“The Courageous Soul that Dares and Defies”: Naturalism in The Awakening Essay
Critic Donald Pizer understands literary naturalism as the artistic result of unremitting hardship, both personal and social. Taken one step further, literary naturalism laments humankind’s lot through its focus on characters that attempt to break free from their suffering, only to suffer more in the attempt.
A naturalist author, in Pizer’s mind, “grounds his fiction in the social realities of his historical moment and he therefore cannot help being especially responsive to social reality when that reality impinges cruelly on the fates of most men…[T]he naturalistic ethos, which views man as circumscribed by conditions of life over which he has no control, appears to be confirmed during periods of social malaise and individual hardship” (Pizer 153).
Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is one such work. Set in turn of the century New Orleans, The Awakening details the futile attempts of the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, to realize a modicum of personal freedom amid the socially constrictive Victorian era, wherein the roles allowed to females consisted exclusively of wifedom and motherhood.
Where the novel differs from other naturalist novels of its time, however, is in its treatment of the artist. This essay will show that The Awakening is best understood less so as an example of naturalist fiction and more so as a manifesto that highlights the intense social sacrifices that the pursuit of art demands.
Chopin’s nod to naturalism in The Awakening focuses wholly on the conundrum of freedom faced by women like Edna, who long for personal freedom, yet feel biologically bound to their children, and unable to leave them as a result.
In Pizer’s words, “though Edna may reject…the socially-constructed role of a mother’s total absorption in her children, she has not escaped the biologically essentialist act of giving birth to children and thus finding within herself the protective emotions of a mother” (Pizer 6). We see this especially toward the end of the novel, once Edna has struck out alone.
Though for all intents and purposes she has achieved her aim – she is free of her husband and painting regularly – she suffers agony at the loss of her children. “It was with a wrench and pang that Edna left her children. She carried away with her the sound of their voices and the touch of their cheeks. All along the journey homeward their presence lingered with her like the memory of a delicious song” (Chopin 248).
Critic Peter Ramos understands The Awakening as a “subtle but compelling critique of…naturalism” (Ramos 148).
Through Edna, says Ramos, Chopin “implies that in order for women like Edna to survive, the philosophical boundaries and consequences associated with these literary genres can and must be overcome. By…presenting women who seem to have a modicum of agency and autonomy, as well as a protagonist who mistakenly comes to believe that she has no say over her own fate, it undermines naturalism’s claims of determinism” (Ramos 148).
However, the more distinct means by which Chopin deviates from naturalism occurs through the character of Mademoiselle Reisz, a woman who has transcended biological determinism through the commitment to her art.
The independence and sacrifice that Reisz the artist embodies stands in stark relief to Edna, the mother posing as an artist. Chopin’s novel states in no uncertain terms that there are two reasons why Edna fails and ends her own life: she cannot be alone, and she cannot move beyond her identify as a mother, expect through death.
We see this most poignantly illustrated immediately before Edna’s suicide, when she imagines “the children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered her and sought to drag her into the soul’s slavery for the rest of her days. But she knew a way to elude them” (Chopin 300).
Similarly, Edna’s inability to truly embrace her art and simultaneously, her aloneness, appears in the following passage: “Despondency had come upon her there in the wakeful night, and had never lifted. There was no one thing in the world she desired. There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of existence, leaving her alone” (Chopin 300).
Edna’s final thoughts envision the derision that Mademoiselle Reisz would heap upon her suicide, were she a witness to it. “How Mademoiselle Reisz would have laughed, perhaps sneered, if she knew! “And you call yourself an artist! What pretensions, Madame! The artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies” (Chopin 302).
Chopin’s message appears to be that though women such as Edna may delude themselves into thinking it is the fault of biology that they cannot strike out on their own, the true fault lies in their inability to free themselves from their identity as “mother-woman” (Chopin 19). In Chopin’s mind, it is Edna’s inability to fully embrace her art that keeps her at the mercy of patriarchal social restraints.
In a similar vein as other turn of the century naturalist novels, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening “illuminates the socio-economic and cultural realities women like Edna faced, as well as the physical desires and social needs society denied them” (Ramos 148). However, the novel diverges from the form in the relationship that develops between Edna and Mademoiselle Reisz, and through Reisz, Chopin delivers her ultimate message: the artist must accept the social consequences of her calling.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Herbert S. Stone & Company, 1899. Print.
Pizer, Donald. “American Naturalism in Its ‘Perfected’ State.” The Theory and Practice of American Literary Naturalism. Southern Illinois University Press, 1993. 153-166. Web.
Pizer, Donald. “A Note on Kate Chopin’s The Awakening as Naturalistic Fiction.” The Southern Literary Journal 33.2 (2001): 5-13. Web.
Ramos, Peter. “Unbearable Realism: Freedom, Ethics and Identity in The Awakening.” College Literature 37.4 (2010): 145-152. Web.
A Comparison between “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin and “Wild Swans” by Edna St. Vincent Millay Essay (Critical Writing)
Chopin’s work was published in 1899 while Millay’s work was published in 1921. This period was marked by cultural transformations and technological advancements. This paper shall discuss the similarities and dissimilarities between the two works.
Chopin’s main stylistic legacy is the objectivity of the narrator. The narrator treats women’s concerns without contempt and does not offer either an appraisal or a judgment on the protagonist’s deeds.
This is completely at odds with the existing Victorian trend to narrative judgment and perception remarks. The narrator neither applauds nor criticizes Edna. The person who reads is left to evaluate the protagonist’s deeds, which is the novel’s greatest stylistic choice. On the other hand, Millay brings in several literacy devices to add intensity to the poem.
The swans represent freedom and conviction; that the orator expresses them as wild stresses their totally free survival and their instinctual sense of being. The heart signifies the speaker’s whole emotional truth, including past and present feelings. Millay also uses personification when she describes the heart as “tiresome heart, forever living and dying” (Millay 1).
The two works share the themes of feminism, emotions and liberty. Edna’s uncovering of feelings that she has long subdued inspire her hunt for freedom, love and self-expression. Her bond with Robert Lebrun arouses gone physical needs and makes her to reflect on her life.
For once, she starts to be open to other people. She shares secrets with Ratignolle and Robert and lets herself to be stimulated by Reisz’s music. She trains to swim, further understand the power of the link between body and mind and admits her feelings about Robert. She also fights to reconcile her views on motherhood and femininity with the existing communal attitudes of the South.
On the other hand, the speaker in Millay’s poem puts across feminine feelings of distress and hopelessness, by being cruel towards her heart. She centers on her feelings and tries to find a solution to her emotional disturbance by evading domesticity when she says, “house without air, I leave you and lock your door” (Millay 1).
The motivation behind the writing of the two works was different. Kate Chopin’s work was generally about living conditions in the South. She particularly wrote about the Creole society in the north of Louisiana (Chopin 1).
The Creoles were though to be dissimilar to the Anglo-Americans and embraced cultural customs that they inherited from their ancestors who were the French and the Spanish. They took pleasure in entertainment, communal gatherings and gambling hence they used up a great deal of time in these actions.
The Creoles rarely accepted visitors to their communal circles and in case they did, they felt that the visitors should abide by their rules on way of life. On the other hand, In Millay’s poem, the speaker is motivated by the wild swans that flew in the clouds, “I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over” (Millay 1).
She esteems them for their splendor, freedom, and sense of being, but the cause of her passionate reaction to them is that she perceives herself in them. All through the poem, she views what she needs for to have in the swans, though at the end, she views herself as if she is in them by venturing both her perfect self and her real self onto the untamed birds.
In conclusion, the two works have several similarities and differences, in the way of narration, their core themes and their causal motivation. An impartial third person who does not condemn or support characters for their behaviors or their dealings tells the story of Edna Pontellier and her hunt for self discovery in Chopan’s work.
