The Awakening by Kate Chopin

January 6, 2011
By tennis562 BRONZE, Long Beach, California
tennis562 BRONZE, Long Beach, California
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Passion, lies, individualism, romance, and independence. The Awakening by Kate Chopin is a tale of self-growth and individuality. The Awakening was published in 1889 by Herbert S. Stone and Co. In the 1800s, there were very few opportunities for self expression for women. They were constantly hindered by the blockade known as rules of society. Women were taught to behave a certain way and to never break their boundaries. The protagonist and main character of the book, Edna Pontellier, experiences many trials and tribulations during the process of figuring out her place in the world while discovering her sexuality and her very own strength. The Awakening exemplifies the notion that solitude is the consequence of independence, and Edna Pontellier realizes that committing actions that are unacceptable to society only led to her ultimate demise.

While vacationing at Grand Isle, Edna Pontellier encounters several people that lead to her awakening. With her husband away, Edna leaches onto a woman named Adele Ratigonolle. In addition to Adele, Edna creates a close friendship with the notoriously flirty gentleman Robert Lebrun who is much younger than Edna. At first, Edna and Robert’s relationship is innocent, until the summer ends and they find themselves madly in love with each other. Here is where Edna starts her journey of independence because she finally feels more alive and younger than

ever before and with Robert, she felt free to express her long hidden sexuality. Robert, aware of their inappropriate relationship, removes himself from Grande Isle while Edna returns to New Orleans. In New Orleans, Edna tries out her new found independence but soon realizes that her defiance is not accepted by everyone. She abandons her whole former life and encounters the town seducer, Alcee Arobin, in which their affair only lasted a short while. As part of her great awakening, Edna takes up the art of piano. Her mentor, Mademoiselle Reisz was not only Edna’s influence but soon became a person in which Edna could confide. Edna told Reisz of her and Robert’s secret love and Reisz was a big factor in Edna wanting to act upon her feelings. When Robert returns to New Orleans, he confronts Edna and admits that although he has strong and passionate feelings towards her, he cannot let himself enter into their adulterous affair. Edna’s long time friend Adele was having complications with her pregnancy and called upon Edna to help her. During their time together, Adele enlightened Edna on the simple fact that Edna needs to think about her children and return to her socially acceptable lifestyle. Upon her return home, Edna finds Robert gone for good and she realizes that Robert was merely a remedy for her bursting and whimsical moment of self discovery. Here is where Edna experiences an overwhelming sense of solitude. Edna returns to Grande Isle where all these senseless emotions began and calmly floats on top of the water out into the vast sea.

In all honesty, The Awakening was just another story of typical love affairs, nothing special. As an avid Lifetime Movie Network viewer, I found this story to be just like every movie on that channel. The story line was very cliche and I knew immediately what would happen in

the end from only completing the third chapter. It was a typical boy meets girl love story. The girl hides a relationship from her other significant other, girl is happy because she is getting the
best of both worlds, but in the end she is unsatisfied one way or another. Although independence and self-discovery were key points in this story, I felt like they were overshadowed by the boring and typical plot. In a way, I felt like Edna took her individualism a step too far. I am all for being your own person and staking your independence. However, Edna was an adult who was married and had kids and responsibilities. It was very immature for her to abandon that and decide to act on her epiphany of individualism. Although, I do admire and applaud Kate Chopin for writing such a controversial novel especially at its time of publication. During a time of gender oppression, it was noble of Chopin to write of such extreme behaviors of a woman.

The story ended on a rather depressing and questionable note. Readers were left wondering if Edna’s final swim and float out onto the sea was really a suicide or not. If it was a suicide, did it constitute a cowardly surrender or a liberating triumph? For a while, Edna found her new found independence enlightening and she viewed it as a big accomplishment. However, in the end, there was no one by her side when she realized that this was all just a childish and whimsical act. She realized that her independence constituted solitude and by committing suicide, I found it to be her dependent and immature attitude shining through, a characteristic that no matter how hard she tried to let go, always stayed with her.

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