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04 The Awakening Ron Williams 04 March 2000 The novel The Awakening, by Kate Chopin chooses a southern setting in Louisiana to tell her story utilizing a woman, Edna Pontellier, as her subject. The story was written in the late eighteen hundreds and drew wide criticism from critics and the public. The novel was banished for many years due to it s suicide and alienation basis. Today the novel is viewed with admiration, although many critic s don t know if Edna s suicide is a triumph, failure or tragedy in life. Chopin does an excellent job in describing Pontellier s marital situation, while giving some insight into how women are viewed as subordinates to men during these times. The author also goes into detail describing the characters in the book and how they all tie into the change in Edna Montpellier s personality.
Although Chopin adds a life-altering event to Edna s life such as her surprise swim, she also includes tragedy by allowing the principal to meet an unpredictable fate. Edna Pontellier somewhat represents several people today, not just women, who are searching within themselves to determine if their lives have any merit, while trying to define who they would prefer to be. While I thought Chopin wanted to make women look capable of standing up for what they want, the story made all the men look adventurous and level headed, and at the same time she made women look weak, dependent, and sometimes irrational. This story was able to help me visualize the troubled mind of young woman who was desperately seeking to find herself.
The author went into great detail to describe each scene to help me visualize what was going on. Although Chopin gave Edna an inner strength that eventually came forth as she was trying to stand up for herself, Chopin also compounded Edna emotionally by making her look reckless, while giving little regard for her husband s feelings or the feelings of her sons. Edna was consumed with the need to be on her own, to do things that felt to make her feel more alive, and the hope of Robert returning from Mexico and declaring his love for her. I do not believe that there was enough background on Edna to support her feeling of being trapped in a marriage that she did not want to be in. I found it disturbing that a mother would be willing to totally abandon her way of life especially being without her children as a major factor. I could see no evidence that she had been abused mentally, rather she was a victim of her circumstance and the era in which she lived, or perhaps a suppressed childhood.
Edna Pontellier is a twenty-eight year old mother of two boy s ages 4 and 5, and is also the wife of successful businessman. Originally, Edna s own desires are over- shadowed because of looking after the welfare of her children, and by dutifully abiding by her husband s wishes. Primarily, she has no life of her own other than ensuring that her family maintains a certain place within the southern social elite which is presumed important to her husband. Edna feels that she has potential to be a very good artist who could possibly make a living at it.
I believe that she is suffering from a suppressed mental condition that has heightened her own need for self-preservation that occurred after she realized she could swim. Mentally, she allows her mind to transport her to happier places when life gets a little unbearable. There are several characters in the novel that affect Edna s behavior and cognitive thinking. The first person is Leonce Pontellier, who is in his late forties and loves his wife. Although, he loves Edna, I believe that he placed more value in acquiring monetary gains rather than attending to this wife s emotional needs. He is very troubled when Edna rebels from the disposition that he is accustomed to.
He became concerned with his wife s mental condition and sought the counsel of the family doctor / psychiatrist . Despite The uncharacteristic change in Edna moving out of their home, Leonce cares for her reputation in social circles, and arranged it so that the house would look as though it was being remodeled. Robert Lebrun is a young man who is full of life and adventure, and had fallen in love with Edna during summer vacation on Grand Isle. He allowed himself to be a sort of confidant to Edna during their vacation that led to her growing infatuation with his free spirit.
Robert went away to Mexico to seek his fortune and also escape Edna, because he knew that he could never pursue her since she is married. He becomes a primary reason for her death because he is not willing to destroy her marriage. Mrs. Ratignolle was also one of Edna s friends there on the Isle. They enjoyed trips to the beach together and other interests, that they developed a very good friendship. Mrs.
Ratignolle is also living in similar circumstances as Edna, but she is not opposed to her life of being a mother and wife. She could see that Robert had more than a casual interest in Edna, and had sternly warned him to stay his distance because Edna was a married woman. I feel that Mrs. Ratignolle may have inadvertently been a factor in Edna s suicide because she repeatedly advised her to remember her children during the time when she was giving birth to her fourth child. Mademoiselle Reisz was probably the closest friend Edna had, and was the only one she dared share her hidden feelings for Robert with.
They shared a love of music. Ms Reisz felt that Edna was the only one at the vacation spot that was worthy of listening to her play the piano. Ms. Reisz s music often reduced Edna to tears. She served as an outlet for Edna to bare her feelings, and also allowed Edna to read letters that Robert had written to her. She was supportive of Edna s decision to move out of her home, but was concerned that she may not be making a wise decision to leave her family.
Agree Arobin was an insensitive man who pursued affections with Edna during a time when she was vulnerable. He had a reputation of being familiar with several women single and married... Arobin made blatant advances to Edna, and approved of her moving to her own apartment simply for selfish intentions. He thought he could win her over, but Edna always dreamed of being with Robert. Leonce Pontellier is the head of the house and had definite family views on the conduct of how his wife should conduct herself. He was used to having his household maintained in a certain manner.
Leonce was at a loss when Edna started rebelling against her attitude and mannerism s that he was used to. Edna s background comes from being raised in a typical southern family in which her father was a Confederate war colonel. Her father was also use to women being subservient, and advised Leonce to take her hand and discipline her if necessary. The doctor was concerned with Edna s behavior from a psychological viewpoint. His original assessment was that she was going through an independence phrase in her life, and advised Leonce to let her be, hoping that she would eventually come to her reason with her unusual behavior.
I don t think Edna was originally contemplating committing suicide. I think factors of Nurture, like behavioral, cognitive and humanistic, and not Nature, compiled to make her not want to live anymore rather than face dealing with them. She loved her children very much, but the author made it clear several times in the book that Edna was not willing to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of them. Mrs. Ratignolle reminded Edna of her motherly obligation by during the birth of her fourth child. She loved her husband, but could not bare the idea of ever going back to him because of his intense need to maintain a certain social position and his driving desire to acquire unnecessary items.
Lastly, I think depression really came out when she could not come to terms with the idea that the man she had fallen in love with was not willing to be with her because she was a married woman. 322
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