On the other hand, the speaker in Millay’s work uses symbolism to deliver the poem whereby she first illuminates that seeing the swans led her to searching her heart, with the hope of finding a new thing though she just saw what she had seen earlier and thus could not match up to to the splendid sight of the swans in flight.
The core themes of femininity, feelings and liberty in Chopin’s work are seen when Edna’s seeks for freedom, love and self-expression and reconciles her views on motherhood and femininity with the existing communal attitudes of the South, while on the other hand, the speaker in Millay’s poem puts her feelings across by being cruel to her heart.
Finally, the motivation behind the two works was different as Kate Chopin’s work was generally about the Creole society in the north of Louisiana; the Creoles rarely accepted visitors to their communal circles and in case they did, they felt that the visitors should abide by their rules on way of life. In Millay’s poem, the speaker is motivated by the wild swans that flew in the clouds.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening and Selected Short Stories. New York: Pennsylvania State University, 2008.
Millay, Edna St. Vincent. “Wild Swans”. (30 Sep. 2009) Web.
Naturalism in “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin Essay
In literature, the naturalism movement grew as an offshoot of realism, which focused on the real over and above the incredible. However, naturalism was regarded as a more pessimistic movement that stressed the helplessness of man over nature, and it’s surrounded. To its adherents, the man was a slave to his instincts, so his actions were affected mainly by them. In the book “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin, a number of issues will be identified that demonstrate the naturalist movement.
Naturalism in “The Awakening”
The author of this novel was more of a naturalist than of a realist, and she was very bold in writing this book because, during her time, it was unthinkable for a woman to be sexually expressive or even for her to leave her family to pursue her passions as depicted in the novel. In fact, the reactions against this book were so strong that they caused the author to be ostracized from her society. It was only after a couple of decades that everyone remembered the writing and saw the beauty inherent in it.
In the novel, the protagonist is well aware that society disregards her and her kind. To the male species, she is nothing more than a piece of property that can be handed down from one man to the next. Even after leaving her husband for Robert, Edna soon realizes that his perceptions of her are just the same as her husband.
This kind of helplessness that she possesses against her environment or her society is quite typical of naturalist literature. In naturalism, man is controlled by forces beyond him, and this is exactly what is being suggested in “The Awakening”. Even her efforts to question this way of life bear no fruit as the novel ends with no firm resolution of the matter.
As is clear from the analysis essay on naturalism, in the book, she wonders why no one seems to enjoy any rights except for children. Hence, she needs to be left alone in the process of resolving this matter (Chopin, 171). To some extent, Edna can be viewed as the tragic heroine in a naturalist novel.
She goes through so much, and when she cannot take it anymore, this lady ends her life. Suicidal ends are among typical characteristics of naturalism because they were aimed at striking a chord with readers who needed to identify with the helplessness of the characters in pieces.
In the novel, it is common to find that the protagonist is always struggling with issues of solitude, longing, and passion, which are all characteristic features of naturalism. This is especially visible when Edna listens to music, which controls her and takes over her mind. She is overwhelmed by these feelings and realizes that it is almost impossible to stop the tears from coming out of her. At some point, she nearly chokes as a result of these sentiments. (Chopin, 72).
The wave of naturalism was synonymous with a focus on personal feelings, as seen in many other parts of the book (Pitzer, 45). What is sad is that the author cannot feel any sense of hope or hopelessness after hearing the music; the only thing it does for her is it causes her to realize that she can feel and respond to something other than her pain or her feelings in life.
The entire book is indeed a demonstration of how humans tend to be slaves to their sentiments. Edna is a person who seems to lack strong will power. She is not bold enough to alter all the challenges she has gone through, and even when it appears as though she is fighting these values, the story later reveals that her acts were fruitless.
In terms of society’s expectations for women, the novel propagates yet another naturalist agenda. Here, readers are introduced to two very distinct women: Adele and Edna. One would be tempted to think that the state of affairs in that Victorian society was so biased against the women that only the rebellious ones would survive.
However, as one soon finds out, this was clearly not the best path to follow for those concerned. This society did not favor free expression amongst women, and neither did it tolerate sexual freedom. Edna chose to go about this in an abrasive and confrontational manner, a decision that costs her life.
On the other hand, Adele chooses to go about this differently. She has done this by remaining chaste to her husband while still expressing her sexuality freely. In other words, finding peace is only made possible when females embrace faithfulness rather than resisting it. Furthermore, it is possible to communicate and express oneself openly, just as Adele did when she played by the rules.
This sharp contrast, therefore, illustrates that females were not free to do as they pleased but could get some degree of freedom if they played by the rules. Fleissner (238) explains that it is sometimes possible to break away from convention when one took on the stand that Adele did. However, this only proves that society is restrictive and that one can never really enjoy their free will.
Once again, this propagates typical naturalist ideals. In fact, it can be argued that the ‘awakening’ discussion in this book occurs when the protagonist realizes that she must be careful about what she says. The awakening is not in finding what needs to be said but in finding the things that must be kept under a lid (Fleissner 239). Thus, realism in “The Awakening” is not evident.
Edna does not find her voice, as is the case in particular romantic literature. Instead, she finds out what she cannot utter. The best depiction of this occurs when she fails to find the right words to explain to the doctor why she had to leave her children.
In this sense, she cannot say certain things to him as convention dictates. Overly, this society is one in which the self must be negated and forgotten to gain an identity as a mother. Adele was able to tap into the happiness and freedom of expression that her kind can enjoy only when she canceled out her wishes and needs. Thus, the book has an evident theme of feminism.
This author was responsible for portraying naturalism in “The Awakening” because this movement tended to focus more on the moral vice. The author appears to tolerate moral vice even at a time when her society could not fathom it. She stresses individual needs and also talks about sexual freedom or freedom to communicate, especially as a woman. She brings out the frustration of not having control over one’s environment.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. NY: Bantam classic, 1981
Pitzer, Michael. Two approaches to the concept of naturalism. Carbondale: University of Southern Illionois, 1966
The Rhythm Method: Unmothering the Race in Chopin, Grimke, and Stein” by Jennifer Fleissner, in Women, Compulsion, Modernity, excerpt on Chopin, 233-244
Reflection on “The Awakening Novel” by Kate Chopin Report (Assessment)
This essay reflects on the Awakening Novel by Kate Chopin from pages 535 to 625. To begin with, the treatise discusses Edna’s male relative. Besides, Mademoiselle Reisz opinion on what an artist need is applauded. Moreover, common themes, imagery, metaphors, and self actualization are presented as literary styles used by the author. In addition, this composition explores Edna’s love life and the general influence this piece of literature has on artistic impression.
Edna’s male relatives
Among Edna’s male relatives is Leonce Pontellier, who is her husband. He is described as a fond husband and a stern patriarch (Chopin, 537). He is confused at Edna’s continuous emancipation desire. Edna wonders, “How many years have I slept?” in reference to their platonic relationship (Chopin, 620).
Colonel is the father and a retired officer. Alcee refers to Edna as “the daughter he invented” (Chopin, 560). Colonel is an austere Protestant who loves displaying authority. Despite this, he gets along with his daughter. Raoul Pontellier and Etienne are Edna’s two sons. Little is known about them apart from their age being four and five years respectively.
What two things does an artist need according to Mademoiselle Reisz?
According to Mademoiselle Reisz, a renowned pianist, she advises Edna on the need to have passion in persuading her talent. She plays piano with deep emotion only understood by Edna. Besides, Madermoiselle Reisz asserts, “The artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies” (Chopin, 604).
Upon reflection on these words, Edna feels like “some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known” (Chopin, 611). After undergoing a multiple of experiences, Edna resonates that “I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of” (Chopin, 618).
Common theme in terms of Edna’s feelings for the men she’s loved
The theme of unrestrained morals in Edna’s love life comes out clearly in the novel. On her artistic freedom path, Edna is not conscious of her emotions. She seems lost in a spiritual sea with her husband being the victim of her “inward agony” (Chopin, 580).
