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Women: Life Isn’t Fair Essay

1966 words - 8 pages

Throughout the centuries, women have been relegated to roles as mothers and housewives. Any women who do not conform to society’s chauvinistic and harsh rules suffer alienation and are considered to be sluts or unlovable independents. These unfair tenets imposed by society do not allow women to be free in how they live. After experiencing an “awakening”, Edna Pontellier struggles to find her place in a society that does not allow for women to be anything other than compliant wives. She cannot see herself as another submissive woman in her Creole society; rather, she would like to choose her own path. Kate Chopin, in The Awakening, illustrates that women are unable to live their lives as they see fit through Edna’s struggle to cope with those choices that her oppressive society has presented to her.
Despite the rigid traditions of her society, Edna Pontellier attempts break free from her role as a wife and mother in search for autonomy, but, as a result, she is rejected by society and left unsatisfied. While she would like to be more independent, Creole society dictates that women should be mothers who devote their lives completely to family and duty. First, Chopin shows that there is an “absolutely inescapable link—basic, natural, and powerful—between the female identity and motherhood” to illustrate how women are bound to society’s belief that women must be mothers; Chopin does so by explaining that Madame Ratignolle, a friend of Mrs. Pontellier who she met during the summer, is always pregnant and therefore always connected to her children (Skaggs 90). Later she imparts that the typical women that summer in New Orleans “were women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands” (Chopin 10). Her purpose in conveying this is to show that the average woman focuses on being a wife and mother, while also caring for the family. This type of woman is the accepted social norm. In rebellion against the idea that women should be restricted to motherly duties, Edna begins to neglect her children and family obligations. One of these family obligations is to receive callers. When her husband asks who called, Edna Pontellier responds, “‘There were a good many’…‘I found their cards when I got home; I was out’” (Chopin 68). The protagonist of the story flagrantly abandons her duties in order to pursue the things that she finds to be more interesting because she believes that the duties assigned to her do not allow her to express herself or live as she pleases. After breaking from her societal role, those around her begin to condemn her desertion of duty. Mr. Pontellier responds to his wife’s lack of receiving callers and neglect of their children by saying, “‘it seems to me the utmost folly for a woman at the head of a household, and the mother of children, to spend in an atelier days which would be better employed’” (Chopin 76-77). Edna’s husband’s, a representative of traditional Creole values, berating of his wife illustrates that her nonchalance...

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