The Awakening by Edna Pontellier Essay
1104 Words5 Pages
“Whatever we may do or attempt, despite the embrace and transports of love, the hunger of lips, we are always alone” (Chopin 581.7). In Kate Chopin’s story The Awakening, not only is this the quote that Edna Pontellier identifies with when Mrs. Ratignolle plays piano for her, but it is also the perfect description of the struggle in which Mrs. Pontellier faces. Though, The Awakening was considered sexually charged and risqué for its time, when one analyzes this quote and the original title of Kate Chopin’s story, A Solitary Soul, they come to the realization that there is more to this story than just sex (562). The Awakening is a story about Edna Pontellier’s struggle to find acceptance and fulfillment in a society confined by gender…show more content…
She pales in comparison as a mother when set next to the other Creole women on Grand Isle. When the children of the other mothers need comfort, they run to their mother. However this is not the case for Mrs. Pontellier. When Edna’s children fall, rather than seeking comfort from their mother, they are more likely to instead get up and carry on playing (567). Try as she might, Edna is simply “not a mother-woman”, and finds no satisfaction in attempting to be one (567).
Edna’s lack of belonging is not limited to inside her own house though. The largest aspect of life in which Edna fails to find belonging is in the Creole society. Edna is not Creole, but rather married into it. As she spends her summer immersed in this society, Edna begins to realize just how little she fits into it. The Creole women’s every waking thought was of their children, so much so that in the middle of summer, Mrs. Ratignolle is already sewing her children winter outfits. Edna, on the other hand, seems to rarely ever think of her children. The Creole women were also know to be very flirtatious, but in a way that was harmless and lacked meaning. Edna, being an outsider from Kentucky, did not understand the openness in which they expressed themselves. Some of the Creole women would talk in great detail of intimate events such as child birth, tell stories, and read books that all made Edna blush. Edna, being a solitary person, never really seemed to fit among the communal society
Show MoreEdna Pontellier's Suicide
Suicide has been defined as "the act of self-destruction by a person sound in mind and
capable of measuring his (or her) moral responsibility" (Webster 1705). Determining one's
moral responsibility is what all of humanity struggles with and strives to achieve. Many forces
act toward the suppression of this self-discovery, causing a breakdown and ultimately a complete
collapse of conventional conceptions of the self. So then the question presented becomes
whether or not Edna's suicide is an act of tragic affirmation or pathetic defeat. Most analyses of
the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, explain the newly emerged awareness and struggle against the
societal forces that repress…show more content…
Her true awakening in fact occurs shortly before her suicide, when she "grew faint"
after returning home to find Robert gone (106). When all seems to be lost with Robert's going
away, Edna has nowhere to turn but inward. It is at this precise moment she discovers her
failure, her lack of true individuality. Her feelings of individuality, her feelings of solitude, stem
from her inability to reconcile her inner and outer selves. Her outer self is that which she
displays to society, the acceptable mother-woman, conventional in every way. After her initial
awakening (the false awakening), she sheds off the world and its effects on her in its entirety.
However, she is unable to define a world into which she is able to enter. This leads ultimately to
Edna's realization that she does not belong in either of the extremes displayed in the work; the
expected mother-woman with no individuality whatsoever or the social outcast with too much
individuality. Edna begins to realize that "there was no one thing in the world she desired"
(198). Coming to this understanding is jarring to Edna's perception of the world as she has
known it all her life because there is nowhere to find affirmation of self. Rushing forward in the
chapters leading up to her realization that there is no one and nowhere to turn to, Edna ends up in
limbo. Incapable of establishing a place for herself in the world, Edna