In the contemporary society, it is almost unimaginable for a married woman to posses unsatisfying emancipation at the expense of her family. She believes that Léonce would one day turn up and “set her free” (Chopin, 598). Edna is weak in her emotions and dates more than three men within a short period.
She posses a dynamic emotional character, very rare during this period in the history. This protagonist is complex and unpredictable in her love life. Interestingly, the courage and strength to act on her sexual desires enables her to cut an independent identity. Her fantasies remain latent and hidden in the passion she had for Lebrun. “It is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life” (Chopin, 620).
The metaphor of the ocean and the imagery of birds
The Ocean is an awakening symbol of freedom and escape. She must brave this wide horizon on the quest towards discovery. In water, she replicates on the complexity of the world in relation to her situation.
Also, the ocean water symbolizes rebirth, awakening call to Edna on her inner strength, horror of lonely independence, and glory. Edna is a woman who “rules, who looks on, who stands alone” (Chopin, 540). In the novel, caged birds symbolizes snare Edna and other Victorian females are trapped in.
The mockingbird and parrot represent Madame Reisz and Edna, correspondingly. As the birds, society has limited their actions. Robert claims, “Mrs. Pontellier, you are cruel” when Edna expresses her opinion (Chopin, 569). As a matter of fact, the birds capable of soaring above tradition must be strong-winged. Unfortunately, Edna ends up exhausted, bruised, and fluttered back in a suicidal death.
Edna as a child
Edna Pontellier and her family spend their summer in the Isle resort belonging to the father of Robert Lebrun. Edna falls for Lebrun and this relationship becomes the fundamental conflict across the novel.
Lebrun escapes to Mexico and leaves Edna dejected resulting into a premature complications leading Edna to commit suicide. Alcee Arobin comes to Edna’s rescue when Lebrun retreats to Mexico. Though ambivalent at first, Edna eventually opens up to Alcee who happens to be a womanizer with limits to her. Edna becomes “supple to his gentle, seductive entreaties” (Chopin, 590).
Edna accepts this relationship as a buffer for the heartbreak from Lebrun. The rich Leonce is Edna’s husband. Edna seems to survive in the relationship because of the society and her two sons “Think of the children, Edna. Oh think of the children!” (Chopin, 613) is all Adeole could whisper to Edna (Chopin, 613). These men contributed to Edna’s emotional imbalance and she ends up committing suicide.
Written over a century ago, this novel presents a practical and typical setting of a family in a conservative society. It explores women role in the family institution, their struggle to live within their peers and husband expectations. The prose narrative style of the novel offers a hesitant and nuanced outlook of how the society treats women. The novel is written in simple English with heavy influence of Creole French. The lifestyle of Edna is an irony.
Though privileged and wealthy, she feels like one of the numerous assets her husband has acquired. The husband is insensitive of her needs and only responds to some of them as status demands. Edna is depicted as a strong woman in a platonic relationship. Against her will, the society has trapped her in a boring homecare management between her paintings and she becomes “flaming, outspoken revolt against the ways of Nature” (Chopin, 589).
At the end, a reckless and capricious lifestyle overcomes her, inciting her feminist vilification of strange behavior. The novel, thus, is effective in presenting silent suffering in the face of privilege and class stratification. The numerous literary styles properly applied in this novel have made it an outstanding piece of literature. Instead of Edna letting the world “to drag her into the soul’s slavery for the rest of her days”, she resorts to suicide (Chopin, 625).
Madame Ratignole is represented as an ideal woman in her charm and epitomized elegance as required of Creole women. She is chaste and often behaves as the moment demands. This relationship actualizes Edna’s “awakening” desires. The author narrates of a difficult child birth which reunites Edna and Ratignole. Surprisingly, Edna walks out of Roberts arms into Ratignole’s world.
Being a sensible woman, she notes Edna’s emotional distance and promptly advice her to live within the preset socialite behavioral expectation of a woman and think about her children. In this episode, the author presents Ratignole as the voice of conservative reasoning overshadowed by genuine concern for family affairs. She affirms, “Think of the children, Edna. Oh think of the children!” (Chopin, 613)
Kate, Chopin. The Awakening: Easyread Edition. ReadHowYouWant.com, 2007.Print.
Nina B, Arnold K, and Jeanne C. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Volume C: 1865-1914. 7th ed. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2007pp 535 –625. Print.
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Awakening.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2002.
Kate Chopin’s Novel The Awakening Essay
Katherine O’ Flaherty was born on 8th February 1850 to her parents Thomas O’ Flaherty her father and mother Eliza. Her father was an Irish immigrant and her mother was of French descent. She had many female counsellors ever since she was a small girl. This is shown mainly through the tough autonomous widows in her family and the cerebral nuns in her school the sacred heart academy. She started school at the age of five.
Kate’s mother, who was only 27 years old at the time of her spouse’s demise, never remarried after that. Kate learned history, music and how to speak French from her grandmother Madame Charlevile. Kate had a best friend, Kitty Garesche with whom they studied and composed together.
In May 1861 a communal combat broke out in St. Louis and Kate’s family was exiled for their co-conspirator empathies and lost her best friend and her brother George. Her grandmother died at the age of 83. Kate lost all her siblings and by the time she was 24 she was a single child. She graduated from the sacred heart academy as a noble student who was also a good narrator and a youthful sceptic. Kate was then assigned to write an ordinary book which became her first composition.
At the age if nineteen, Kate met and fell in love with Oscar Chopin, a Louisiana resident with whom she tied the knot on the 9th June 1870. Oscar’s business fell short in 1879 and he went back to Paris. Kate got familiar with the Creole community a significant focal point of her compositions. Oscar passed on in 1883 leaving behind six children. Kate’s mother died a year after. Kate was sentimentally exhausted and she needed to turn to composing as a way of squeezing out her anger and dissatisfaction in life (Booth and Mays 500).
For over a decade Kate was considered a good writer and became a countrywide applauded writer. She composed many different compositions. Among Kate’s first works was Piano Polka a composition known as Lillian’s Polka. She produced two short stories in 1889 named Wiser than God and a point at issue. In 1890 she issued a novel ‘At fault’ which received unenthusiastic re-evaluation. Next was another novel Young Dr. Gross in 1890.
This novel discarded by many publishers and in the end she annihilated the manuscript. This was followed by a short story Desiree baby in 1896 a narrative trails a tale of Desiree who is ditched as a baby and is taken and brought up by a loving family. She gets married and they have a baby with a dark complexion. The husband sends her away claiming that she is of black ancestry only to realize that he is the one of black ancestry. This story was published in a short story collection the following year (Booth and Mays 236).
Another collection with twenty one stories, a night in Acadia, was issued in 1897. It gave a picture of her enhanced curiosity of excitement and sexuality. This collection also expressed her disquiet for the predicament of women in the Victorian Era. Then came another short story collection, a vocation and a voice.
This comprised of works previously snubbed by magazines. The renowned Story of an hour appeared in this collection. This story trails Mrs. Millard, an ill woman, who is told of her husband’s death. She locks herself in her bedroom and regains a bizarre sense of delight and liberty. Her husband turns up unexpectedly and she dies of disbelief and distress. In this story she uses elements like Irony, smiles and imagery.
This collection was discarded. Kate created many short poems and gave in essays to several periodicals in St. Louis. Then she came up with another short story ‘The storm’ which traced the story of two lover’s unfaithfulness during a rainstorm and depicted her curiosity in infatuation and infidelity.
This was followed by her masterwork, her novel ‘The awakening’. This narration follows the story of Edna Pontellier and her great effort to conquer her increasing unusual views on feminity and motherliness with the existing social attitudes of that century.
