Edna Pontellier Character Analysis in ‘The Awakening’
From the start of the novel Edna is characterized as being different than those around her. Unlike the other women represented within the novel Edna does not follow the society norm of worshiping her husband and her family, Edna is not a ‘mother-women’ who would sacrifice herself for her husband and family. Edna is presented as having a rebellious past, and after marrying she believed that this rebellious stage would fade. In the summer where Edna and her family goes to Grand Isle, Edna begins to find herself and become her own person. Edna begins to find herself through her pursuing activities in which she is passionate about. Edna also seems to allow herself to follow her own desires and develop areas within herself that she had always lacked within her marriage.
One of the most important features in Edna’s Awakening is her relationship with Robert. Unlike her relationship with her husband, which always seems to bring out her depression, Edna develops strong feelings for Robert. Edna’s rebellious state that she had gone through in youth seems to return to her and she does not repress it. Edna and Robert become devoted to one another and spend most of the summer together, although it never becomes physical. Edna’s obsession with the idea of unfulfilled love is brought out through her relationship with Robert.
Another stage of Edna’s awakening is when Mademoiselle Reisz plays the piano. Unlike those around her Edna does not hear the music as just a form that is supposed to bring pleasure but she has an emotional connection to the music itself. In the past she had always had visual representations within her mind which connected to the music but while hearing Mademoiselle play, she allows herself to have an emotional connection to the music.
Edna also seeks to establish herself and find herself through art. As Edna becomes more and more engaged within her art she begins to fall away from the Societies standards. She begins to spend more time finding herself rather than spending her time caring for her family and her home.
Overall Edna never seems to look ahead to see what her actions will cause. Edna almost takes on a childish characterization which further emphasizes the idea of her going through a rebirth within the novel. Edna seems to be strong enough to rebel but not strong enough to continue the rebellious nature and to deal with the consequences.
Mademoiselle Reisz is an unmarried woman who does not have any children and devotes her time to her passion of music. Having talent for her musical abilities, especially for her piano playing, Mademoiselle Reisz serves as a source of inspiration for Enda during her awakening. When Edna begins her awakening, she seeks Mademoiselle’s companionship and Mademoiselle encourages Edna to continue and devote more of her time to her art. Mademoiselle also seems to be more excluded from the society as she does not follow the societies standards like other characters in the novel. As well, Mademoiselle Reisz is the only character within the novel who notices the growing relationship between Edna and Robert. Mademoiselle is also a character that seems to understand Robert and speaks to him about his growing attraction the Edna.
Neither character, Edna or Mademoiselle Reisz seem to be that fond of one another but are brought together through their mutual understanding of their passion for music. Edna also seems to become aware of herself as a woman who is able to be passionate about art through her mutual understanding of music with Mademoiselle. Mademoiselle represents the women that Edna could have become if she would have continued within herself awakening and ignored her family and household.
Mademoiselle Reisz can also be seen as a foil to Adéle Ratignolle as Adéle follows the societies standards.
The Mockingbird can also be seen as a symbol for Mademoiselle.
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