The Awakening By Kate Chopin, Essay On The Main Character Of The Novel

1179 words - 5 pages

People often have many faces, some shown to the world while others remain hidden deep within oneself. The pressure society places on an individual helps mold a simple conformed outer appearance while keeping emotions and personality traits locked up inside. This often creates hardship and confusion for people because they face conflicting opinions, feelings and ideals that clash with what society views as being normal and acceptable. In The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Edna, the protagonist of the novel, finds herself in a battle between her own values and desires and society's oppressive role for women. As time progressed, Edna's need to be a free and independent woman and culture's call for a submissive housewife brought her to an unfortunate death. Edna always had the desire to act on emotion and live life the way she wanted although she was unable to do that after becoming married to Leonce, a wealthy businessman. Her unhappiness as a housewife was first introduced in the third chapter of the novel where she left her bedroom in the middle of the night. After leaving the house to sit in a rocking chair on the front porch, her face was described as "Steaming and wet, into the bend of her arm, and she went on crying there, not caring any longer to dry her face, her eyes, her arms"(6). This was the first time the reader was able to see her discontent with being a mother and wife. By showing her crying and disconnected from the family the author instilled a feeling of sympathy in the reader early in the novel. One of the reasons for Edna's discontent resulted from the way she was treated by Leonce, a man who had good intentions but hurt her because he followed what society felt was right. He did not regard his wife as a partner in marriage but as a possession. When he noticed that she was sunburned from swimming, he looked at her "as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage"(4). Soon afterward, Edna was described as being "the sole object of his existence." meaning she is below him and only exists to serve him and his family(4). Léonce's perception of his wife as property was common in Louisiana society and formalized by its laws. Women were pressured to become "mother-women", women who worshiped their husbands, protected their children, and took care of the home. They were supposed to desire nothing more than "to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels" basically making them unequal servants to men(3). Kate Chopin uses Leonce's viewpoints to give the reader a strong sense of compassion towards Edna and her repressive lifestyle. Edna struggles with herself in order to reach self actualization and become her own independent entity. After a Saturday night celebration a crowd of people made its way down to the beach for a nighttime swim. Most of the beach goers entered the water without a second thought, although Edna was hesitant. Despite the attempts of the...

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