Booth, Alison and Mays, Kelly. The Norton Introduction to Literature. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010
The Representation of Masculinity in “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin Essay
The author of this novel, Kate Chopin, was brought up in an intellectual environment and was aware of the marital problems that were experienced during the Victorian period. ‘The Awakening’ is a novel that is written in the Victorian society which is patriarchal.
This is a very strict society that has prejudiced conventions that women are supposed to adhere to. The Victorian society puts great emphasis on a rigid set of requirements that women should hold on to unlike their male counterparts who do not have much to do. Women are expected to be ideal wives, devoted mothers, and competent performers in anything.
The story talks about the expedition of Edna Pontellier who is both a mother and a wife. The novel begins when Edna, is on vacation together with her family on Grand Isle. It is here that Edna begins to be reawakened. She meets a man Robert Lebrun, who reignites her sexual desire, becomes a good swimmer, and revives her love for painting. She also gets some female friends who also influence her awakening.
These women include Mademoiselle Reisz and Madame Ratignolle (Chopin 841). After going back home, she starts ignoring most of the conventions within her society and carries on with painting, from where she gets her income which contributes to her financial independence. Consequently, she buys a house and runs away from her husband,
Involves herself in another affair, and gets back with Lebrun who eventually departs her. This leads to her ultimate death in Grand Isle where she drowns herself.
In general, ‘The Awakening’ points at the societal patriarchal stereotypes that call for women to surrender themselves to their husbands and depend upon their financial support while being truthful to them. These conventions also demand that women should put their kids’ interests above their own.
To start with, Edna finds herself caught up between her strong desire to be free and the preconceived patriarchal ideologies within her society. She seems to admire her friend Madame Ratignolle’s conformity to the societal ideologies, but chooses not to adhere to them. Women are portrayed to be blinded by the limitations of their gender identities.
The novel uses a lot of symbolism in order to bring out the issue of gender in the society. For instance, the title of Chopin’s novel ‘The Awakening’ is highly symbolic. It connotes the many ways in which Edna who is the main female protagonist attempts to stir up her environment.
She is seen to revive her self-awareness as a woman and as an individual. She also starts to appreciate herself as a woman, as an artist and begins to get pleasure from listening to music.
On the other hand, cigars have been mentioned in several instances, a symbol of masculinity. Ideally, women in this society are not supposed to smoke. This notwithstanding, Edna challenges this convention by constantly and publicly smoking cigars. Birds have also been used symbolically in this novel. They symbolize the capability to soar into the sky, bringing out the issue of freedom.
In this novel women are seeking freedom in this male-dominated society. This issue is clearly brought out by Edna. Houses are also used symbolically. Edna is seen to be having several homes which negatively connotes the constant shifting of the female mindset. Use of the ocean is also prominent in Chopin’s novel.
The ocean is usually a large water mass which can be used to represent something that is not easy to comprehend. On several occasions, Edna turns to the ocean for emotional consolation. The ocean is used by the author to represent the patriarchal misconceptions within the general society that are so wide and prominent to be done away with.
At one point in the novel, Edna is seen to watch Madame Ratignolle with the use of masculine eyes. She describes her as walking graciously while her little children ran towards her (Chopin 837). Apparently, this image establishes the masculine ideals within this society.
The representation describes how the men expect their wives to behave. Actually, Madame Ratignolle conforms to both the family and spiritual ideals in this society, and has been used to depict a perfect woman. As a matter of fact, she would be ready to lay her life for her children and is thus a representation of holiness.
In this novel, the author brings about the behavior of the revolutionized woman (Edna) to signify the limitations posed by the continuous conditioning of women which makes them prisoners of their roles. In the novel the author is seen to be questioning the identity of women as well as their roles.
Edna chooses independence over conforming to the societal expectations with regards to her duties to her husband and her family. She also chooses to appreciate her sexuality over being subdued by the masculine gender, and prefers to appreciate art and music over being entertained by others.
In this society, the masculine gender is seen to constantly disapprove women who wander away from their marital expectations. The men feel that they should intervene in the women’s decisions and help them in making judgments, both in their careers and their social life. In addition, when it comes to financial issues, men are not satisfied in their wives inputs.
For instance, at one point, Edna’s husband reprimanded her for allegedly forgetting to take care of her children, citing that, it is a mother’s responsibility to bring up children. He defended himself with the argument that he had very many other responsibilities.
Unquestionably, division of work along gender lines was a custom of the Victorian society. As a matter of fact, a woman is expected to support her home and kids single handedly. As evidenced in the case of Edna and her husband, when a woman went below the requirements of her job, she would be thoroughly scolded by her husband who was her boss.
Undeniably, Edna’s father who was a Colonel strengthens this masculine obligation in Edna’s husband when he persuaded him to involve practical business expertise into family conflicts.
This is evident when he says; “You are too lenient, too lenient by far, Leonce,” “Authority and coercion are what is needed. Put your foot down good and hard; the only way to manage a wife. Take my word for it (Chopin 901).” According to this society, a wife should be handled as a worker.
Moreover, in this novel, most dialogues by women are generally centered on family matters, while men’s dialogues are mainly focused on business issues. For this reason, marriage in this society is not highly regarded by the men. They seem to be having more important matters to discuss other than family issues.
In several instances in the novel, masculinity is associated with hard work, determination and conquest over life’s struggles. According to this novel, women who attempt to change such stereotypes have to break very strong traditional ties and the attempt is likely to be futile.
In conclusion, ‘The Awakening’ is a novel that is set within a patriarchal society. This society has stereotypical ideologies that suppress women. Edna refuses to accept the society’s dominant patriarchal ideologies and thus attempts to achieve gender equality and freedom from the patriarchal structures within her society which leads to her death. Edna believes that taking away her life is the only way she can achieve her freedom.
This can be an indication of the futility that is associated with any attempt by women to change the patriarchal structures within the society. The act of committing suicide can also signify feminine revolution.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York, NY: Bantam Classic, 1981. Print.
Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” Essay
In the novel “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin, the author depicts Edna as a woman who is unable to hide sexual desires. Moreover, Edna juggles her private life with the life she is expected to lead by the society. According to Baym (2008;10-12), Edna struggles to assert the individual identity of a woman beyond the limits set by the patriarchal society.
The novel cannot reconcile the public and the private self because of societal expectations that severely curtail freedom of choice. Edna’s sexual escapades are synonymous with the art experiments, which remains a vital part of her life.
The changes articulated in Chopin’s novel elucidate the confusion and lack of reconciliation between the role of Edna as a female artist and her sexual inclination. This conflict culminates in the death of Edna.
Conflict between Public and Private Life
The start of “The Awakening” depicts Edna as an epitome of the American ideals of the 19th century. She is a young woman married to an attentive and wealth husband. By the social standards of the 19th century, Edna is leading a perfect life. The social picture of this woman is that of a perfect mother and a happy woman.
The marital tag “Mrs. Pontellier,” introduces the reader to the picture formed by Edna’s husband and the society that expects every woman to be respectful. This picture comes with responsibilities that curtail Edna’s freedom. Henceforth, she is referred to as Edna after casting aside the fictional role of the woman to lead a carefree life. Edna has a love for the arts, although her main interest is in accomplishing a woman’s dream.
Edna is not fully committed to the societal role of a wife, which is against the expectations of the public. Moreover, she undertakes motherly duties with discontent and constantly asserts her position. She thinks that women have no choices in their private lives. Moreover, they are compelled by the patriarchal society to assume their responsibilities of bearing and rearing children (Baym 15).
Edna cares for her children although she cannot match the prowess with which Adele performs her societal duties. Edna’s husband reprimands her for her laxity in taking care of their sick son. Moreover, her response on the issue evokes fury and the husband is on the blink of insanity.
The husband does not expect such a response from the wife and rebukes Edna for neglecting children, a feat unheard in a perfect patriarchal society, where the woman is supposed to be submissive and attend to the needs of the husband and the children (Baym 105).
