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The (In)Appropriateness Of Edna's Behavior Throughout The Novel. Does Her "Awakening" Benefit Society, Women, Or Herself? "The Awakening" By Kate Chopin.

1014 words - 4 pages

When "The Awakening" begins, Edna is a polite and respectable woman who concerns herself little with her standing in society; however, as her "awakening" progresses, she's transformed into a self-centered and detrimental member of her community. Edna lets her misconception that she has a more complex understanding of the world serve as an excuse for her to harm everyone around her. In reality, Edna's "awakening" is only a change from a kind to an unappealing individual who's distorted sense of reality has, if anything, only grown worse.Throughout the initial chapters, Edna's actions lead to a deterioration of her moral integrity. The first relationship Edna has is with her loving and devoted husband Leonce. Likewise, he is the first one victimized by Edna's change. Edna justifies her treatment of Leonce by focusing on the role he expects a wife to fill and how it limits her freedom; however, it is important to consider an underlying contributor to Edna's cruelty. As Leonce married Edna because he loved her, Edna admits, "Her marriage to Leonce Pontellier was purely an accident" (14). Through her marriage to Leonce, Edna has, in effect, made the decision to cast aside her life of passion and to begin a life where she would feel socially and financially secure. Unfortunately, although Edna does not yet realize it, her "symptoms of infatuation which she had felt incipiently as a chid" (44) have not wholly departed. Once Edna realizes that she married for the wrong reasons, instead of accepting responsibility for her decision, she shifts the blame to Leonce who's only mistake was marrying out of love. Knowing Edna's initial mind-set upon entering the marriage, we must hesitate before accepting her complaints against being oppressed and wonder if maybe the real blame lies in Edna's premature commitment to a life she was not suited for. If this were in fact true, then her casting aside of Leonce is not appropriate.Edna's first personal battle against Leonce occurs after she returns home from swimming for the first time. When Leonce encourages her to come in and sleep, she grows "stubborn and resistant" and then "wondered if her husband had ever spoken to her like that before, and if she had submitted to his command" (31). Only once Edna's pattern of behavior changes can she begin to analyze it. This condition makes her unable to see the errors in her current behavior, and so makes us question whether Edna has now achieved a greater awareness or has tricked herself into thinking she has.While with Robert, Edna expresses her desire for them to be alone together and free from societal obligations. After waking up from a nap, Edna says, "The whole island seems changed. A new race of beings must have sprung up, leaving only you and me as past relics" (37). This fantasy illustrates the degree in which Edna's awareness differs from reality. While the idea of her and Robert sounds pleasant in her mythical, isolated world, Edna never comprehends the outcome...

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