Theme of Gender and Social Criticism in “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin

Updated September 10, 2022

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Theme of Gender and Social Criticism in “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin essay

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In this module, we have read a very interesting women`s literature book. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin is a women`s literature book which focuses on analysis of the process of Edna`s awakening, her character analysis and several other common themes are also analyzed in the story. The society that Edna and her husband Pontellier are presented is a type of society that requires that, a woman should be submissive to her husband.

From the understanding of it, it is right in the society for a woman to always remain indoors and do all the domestic tasks. This includes, taking care of family kids and other domestic chores (Rosenfelt et al, 22). Several themes crop up from this. Kate Chopin’s story presents a strong woman arising or awakening from the society ties and realizing that she deserves freedom like any other person in the society.

Issues of women being submissive to their husbands, is common in several societies. As the story starts, character of Edna builds from a mild person to a completely strong feminists character who by all means goes against the society`s requirements of her and even against her husband`s wishes just in search of freedom of her own. She does not care so much about the consequences of her actions (Rosenfelt et al, 34). In this regard, I have keenly identified instances in Kate Chopin`s story, the awakening, where the theme of gender and social criticism are evident as discussed below.

Gender and social criticism is seeing in several instances, for instance, as Edna begins to awaken, the society does not accredit her moves. Her husband too is not happy about it. This makes Edna`s husband visit a doctor so that he can be told about his wife`s weird behavior. He believes strongly that, his wife can never disrespect him and therefore, he believes she is out of her mind. However, the reality is that, Edna is in the process of realizing her self -worth and hence moving to a state of freedom. Awakening is made up of incidences that are a show of the nature of gender relationships in the Victorian era.

Kate Chopin states that, “Many find Edna selfish and rash and even others find her to be manic-depressive.” This is an example of society`s critique nature of gender (Rosenfelt et al, 47). The society does not expect women to deviate from the norms. The fact that, Mr. Pontellier`s wife, Edna is seeking freedom and free will to do what she feels is right appears to be against people`s expectations in the society including Edna`s own husband. However, it is quite important to keenly observe Edna`s behavior so as to establish reasons for Edna`s rebellious nature. The main reason why she is rebelling is because of the type of treatment that her husband subjects her to.

It is however true that, Chopin`s story on The Awakening did not receive great praise like other stories by Kate Chopin. This is yet another evidence of gender and social criticism from the society around Chopin`s writings. This is because Kate Chopin is portraying a strong feminine character in the society yet the society seems not acknowledge such. Kate Chopin is a writer and a great feminist. She is fighting for the rights of women and hence, it should remembered that, Chopin has really enjoyed greatness in the she has dealt with issues of gender and social criticism in societies. Kate` presentation of Edna`s rebellious nature in the Awakening is a sure way of fighting against societal vices like abuse or discrimination and oppression of female gender (Rosenfelt et al, 78).

Edna strays away from her daily duties as a wife and a mother. Following Edna`s stray actions, the society criticizes her moves. This is also an example of a situation where Edna faces social discrimination and criticism. She is criticized for her actions of abandoning domestic duties. Chopin further states, “She stood watching the fair woman walk down the long line of galleries with grace and majesty which queens are sometimes are sometimes supposed to possess. Her little ones ran to meet her.

Two of them clung about her white skirts, the third she took from its nurse and with a thousand endearments bore it along in her own fond, encircling arms. Though as everybody well knew, the doctor had forbidden her to lift so much as a spin.” This phrase shows the responsibilities that Edna is supposed to take care of (Rosenfelt et al, 89). The children running to her is a show of how female gender has been left with the responsibility of looking after the children while the husband, Mr. Pontellier, representing the male gender goes out with friends. This is a clear of feminine responsibilities that Edna has being left to undertake.

Chopin states that, the doctor had forbidden from lifting heavy items, she is seeing lifting her baby as a show of motherly love and responsibility that she is supposed to undertake. Edna`s interaction with her children is a picture of what she was supposed to be doing back at home, however, her thoughts take precedence of such. “She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would sometimes keep them away.” This shows Edna`s love for her children despite the society being against her and accusing her of abandoning her responsibility (Rosenfelt et al, 96). Edna`s raising of her children is not of a big concern in Chopin`s story since Chopin`s target is to bring light to the society and enlighten them about women freedom.


In the society, that is represented by Chopin`s story, The Awakening, it is clear that mothers or married women who go against the patterns that are accepted in the society are a subject to disapproval of their husbands. The society is seeing to be full of criticism against one gender, the feminine gender. There seems to be little devotion that Mr. Pontelliers shows on his wife. Mr. Pontellier still feels that he should be intervening and make judgements on behalf of his wife. This demeans Edna`s personality as a strong female character. She should be allowed to make her life judgements and probably do what she feels is right for her life.

Theme of Gender and Social Criticism in “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin essay

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Theme of Gender and Social Criticism in “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. (2021, Oct 31). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/theme-of-gender-and-social-criticism-in-the-awakening-by-kate-chopin/


How does Kate Chopin perceive feminism in the story of an hour?
A Feminist Perspective As in "The Story of an Hour" she plotted the idea that women were oppressed through unhappy marriages . Through this idea, she voiced that marriages were institutions that put restraints upon women. Husbands held the power and often imposed their will on their wives.
What did critics say about The Awakening?
The opposing group of critics read The Awakening as a naturalist text. They believe Edna's awakening to be a decline into insanity . Instead of triumphing against the society and men who oppress her, Edna gives herself up to the ocean in a symbolic return to the womb, allowing the ocean to possess her.
What is the theme of The Awakening by Kate Chopin?
The Awakening has been described as a case study of 19th-century feminism. One of the central themes in the novel is that of self-ownership . Also called bodily autonomy, self-ownership was a key tenet of 19th-century feminism. It signified a woman's right to have control over her own body and identity.
Why is The Awakening feminist?
The Awakening and Feminist Literature Scholars often describe The Awakening as an early feminist novel because of its exploration of a young woman's self-discovery and self-liberation . Chopin was not the first and only woman writer at the time exploring these issues.
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