Edna’s husband was attentive and loving as any American husband in the 19th century. The century depicts women as objects for the gratification of the men rather than subject determining their free will as would be the wish of Edna. Edna embraces modernity in a peculiar way by failing to settle into the designated societal roles that she deems inappropriate and a form restriction.
Edna offers a satirical description of her friend’s predicament as a perfect assimilation into the mother role. To Edna, Adele’s situation depicts colorless existence, which fails to emancipate the possessor from the domain of blind contentment (Baym 257).
When Edna starts to experiment with art, painting surpasses important activities. Painting sparks Edna’s repressed desires to purpose beyond the societal and public roles given to her. Concisely, she wants her private life to be devoid of any form of interference.
This forms the genesis of Edna’s awakening. Edna has realized realizes the position she has in the Universe as a human being. She also recognizes that her relationship with others as an individual is preceded by painting. Edna attempts to decipher the lifestyle led by Adele via painting (Baym 280).
Ironically, Edna feels the need to connect with the maternal figure notwithstanding that she is determined to dismiss her maternal role of supporting her children. Her art depicts connotations reserved for the private life, which should not enter into the public domain. She focuses on women in a sensual manner. The desire evokes argument that she has a homosexual-maternal aspect.
Edna is oblivious that such private matters are not encouraged in the public but she admits that her art is socially acceptable as it depicts the life of Adele. Edna’s art is disrupted by her romantic ardor. She burns with desire when painting Adele. This desire is homosexual and is opposed in such a society. Edna strips away from restrictive aspects in her life. These aspects are social rules, marriage, and clothing (Baym 145).
The Conflict Between Private and Public Life
After fuelling sexual desires through exploration of painting, Edna recognizes another life. She is conscious of the lack of satisfaction her domestic and social relationships provide her with. Her friends and the family physician fail to recognize what may be happening to her. The doctor claims that the cause of Edna’s unhappiness is her sexual escapades with men.
Despite being inscribed with maternal instincts unavoidable after pregnancy, she cannot subject herself to the life led by Adele. Adele is obsessed with her social and maternal duties and can only get fulfillment after caring for the children.
Nevertheless, in the attempt by Edna to forge a different life with different roles, Edna leads a life that is different from that of her friend. Moreover, the desire to create a different role and life for herself, emanates from the struggle against social stereotypes (Baym 487).
Edna’s aims at becoming conscious of the full potential she has. Notwithstanding that emotional satisfactions are requisites to a full life, the society in which Edna lives in is marred with chauvinistic tendencies. In the light of this, the women are not expected to be self centered. This simply means that the women cannot focus on their happiness and the first priority is family preservation.
Edna voices her dissatisfaction with her husband’s views on Victorian ideals. She views the ideals as a form of oppression because her husband determines her choices. She distances herself from the husband through art. The income from these sales gives her a feeling of independence. On the other hand, this move gives the husband a feeling of threat (Baym 452).
As opposed to many respectable women who are shy around a doctor, Edna is comfortable. She does not gesture or glance when touched by the doctor. Edna also shows no emotion when she refuses to attend the wedding of her sister. She insists that her husband should attend the function alone because it reminds her of her own marriage.
The refusal to attend the wedding reveals that Edna is determined to distance herself from all possible societal roles. By watching her sister become a subservient wife meant for serving her husband, she cannot think of a worse experience. Edna’s father reminds her of the bad experiences she has had in life. Edna’s father and Margaret’s life are perfect examples of patriarchal forces dominating the life of Edna.
As she extends the distance between the husband and her, her art increases in force and reality. Edna goes against the societal norms by moving into a house away from their matrimonial home. She does this thinking that she will evolve from an amateur artist to a professional artist (Baym 278).
In summary, Edna is a hard working woman torn between leading a public or a private life. She uses Adele as a perfect example of the effects of a patriarchal society on the freedom of a woman. This is because Adele is a loving and caring mother. Moreover, Adele is a model of in the 19th century’s woman.
The submissiveness of Adele is a source of concern for Edna who views that the woman should emancipate herself from the societal and familial roles and pursue a free life. Edna has no stand. She admires Adele but ridicules her submissiveness.
She cannot be like Adele but she worships and idolizes Adele’s children. Through her awakening, there is a further conflict between her personal choice and the choices determined by the public. Beauty, social, and sexual issues also characterize this awakening. This is a difficult way of trying to bring out the private life of an individual in a patriarchal society.
Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Beginnings to 1865. New York: W W Norton & Company Incorporated,2008.
Character Analysis of Robert Lebrun
Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” examines the implications placed on women for self expression during the 1800’s. Banned for several years by critics after its initial publication in 1899 because of its unsettling content, “The Awakening” later became a most cherished account of a woman’s journey towards self-discovery and abandonment of her conventional society. Kester-Shelton) Within that story is where we meet Robert LeBrun, A young, flirtatious and confident womanizer with a reputation to match and it is within this paper, that we will analyze the influential character of Robert LeBrun who without control, falls in a forbidden love affair with the protagonist, Edna Pontellier.
Robert, a younger man with immature tendencies, clean shaven face, yellowish-brown hair, and quick bright eyes maintains a reputation for floating in between different older women every summer. Eventually his affectionate nature catches the attention of Mrs.
Edna Pontellier, triggering her to go through a series of epiphanies or so-called awakenings where she begins the struggle between the woman her society expects her to be and the independent, self-governing woman she craves.
Robert, sifting his way in between dynamic and static characteristics, plays a significant role in those epiphanies because what begins as an innocent friendship turns into a forbidden love affair where Robert shows Edna a kind of love she had never seen from any other man, even in her own marriage to Mr. Pontellier.
Even though Robert did possess such a reputation of being a womanizer he really does harbor true feelings of love for Edna. This is seen in the comparison of Robert’s feelings for Edna versus her close friend, Madame Ratignolle. “ Meanwhile Robert, addressing Mrs. Pontellier, continued to tell one of his onetime hopeless passion for Madame Ratignolle;”—“He never assumed the seriocomic tone when alone with Mrs. Pontellier,”—“It was understood that he had often spoken words of love to Madame Ratignolle, without any thought of being taken seriously.
Mrs. Pontellier was glad he had not assumed a similar role towards herself. It would have been unacceptable and annoying. ” (Chopin, page 14-15) This really shows the affection he conceals for Edna because he remains consistent with his portrayal of his feelings rather than with both serious and comic aspects during discussions. Even though throughout his summers of courting older married women, himself nor his intensions are ever taken seriously, even his relationship with Edna starts out innocent when she treats him as if he were a pet, dragging him along with her like a dog.
According to Edna he was “always under her feet like a troublesome dog”. (Chopin, page 26) But as their summer progresses, she falls for Robert and realizes she has her own strength and the power to express herself without her husband and it was Robert that led her to that. Their affair turns into actual love and Edna, along with the readers, begins to picture Robert as physically attractive, charming, and charismatic and sees in him, all the things Edna cannot find in her husband.
When Robert realizes his true feelings for Edna, he flees to Mexico in hopes of forgetting about her, and in a moment of weakness he decides that he is not brave enough to follow through on his new found love for Edna and it could never be real because Edna is a mother, and most importantly, a married woman. Robert feels that his leaving will only protect the both of them from acting upon his forbidden love, but this only heightens Edna’s awakening. The shock of Robert’s quick announcement of his departure to Mexico is seen when the news is broken to Edna over a dinner table. As she seated herself and was about to begin to eat her soup, which had been served when she entered the room, several persons informed her simultaneously that Robert was going to Mexico. She laid her spoon down and looked about her bewildered. He had been with her, reading to her all the morning, and had never even mentioned such a place as Mexico. She had not seen him during the afternoon; she had heard someone say he was at the house, upstairs with his mother.
