Edna Pontellier in “The Awakening”

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What if a woman did not follow the social role or norms in the time period they lived in? Is it possible for a woman to break away from a man and be independent, making her own choices? There are such women. Edna Pontellier, the main character in Kate Chopin’s feminist novel, The Awakening, published in 1899. This character represents Kate’s belief and hope that women no longer needed to live by the standards set for them and that they are capable of going their own way in life.

In order to fully see how this novel goes against the typical life of a woman in the time period it was published, one must understand what the normal life was for women in the 1800-1900s. In regard to relationships with men, it was assumed that women had to be dependent on their husband. They went directly from being one man’s daughter to being a new man’s wife. The divorce rates were very low, because of the difficulties associated with it.

Woman were treated poorly and less than men during this time. Woman had quite less rights than men. During this time period, they were fighting for their right to vote. Eventually in the late 1800s, they were granted their right to vote in a couple of states. Woman did not have a high employment rate, although it did start to rise. The equality for women was beginning to rise during this time, but it is easily seen they still had quite a few limitations.

The novel brought these limitations to light. It mainly focused on breaking away from the limitation’s women had in relationships and feeling trapped in them. The main character, Edna Pontellier, is a promiscuous girl who does not comply to the typical life. Throughout the story, she is trying to find the meaning of her life and complete her desires sexually as well as her yearning desire for her independence. In the novel, the protagonist is in a marriage with a man, Léonce Pontellier, that she does not have love for. She married quite young and after she is older, she has children of her own.

Later in life, she begins to find herself and realizes she is not living the life she wants. Her awakening begins when she finds love with a man, Robert Lebrun, whom she is not married to, he takes on an almost boyfriend like figure. When she is with this man, she feels young, alive, and free. when she goes home to her husband and kids back at her life, she feels confined and restricted. The man leaves her after he realizes she loves him.

The protagonist flirts with other men during her realization that the life she is in is not the one she wishes to have. She even has her sexual needs met by having an affair with Alcée Arobin. She was never emotionally involved with this man like she was her boyfriend. By having a strictly sexual relationship with this man and nothing more, she still feels free and independent. Her boyfriend comes back and despite her proposition to him to have an affair, he feels this is wrong despite his feelings toward her and he leaves her once more. There are other elements in this novel apart from her loveless feelings toward her husband and her seeking out other men where she does not feel free in life.

There are instances where the protagonist is treated like something that belongs to her husband. She does not want to feel this way. During her awakening she goes out some nights instead of fulfilling her typical housewife duties. She sees her marriage as ultimately, a mistake. At the end of the novel she thinks that even though her boyfriend figure and children were part of her life, she should not feel possess by them.

Meaning her body as well as her soul. Because she is part of a society that limits women, she realizes she can never be happy. At the end of the novel it is apparent she committed suicide. Her awakening and feeling that she could not escape and live the life ultimately killed her. Some may say that her suicide is the result that women cannot break away from belonging to men, but on the contrary, it could be seen as her final victory. She may have found the ultimate breakaway and freedom from her husband, children, and sad life which she felt trapped in.

In conclusion, this novel brings light to the seriousness of the lives of women in the 1800-1900s. It helps people see how this lifestyle can affect them in all ways of their life. It shows that women can break away from the living situations and choose to do and act how they please and should not comply with what society sees as acceptable. The fact that the protagonist in this novel is stuck in a marriage to a man she does not love. The man that she discovers she loves while finding herself, leaves her more than once. She has no say because she is married. She goes on her own path and acts promiscuously. The typical actions of women in this time would not be to act like this.

Typically, they would stay with their husband and act respectful of the relationship. She would have had to be in an unhappy and unloving relationship her whole life, never getting fulfillment from anyone else. That is how life was meant to be for women in this time. This novel shows the impact this kind of lifestyle has on a woman. The results of living this way was shown by the persistent sadness and hopeless feeling the protagonist was going through. The novel brings to light the ultimate result that living this life could have, but at the same time showing that women are strong enough to act as they please if they seek to find happiness and not acceptance.

Cite this paper

Edna Pontellier in “The Awakening”. (2021, Oct 31). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/edna-pontellier-in-the-awakening/

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