A Study of Edna Pontillier’s Feeling Towards Love and Lust in The Awakening by Kate Chopin

June 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Touch of Lust and Love

Edna Pontillier’s two lovers in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening induce very distinct attitudes within Edna and the importance of these lovers are shown in contrasting physical touch. Robert and Edna’s relationship begins as a friendship that gives emotional comfort and mental stimulation to both of them, making room for a deeper connection as they fall in love. Edna enjoys Robert’s touch because she feels emotionally secure with him and she learns he his able to fill not only her mental needs but also her physical needs. The relationship with Alcee is born only out of Edna’s physical needs and large amount of lust with no mental fulfillment. Edna does not feel the love or even the emotional comfort which Robert gives her and feels this lack of affinity in an unattached and indifferent acceptance of Alcee’s presence. The difference between Edna’s relationship with Robert and Alcee is manifest in the loving tender caress of Robert and the seductive, magnetic kiss of Alcee, highlighting the difference between Edna’s physical and emotional needs.

Robert’s presence and touch provokes a feeling of emotional contentment with appears because her love of Robert fills both physical and mainly her emotional needs. Robert “penetrat[es] her mood and understand[s]” (29) this comfort on the mental and emotional level leads Edna to take “his arm, but…not lean upon it” (29). Edna is able to accept Robert’s physical touch only because she feels this emotional connection to him not because she depends on Robert to hold her up, only because he understands her. The two lovers feel a link so strong that when Robert leaves for Mexico Edna is very unwilling to say goodbye and clings to his hand “striving to detain him” (45). Edna uses her hand as physical means to communicate with Robert the strong emotional objection she feels to him leaving. While Robert is away his letters to Mademoiselle Reisz “[penetrate] (Edna’s) whole being…warming and brightening the dark places of her soul” (81). Even without Robert’s physical presence Edna is still able to feel an emotional connection to him, which brings her joy, revealing that their feelings for each other are more than temporary lust. When finally reunited, Robert’s first reaction is to grab her hand “without knowing what he was saying or doing” (97). The immediate physical touch shows Robert’s immense feelings of not only physical attraction but emotional adoration as well. The attachment that Edna feels for Robert has much more emotional and mental weight for Edna than the physical seduction of Alcee.

Alcee represents physical lust and fleeting satisfaction with only physical affection to entice her and fulfill her physical requirements. When Alcee and Edna first get to know each other he “drew…Edna like a magnet” and was as alluring as “an intoxicant” (74). Alcee is dangerous but Edna feels the need to fulfill her physical needs and Alcee is the most magnetic candidate. When Alcee finally seduces Edna to physical affection, she “[does] not think or care whether (the kiss) [was] genuine or not” (77) but still “like[s] the touch of his fingers through her hair” (82). Edna is unwilling to spend time considering Alcee’s or her own emotional attachments but enjoys the sensuous and seductive physical closeness he provides. Alcee’s touch “kindled desire” (83) but left a “dull pang of regret” which saddens Edna (84). The inability of Edna to enjoy Alcee’s touch after it occurs is proof of the completely lust-based nature of her attraction toward him. The touch of Alcee leaves a thrilling although regrettable and often apathetic experience for Edna and only leaves her missing the comfort and love of Roberts caress.

The difference between Alcee and Robert is evident in Edna’s feelings and her reactions toward each of their physical touch. Edna is drawn to Alcee by his physical appearance and his attitude “not overburdened with depth of though or feeling” not by any true emotional connection that is at all comparable to Robert and Edna’s relationship (74). There is none of the amiable easiness that abounds between Edna and Robert and Alcee presses his lips on Edna “as if he wished never more to withdraw them” (77) however, Edna responds to his generous actions in a “monotonous, dull tone” and has no emotional feelings for the young man (77). This is ironic considering a mere letter from Robert evokes a “soulful and poignant longing” highlighting the enduring love that connects Edna to Robert and the momentary desire that draws Edna to Alcee. The differences in Edna’s emotions toward the touch/presence of both her lovers once again makes the distinctness between love and lust clearer.

Edna’s distinct feelings toward lust and love are evident in her relationships toward Robert and Alcee and the human touch that follows. The love she feels for Robert is comforting and invokes not only a sense of emotional safety but a physical one as well. These two feeling are a result of the genuine love she feels for Robert. Edna is unwilling or unable to find any of the same comfort in Alcee and only uses him to fulfill her physical in needs in acts of fleeting lust and passion without the same continuous warmth she feels for Robert. These differences are seen in the physical touch that is shared between each couple and defines the meaning of their relationship. The difference between the physical touching of Robert and Edna and Alcee and Edna symbolize the contrast between Edna’s physical and emotional needs as a woman.

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