This she had thought nothing of, though she was surprised when he did not join her later in the afternoon, when she went down to the beach. ” (Chopin, page 55) Even though Edna doesn’t spell out her exact feelings, it’s here that you can feel the desperation that takes over her when she learns of Roberts plans to depart from New Orleans. The tenderness of Robert’s character can be further analyzed as Edna’s awakening is beginning; Robert’s love for her soon brings him back to New Orleans, when he realizes he cannot live away from her.
He is hiding in a hell of shyness when he returns which is unlike him, but he does in fact, go through with actually telling Edna that he does love her but cannot act on his love because of her marriage. Robert is a practical man, knowing that it is not ethical to take Edna away from her family and husband, but practically takes the form of a masochist when proclaiming his love for her. Throughout the novel, Robert is compared to Alcee Arobin, a character well known as the town’s bad boy who has had numerous sexual encounters with other women, married or not, a comparison that Robert is not fond of.
Wayne Batten of the Southern Literary Journal, critiques this comparison in saying, “Edna, accordingly, could have learned that the fantasies she constructs with Robert Lebrun do not make his attraction fundamentally different from the unembellished lure of Arobin. ” (Batten) This is simply saying that Edna mistakenly thought of Arobin’s passion as the same as the love that Robert feels for her. Later in the story, a doctor by the name of Dr. Mandelet walks Edna home after becoming faint watching Madame Ratignolle go through her fourth round of childbirth, he suspects she has returned her attentions back to Alcee, but as the reader knows, she is about to consummate her long-incubating passion for Robert. (Batten)
Robert rejects the idea as Edna quickly tries to explain why consummating their love is not wrong because she is, in fact, her own independent woman. Robert does not have the same passion for Edna and he cannot go through with his feelings for her although his love is so powerful. She buried her face in his neck and said good bye again. Her seductive voice, together with his deep love for her, had enthralled his senses, had deprived him of every impulse but the longing to hold her and keep her. ” (Chopin, page 147) This only further proves that although he has such a commanding desire to have Edna in every way, he stands firm in his decision, seeing the impossibility in the situation. As Edna is stuck in a daydream, Robert understands their reality. Robert stands firm in that reality, trying to remain practical about the whole situation.
Finally the last we see of Robert LeBrun is in his heartfelt but remorseful flee, only leaving behind a note for Edna that simply states, “Goodbye because I love you”. (Chopin, page 152) And like a moon that never shows its face, the words are not there, but his underlying message contains his feelings for her and the reasons why he cannot act upon them. This shows a true irony as he says goodbye to her for good, a devastating farewell that sends Edna into the final stage of her “awakening” with her new found sense of independence and self expression as she gives her body to the sea, committing suicide.
Looking back over the storyline we see how significant Robert Lebrun and the way he tried to manage his desire and love for Edna had truly been to the development of both characters. Through the analysis of Robert we learn of his morals and his attempts to remain practical even though he does love Edna and it leads one to wonder if Robert had not loved Edna in the way he did, if she would have found that reckless sense of independence that eventually consumed her, or if Robert would have matured enough to recognize when to walk away from a forbidden love for the betterment of someone else.
It goes to show just how one person can awaken your soul to a new perspective and change your life entirely, whether that may be good, bad, or leave you indifferent and we see just that in the story of “The Awakening” as Edna reaches her final stages of reality and Robert brings her to that just by loving her and allowing her to be herself.
The Awakening, The Story of an Hour and Desiree’s Baby
The Awakening: The novel was titled “The Awakening,” because the main character Edna Pontellier goes through a series of liberations that cause her to “awaken” or become aware of her The Story of an Hour: The title refers to the actual duration of the story. All the events that take place in the story can happen in the time frame of an hour. Desiree’s Baby: The title refers to one of the main characters, Armand Aubigny, not claiming his child after finding out that the child as of different race; therefore giving all ownership of the baby to the mother, Desiree.
Author & Purpose
Kate Chopin was born Katherine O’Flaherty on February 8, 1850, in St. Louis, Missouri to Thomas and Eliza O’Flaherty. Kate was one of five children and the only one to live past the age of twenty two. Her father was killed in a railroad accident when she was five years old. Kate didn’t grow up with many male role models or around many married couples; she was raised by her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, vigorous widows that stressed learning, curiosity, and financial independence.
Kate’s great-great-grandmother was the first woman to legally separate from her husband and continue on with a successful fulfilling life in the city of St. Louis.
Kate was formally educated at the Academy of Sacred Heart, catholic school in St. Louis. Two years after graduating Kate married Oscar Chopin, the son of a wealthy cotton planter from Louisiana. Kate gave birth to five boys and one girl all before the age of twenty-eight. When Oscar died in 1882 Kate took over her late husband’s plantation and store for over a year before selling it and moving back in with her mother. Kate began to write to support herself and her kids.
Her novel “The Awakening” was very controversial, and in the end it denied her admission into the St. Louis Fine Art Club. Chopin was very hurt by the reaction to the book, so for the remainder five years of her life she only wrote short stories. Kate Chopin died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of fifty-three.
The purpose of her novels and short stories were to entertain and call attention to the male dominance and woman submission during this timeframe, while expressing her beliefs on the strength of women.
The Awakening: The beginning of the novel is set during the late 1800’s at a summer vacation resort in Grand Isle filled with New Orleans wealthy. The rest of the novel is set in New Orleans. Being set in the 1800’s is significant because they story wouldn’t make since if it was set in a time where divorce was possible, or independence was supported. The Story of an Hour: The short story is takes place inside the home of Louise Mallard. This is significant to the story because the setting reflects Ms. Mallard being trapped and/or caged in her life. Desiree’s Baby: The short is set in Louisiana before the civil war.
Most Memorable Characters & Motivations
Edna Pontellier: Edna is a respectable wife and mother and the protagonist of the novel. Her motivation was to break free of the confinement’s society while trying to find her identity. Louise Mallard: Louise is the fragile wife of the supposedly deceased Brently Mallard. Her husband is “dead.” Armand Aubigny: Armand is the father of the baby and Desiree’s husband. At the time of the novel society was still prejudice against blacks, so his motivation in the story is to protect his pride and his family’s name by casting away his wife and son because they are not fully white.
The Story of an Hour
In the exposition Kate Chopin tells us that Louise Mallard has a heart condition. This is why Josephine, her sister, has to gently tell her that her husband has died. The deceased Mr. Mallards friend, Richard, is there in home with them. He originally found out the news while being in the newspaper office when report of the train accident came through.
In the rising action Louise cries passionately in the arms of her sister before deciding to go to her room to be alone. In her room she sits in her armchair feeling depleted facing the window noticing everything and everyone that passes. She sits there quiet except for when she occasionally cries like a child. As she sits there she feels some sort of unknown intelligence coming to her.
The climax consists of Louise feeling a sense of freedom and liking it. She feels more liberated and excited for her freedom than she feels sad about her husband’s death. As her sister pleads at her door telling her to let her in, Louise is fantasizes about her possible new life.
In the falling action the liberated Louise finally joins her sister outside of her room and they descend down the stairs together with Richard waiting at the bottom. Suddenly, Mr. Mallard walks through the door travel-stained and unknowing of any accident. Richard and Josephine try to protect Mrs. Mallard from the sight of her husband but fail.
The resolution of the story consists of the medical examiner saying that she died of heart failure due to being overjoyed.
In the Exposition Madame Valmonde drives over to see Desiree and her baby for the first time in a month, she remembers when Desiree herself was a baby. Her husband had found Desiree sleeping next to a pillar as he rode through the gateway of the Valmonde home in southern Louisiana eighteen years before. No one knew where she came from or who put her there, but it was believed that a group of Texans purposely left her there. The Valmonde’s adopted her and loved her as if she were their flesh. Armand Aubigny had known her since he was eight, when his father brought him to America from Paris after his mother died. When Desiree was fully grown Armand one day saw her and instantly fell in love, and they were married despite her unknown background. When Madame arrives she is surprised at how much the child has grown in four weeks, and Desiree tells her how much Armand has changed. She says that Armand is so proud to be a father that he stopped frowning as much and hasn’t punished the slaves once since the baby was born.
