The Awakening and Teens Today

March 18, 2008
By Nicholas Miller, Braintree, MA

A lot of teens have trouble finding a place where they fit in at their school and in their everyday life. A lot of times, they get really depressed about it, and some even turn to drugs and think about suicide. But rather than do something dangerous or stupid, they should find some help or get support from some friends. In a book we recently read in class titled The Awakening, there is a woman who was in the same situation.

Edna Pontellier, the main character of The Awakening, was getting confused and mixed up with who she loved even though she was married. Her husband was quite immature however and did not realize how Edna felt. I’m sure the same thing happens with many teens today, and many of their friends or family members don’t recognize any signs there might be of depression or anxiety. Edna was the same way, and some of her friends thought she just wanted attention. When her husband went away to New York for a while, Edna decided to move into a smaller house away from their house known as the “Pigeon House”. From then on she knew her place was in society and it was not with her husband even if others wanted it to be.

There was a boy who had always admired Edna and treated her as royalty. His name was Robert, and Edna never really thought about him because he was always there. But when he went away, she began to miss him more and more, until she realized that she was in love with him. She thought about him all the time, even though it was oblivious to her husband. While others told stories of their past and childhood, she would tell stories she made up about a woman who “paddled away with her lover one night in a pirogue and never came back“(123), and that “they could see the faces of the lovers, pale, close together, rapt in oblivious forgetfulness“(124). This is a clear-cut sign to readers that she wishes to break away from her everyday life with a lover, yet her husband remained oblivious.

There was also a third man, Alcee Arobin. He was known for his womanizing, and had many partners. He starts to accompany Edna to the races and to dinner, until he gets her to fall for his “seductive entreaties”(150). However afterwards, Edna does not feel guilty that she betrayed her husband, but that she betrayed Robert because he was the man she really loved. This did not stop Alcee and Edna from meeting each other often after this first encounter.

A friend of Edna’s named Madame Lebrun finally did notice that Edna was behaving strangely. She went to the doctor they were all good friends with, Dr. Mandelet, and told him. He went and talked to Edna to see if there were any problems that were visible. He told Madame Lebrun that there was nothing to worry about, even though he didn’t believe that. He went to Edna, and told her he was there to talk if she needed anything. She knew she could, but didn’t want to.

Robert had been writing letters about Edna to Edna’s friend, Mademoiselle Reisz. He asked questions about Edna and still loved her. When Robert came back, Edna was ecstatic. Edna told Robert about how she loved him and they could live together without any worries. However, the next day Robert left a note that said “Good-by, - because I love you”(172). Robert knows that in that day and age, it would never work between them because she was already married. Robert knew that their society would never allow it and they would become taboo. Since society didn’t allow Edna to live the way she wanted, she felt there was no way she could ever fit in again in the world. She drown herself, and her dream of going away over the ocean with her lover died in the same water she wanted to go away in.

The awakening directly relates to the lives of many teens today in high school. Society plays the same role in affecting people’s lives. During their adolescence, teens are just first starting to explore their sexual life and their emotions get all twisted, and they are often confused. Peer pressure is probably the largest and most obvious link between The Awakening and high school students. Teens are often pressured into making bad decisions like doing drugs or picking on some kid that never did any harm to any one. And then there are those who don’t fit in because they don’t buckle under peer pressure. All of these kids make bad decisions, what they don’t realize is that there is help for it. Almost every school across the country has guidance counselors and psychologists for anyone who has a problem. Some think it would make them weird, while others are just too immature to realize it. They are not the only ones however; “He was very young, and did not know any better. Mrs. Pontellier talked a little about herself for the same reason”(46). Edna had a doctor to go to for help, but she didn’t go and it wound up with the loss of an innocent life.

The Awakening and the everyday life of teens are really very similar. It shows us all some life lessons in that everybody has problems in life, and more often than not those problems are similar. However, the real question is not what those problems are or how many problems you have, but rather how you deal with those problems. Edna chose to deal with them poorly which led to the end of her life. Lets hope that not everyone who has the same problems comes to the same decisions, but that they will awake and realize what they can do to improve their situations.

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