Edna becomes her own person, she also becomes a better artist. Being an artist comes with responsibility in the novel. Prior to her awakening, she does not consider herself as an artist. The novel states, “Mrs. Pontellier had brought her sketching materials, which she sometimes she dabbled. She liked the dabbling” (13). After she awakens however, her artistic abilities increase and she begins to sell her artwork. Ironically, Edna and Mademoiselle Reisz have similar characteristics. Mademoiselle Reisz is Edna’s spiritual mother in a way, and the two have a love hate relationship. Mademoiselle Reisz is a key factor in Edna’s awakening, and she encourages her as she goes towards her heart’s desires. She knows that Edna does not want to answer to her husband or always watch after her children, and the best way to do so is to be like Mademoiselle Reisz.
Another reason Mademoiselle Reisz is significant to Edna is because she is the only one who knows about and Robert and Edna’s love. Mademoiselle explains Robert’s love...

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