His happiness makes Desiree feel ecstatic. The rising action consists of Desiree feeling uneasiness and people who see the baby getting a sense that something is unusual about it. Armand starts to avoid Desiree and the baby while in the home and he even starts to stray away for long periods without giving an excuse to Desiree. Desiree dared not to ask for an explanation. The climax consists of Desiree sitting on her bed one hot afternoon, and noticing that her sleeping child and the quadroon boy fanning him are the same color. She dismisses the boy and asks Armand who arrives a short while later what it means. He tells her that it means that she and the baby are not white.
In the falling action Desiree writes a letter to Madame telling her of what’s going on and asking her to tell them than it’s untrue. Madame replies to the letter, but neither confirms nor denies Desiree being white. She simply tells her to return home with her baby. Desiree shows the letter to the scornful Armand and asks him whether he wants her to go and he insists on her going. Desiree immediately takes her baby from the nurse and proceeds to walk into the fields, without changing her clothes, to never be seen again. In the resolution Armand is burning all of Desiree’s and the baby’s belongings including a drawer full of letters she sent him during before they were married. In the same drawer he finds a letter from his mother to his father revealing that Armand is black.
The novel is set with Leonce Pontellier, a businessman, and Edna Pontellier, a respected wife and mother, vacationing in Grand Isle, a summer vacation resort popular to the wealthy of New Orleans. Leonce is busy handling everything business-related, leaving Edna to spend time with the liberal Creole people. Especially Adele Ratignolle, the perfect Victorian mother and wife. The more time she spends with these people the more she starts to learn about freedom of expression and coming aware of her non-existent feelings for her husband, starting her “awakening”. During this time Edna innocently starts to get to know Robert Lebrun. During the rising action Edna falls in love with Robert Lebrun and learns how to swim which sparks her awareness of her sexuality and her independence, including hearing Mademoiselle Reisz. Leonce remains to be dominating and is oblivious to the fact that Edna is in love with someone else. Robert feeling that he and Edna’s relationship is getting out of control he retreats to Mexico. In New Orleans Edna spends her time painting instead of housekeeping, and stops making the usual social calls on Tuesdays. Leonce believing that his wife is
becoming mentally ill insists help from Doctor Mandelet.
Mandelet tells Leonce to let her do as she pleases assuming that this phase would pass, but not mentioning it to Leonce, he suspects that she is having an affair. In the climax Mademoiselle Reisz letting Edna read the letters from Robert and knowing of Edna’s plans to move out, tells her basically that if she is going to be independent that she needs to be ready for the consequences that come with them. Edna moves out of her extravagant home with Leonce and moves into a house around the block nicknamed the “pigeon-hole.” Edna has an affair with the town seducer Alcee Arobin, who finally satisfies her sexually. Afterwards she doesn’t feel bad that she just committed adultery, but is uneasy about having sex with someone other than her love Robert. In the falling action Robert professes his love to Edna, unknowing that she has read his letters.
Robert mentions marriage, only to be rejected by Edna. She tells him that she isn’t property to be transferred from one man to another. However, they’re still in love with each other. Edna asks Robert to wait while she runs off to help deliver her friend’s baby, but when she returns, Robert is gone. In the resolution Edna recedes to Grand Isle claiming that she needs to rest. When she arrives in Grand Isle she makes plans to have dinner with Adele and her husband Victor, and proceeds to go skinny dipping. While in the water she thinks of all her triumphs and tribulations as well as her freedom. She swims far out into the ocean and drowns. The book ends with a question of whether or not she committed suicide.
The Awakening: In “The Awakening” as well as in “The Story of an Hour” marriage is a barrier to happiness and individual fulfillment with the female main characters. All Edna Pontellier in “The Awakening” wanted was to have freedom and independence just like her husband had. The Story of an Hour: Time is one of the many themes in this short story. I think Kate Chopin wanted to show us that even an hour can change our lives. Louise Mallard found out that her husband died and cried about it, she felt liberated that she finally had freedom from her marriage, and then she found out that her husband was alive and then she died. All of this happened in the short timeframe of an hour. Desiree’s baby: Real love is colorblind is one of the underlying themes within this passage. Armand no longer loved Desiree because he felt that her race was an injury to his name. While on the other hand, Desiree tells her mother of what’s been going, and her mother still accepts her and tells her to return home with her baby. Real love is colorblind.
The Awakening: The birds in the story represent the entrapment of Edna as well as the entrapment of all Victorian women. The parrot and the mockingbird at the beginning of the story represent Edna and Mademoiselle Reisz. The caged parrot shrieks at Mr. Mallard which gives a voice to Edna’s unspoken feelings, and shows her imprisonment. The narrator tells that the mocking bird is the only one who can understand the parrots Spanish. This would have to be Mademoiselle Reisz because she is the only one capable of understanding Edna. The Story of an Hour: The open window represents all things that are possible now that her husband is dead. Everything that she sees the in distance through the window hints that her new life will be bright and clear. When she turns away from the window she loses her freedom and those possibilities. Desiree’s Baby: The October sunset mentioned in line 127 represents the ending of Desiree’s and Armand’s marriage.
The Awakening: page 184 paragraph 3- “The years that are gone seem like dreams—if one might go on sleeping and dreaming—but to wake up and find—oh! well! Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.” The quotation is means that it is better to live life for you, rather than following someone else’s expectations and standards. The Story of an Hour: paragraph 4- There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination The quote means that past ties and expectations, stripped of “a kind intention or a cruel intention” are revealed as shackles that have been tying her down.
Even the love can keep someone feeling imprisoned. Desiree’s Baby: paragraph 37 -Because of the injury she had caused him, he no longer loves her. Now it is her time to suffer, he thinks, and well she should The “injury” Armand is referring to, is Desiree supposedly being black and it defacing his family name. He no longer loves her because of her race and thinks that she should be punished for “lying” to him. It is meaningful because it shows just how much racism was apparent back in the 1800’s, to the point where you would give up your whole family because being black was looked down upon.
All three of the stories were written in third person omniscient point of view which gave them a sense of gravity. Not being written in first person, allowed the stories to seem serious and somber. Uses of words such as immense and empathic in “The Awakening” make the style of writing formal and exact. Chopin gives lots of details in order to emphasize an event or an object’s importance, and she quickly summarizes the insignificant details so we don’t waste time thinking about it. “Desiree’s baby” is informal and ironic. All of the sentences are filled with numerous details to emphasize and provide imagery. The tone of “The Story of an Hour” is subtle yet cruel, because Ms. Mallard was believed to be vulnerable and sad and in reality she was ecstatic that her husband died. The style was ironic and withholding because the narrator and the reader know the feelings Ms. Mallard has about her husband’s death. She couldn’t have died from joy so the real cause of death is unknown.
All of the stories portrayed a theme of male dominance and female submission. In “the Awakening” Leonce tried to dominated Edna in the beginning, and her friend Adele was the perfect example of a submissive wife. In “The Story of an Hour” from what we are told it seemed as if Brently Mallard was a dominating husband and Louise Mallard was a submissive wife. All she talked about in the story was freedom. In “Desiree’s Baby” Armand was a dominating husband and Desiree was the submissive wife. Kate Chopin’s message is that women deserve independence and freedom and are the property of no one.
Change one Detail
The Awakening: I would change the fact that Mademoiselle Reisz let Edna read the letters. I would like to see if she would still have the same emotions for Robert if she didn’t know for a fact that he loved her. Would she fall in love with Alcee? The Story of an Hour: I would change the fact that Josephine and Richard let her go to her room alone. I wonder if they were sitting in the room with her would that change her liberation in any way. Desiree’s Baby: I would change the fact that Armand let Desiree and the baby go. I wonder what would have happened if he said he wanted the baby to stay but Desiree had to go.
