The Awakening: Gaining Equality Through Self-Awareness

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Kate Chopin, author of the compelling novel The Awakening, illustrates a perspective in society that not most women viewed in the past. Set in the 19th century along the coast of Louisiana, the journey of Edna Pontellier fleeing from restrictions and living with prosperous freedom promotes a lesson on women individualism. Through effective personification, symbolism, and irony, Chopin teaches her audience that women’s equality is generated through self-awareness.

The human-like characteristics of intangible items exhibited by Chopin supports the idea of social balance between genders created by one’s consciousness. As the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, was ordered by her husband to come inside, “she perceived that her will had blazed up, stubborn and resistant.” Chopin purposefully treated the unapparent “will” of Edna humanly as her desire to object her husband’s command dictated her actions. Ms. Pontellier’s response to her spouse caused her to ponder “if her husband had ever spoken to her like that before, and if she had submitted to his command” and immediately remember “of course she had.” The audience can understand that Edna had realized the disrespectful nature of her partner after she had spoken up for herself. The human-like aspects of Edna’s “will” exemplify the beginning of her self-awareness. She analyzes her previous personality and recognizes that she can defend her own life individually. By personifying the invisible “will” of Ms. Pontellier, Chopin is able to express how women can become equal to men through self-consciousness, proving the reality of gender balance.

Chopin expresses the ideals of feminism through comparisons within her novel that represent female recognition of individuality. Mademoiselle Reisz, an inspirational woman to Edna Pontellier, addresses the encaged mockingbird of Pontellier that “the bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.” Within the commentary of Mademoiselle Reisz, the audience can witness how Chopin utilizes the mockingbird as a representation of Victorian women during the 19th century. The feathered creature, locked inside a cage, illustrates the females of society as restrictions limit their freedom. Reisz’s statement explains the strength and the individuality women must have to rise against the unbalanced social status between males and females. Similarly, as the novel comes to an end, Ms. Pontellier strolls along the shore of the ocean as she witnesses “a bird with a broken wing… beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling, disabled, down, down to the water.” The damaged bird, through Chopin’s perspective, demonstrates the harmful surrounding that women struggle to survive within. Pontellier recognizes and understands that in order to live positively, one should provide clear attention to themselves primarily. Through self-conscience, women can eliminate prejudices against their rights and promote sexual equality. By symbolizing the birds as the Victorian women who suffered within society, Chopin emphasizes to her audience that social balance between men and women flourishes as individualism increases within females.

The intentional irony present throughout the novel helps promote Chopin’s message that equality is present among males and females by women having more awareness of themselves. As Ms. Pontellier transitions from her former past to her new, free identity, she tells Mademoiselle Reisz that “[She] would give up the unessential; [she] would give [her] money… [her] life for [her] children, but [she] wouldn’t give [herself].” The reader can recognize the purposeful irony of Chopin by understanding that Edna would not sacrifice her recently developed personality, not even for her own kids.

Her former behavior, limited from the real world, would have allowed for anything to take away her life. However, due to the new mindset of Pontellier, she believes there is nothing worth more than her freedom. In addition, Edna conversates to Doctor Mandelet after she discovers that “Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.” Pontellier argues that she would rather suffer from the consequences of being a free-spirited woman, than suffer without knowing what individuality feels like. Through her belief, the audience can understand how Chopin causes Ms. Pontellier to unprecedently value the struggles from her self-awareness than live life oppressed by limitations. The present, constructive irony promotes the message about women suffrage that Chopin is communicating to her readers.

All in all, the readers learn that women’s rights and freedoms are matched to those of men through self-awareness. The powerful personification, imaginative symbolism, and effective irony created by Chopin informs her audience about the reality of sexual equality. The perspective and story of Edna Pontellier provides a clear answer to how feminism has prospered within modern society today.


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