My opinion is that all three books were entertaining and had a great message to them. Kate Chopin is a great writer whose stories capture the essence of a marriage in the 1800’s beautifully. Her use of details let you visualize every event in her writing. There isn’t anything that I don’t like about her stories except for endings that kept you wondering.
Feminist Lens: A Perspective – The Awakening
During the late nineteenth century, a woman’s place in society was confined to the reverence of her children and constant submission to her husband. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin is a novel about Edna Pontellier whose life was embraced through the frustrations and triumphs as she attempts to cope with the strict cultural demands in which she was confined. This essay focuses specifically on the feminist critical perspective, however, The Awakening can be perceived to also observe the historical or psychoanalytical critical perspectives as well.
First, the story can be interpreted using the psychoanalytical perspective by the using the events and emotions experienced by the characters within.
According to South University Online (2010) defines both perspectives as follows: “the psychoanalytical perspective aims to reveal the influence of the unconscious in the text’s plot, setting, conflict, symbols, point of view, language, and character development” (p.2). Whereas, the “historical perspective, look at the political, social, racial, cultural, and economic structures in place as well as the traditions and counter traditions of the literature.
” (p. 4) Consequently, Edna battles the pressures of 1899 that commanded her to be a submissive and devoted housewife, while contravening the stereotype of a “mother-woman”. The Awakening supports, as well as, inspires feminism by as a way for women to challenge their gender role, embrace symbolisms implied in life, and establish their individual identity.
Feminist theory argues that “to say gender is socially-constructed means that ideas about women’s and men’s roles, behaviors, and abilities come from human choices rather than from actual physical differences” (South University Online, 2010, para. 5). Chopin gave Edna’s role as a feminist in many ways by her indulging her more selfish needs. During a conversation with Madame Ratignolle; “she would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for anyone” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 16, para. 10). Subsequently, this embodies the theory that if Edna were to give up her soul, the very base of her womanhood and what she stands for in life, then her world and existence would be over. Therefore, she would end up drifting away into the void of commonality.
Edna believes in herself and senses her inner individuality by moving forward to achieving her sexuality and opinions. She does so by strongly imposing the beliefs of feminism to intimately discover one’s mind and body, the ultimate freedom. Expanding on the many different definitions of feminism, there are “Clues showing beliefs about gender are in every aspect of the text, and you can choose which thread you care to examine.” (South University Online, 2010, para. 2). The focus remains on what Edna is not: “…Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 4, para. 4). This is Chopin’s way of defining Edna of all the things she is not, thus showing Edna’s rebellious power against what was considered “normal” for women. For example, the relationship between Edna and Leonce Pontellier demanded a conflict due to Edna challenging the ideas as her role to be restricted to a wife and mother.
Subsequently, Chopin narrates the feelings and emotions of Edna by the use of symbolism by the mention of birds to suggest that Edna has finally found her Awakening. From the start of the novel to the very end, the birds play a very dominant part in the imagery of Edna’s Awakening. The parrot yells: “Allez-vous en! Allez-vous en! Sapritsi!” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 1, para. 2), translated in Edna’s language, “Get out! Get out!” is a clear clarification of Edna’s way to communicate to her husband Leonce. Thus, the parrot is representing Edna by symbolizing being confined in the cage of motherly and wifely duties craving to be released, but held back by the bars of society. The urge to break free from her husband’s display that Edna is nothing but labeled as property, his possession. Clarified by Chopin, “He looked at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 1, para. 10). Chopin also uses the bird to symbolize how a caged bird eventually finds itself seeing no end in sight, thus confirming the existing bars and losing all sense of its ability to spread its wings. Mademoiselle Reisz tells Edna, “The bird that would soar above the level of plain tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.
It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 27, para. 12). This advice not to be taken lightly, but to say that if Edna does not waver in her determination to burst out of her deteriorating cage, she will never gain the strength to defy the stereotypes of submissive women. Therefore, the story providing what the future will hold for Edna and how it may set her free. Furthermore, Chopin cleverly introduces Alcée Arobin to symbolize a kind of bird. His name means “A – robin”. Suggesting he, like a robin, is a bird with no regard to social restrictions that has the freedom to fly from nest to nest at will. Although he is not in search for love, but rather on a quest to obtain his ultimate Awakening life has to offer. Alcée speaks to Edna in terms “that astonished her at first and brought crimson to her face” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 26, para. 2).
Intrigued, Edna immediately appreciates and even envies his lifestyle – free as a bird, no cages holding him back, doing whatever pleases him. Her envious behavior causes her to crave the way of Alcée by gliding through the world with a sort of sophistication, liberation, and inner peace to be free. Edna defines her earliest kiss with Alcée as “the first kiss to which her nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch that kindled desire “(Chopin, 2005, Chapter 27, para. 20). No doubt, this evanescent affair revolutionized Edna’s inner inhabitations to let go, to be free with her sexuality by showing complete independence and defying society. Finally, the symbolic representation of the bird becomes the ultimate conclusion to Edna’s passage to obtain her independent identity. Chopin explains that Edna is like the “bird with a broken wing” that she observes, “beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the war” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 39, para. 23). This describes the ultimate struggle in Edna’s constant search to find her inner identity of independence however, ended in suicide.
Her suicide portrays the unfortunate deterioration of this otherwise feminist piece of literature by allowing Edna’s action to somewhat discredit the classification of feminism. Edna maintained many solid qualities needed to be successful in her feminist way of thinking and might have lived a longer life if she only obtained one simple quality required. Edna’s beliefs were that if she was not able to obtain her wants immediately then all her maneuvers within her life were considered worthless and insignificant. This explained after Robert leaves for Mexico. Edna feels as if his “going had some way taken the brightness, the color, the meaning out of everything” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 16, para. 2) In other words, Edna allowed Robert as her connection to her vulnerability while keeping her feminist stance towards establishing her inner identity. “She felt no interest in anything about herself” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 18, para. 5) because with never understanding this concept, she cannot grasp her femininity entirely. After Robert departs from her side, Edna finds “there was no one thing in the world she desired” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 39, para. 22).
Edna, descending herself into believing that life is a steady stream of disappointing setbacks that will never change, thus ultimately thinking that there is nothing further she could do to bring about any further change within her life. Throughout, The Awakening, Edna grows gradually depressed and submissive behavior toward life due to her “inability” to express her belief that she will remain unhappy forever unless she gets exactly what she wants. Even though Edna’s efforts to liberate herself from an oppressive society remain respectable, her suicide is an appalling waste of her struggles, thus defying the very personification of feminism.
In conclusion, The Awakening is known as the story of a woman who is determined to be awakened in every sense of the word, while refusing to accept the gender role that society used to maintain control and power over women. Chopin’s use of symbolism not only inspires readers in ways never imagined possible, but showed the harsh reality of what could happen if the value of self-worth is never obtained or recognized. Therefore, with Edna only in her death is Leonce and society completely powerless to her promiscuous ways.
Feminism giving the main focus of Edna’s life by her achievement of true empowerment, which was a position not often qualified by woman during the nineteenth century. Even in the 21st century where social restrictions are nearly a thing of the past, just because we are considered “a free people” does not mean man or woman will conquer the struggles placed in front of them. With limited social restrictions set in place, it does on guarantee a person the will to find their identity, inner peace, and the strength to fight for what they believe in. However, Edna with all the restrictions and constraints placed in front of her, she defied the voice of reason and remained alive even after death. Chopin narrates: “The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring and murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in the abysses of solitude” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 39, para. 23).
Chopin, K. (2005). The awakening [VitalSource digital version]. Raleigh, NC: Hayes Barton Press South University Online. (2010). ENG1002: Composition/literature: Week 4: Historical ways of reading. Retrieved from myeclassonline.com.