The Awakening by Kate Chopin
A historical connection worth noting is the rights of women during the 1900’s: the time period of this story. While America continued to push its own industrialization, lower class women were allowed to partake in some jobs such as factory work. Although the rights of women were improving, they still were not optimal. Upper class women were still just objects to their husbands and while voting rights had expanded to all races, women were still left out. This novella focuses on the women’s rights movement brought by these issues.
Protagonist(s); Edna Pontellier – Mrs.Pontellier is the focus of The Awakening. As the main character (or protagonist) of the novel, she struggles to find who she is as a person. She isolates herself from her family in an attempt to focus on her own self discovery, finding all of society to be her adversary.
Antagonist(s); Society and Edna – The main force opposing Edna in the novella is society as a whole and herself with her own internalized conflict. While the Creoles of Louisiana are very inclusive racially for their time, there is still no equality for women. Along with society, Edna opposes herself with her own internalized conflict which causes her and those around her distress.
Brief Plot Summary; Edna Pontellier and her family are on vacation in Louisiana at the start of the novella Here, Edna begins to snap out of her trance of obedience in an attempt to begin her own self discovery. She falls in love with a name by the name of Robert who, seeing that he has also begun to fall in love with this married woman, flees to Mexico. After Edna and her family return to their home in the city, Edna begins to become more independent. She begins to refuse to simply be the possession of her husband. When her husband travels to New York on an extended business trip without her, Edna is left on her own. After her kids are sent to live on their grandparents’ farm for the winter, Edna decides to take her hobby of painting seriously. She moves into her own apartment and pays for it by her own means with money she makes off of her paintings and betting. After running into Robert once more and confessing her love to him, Edna is called upon to give support to her friend in labor. She returns only to find that Robert has left. In response, she swims out as far as she can into the ocean until she drowns.
Key Themes; Self-Discovery and Oppression
Significant Literary Elements;
Setting; New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 1800’s
Symbol(s); Birds – Throughout the novella, birds are used to symbolize Edna Pontellier. An example of this is when Mademoiselle Reisz states the bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings (Pg. 83). This statement is in direct correlation with Edna in meaning that she is brave to even dare to break the tradition of women simply following the orders of the husbands as mindless objects of value.
Point of View; Third Person Perspective
IRONIC PASSAGE EXPLANATION
In The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Edna’s awakening and how it affects her is an example of situational irony. Situational irony is when something occurs that is unexpected and does not follow an assumed outcome. Throughout this novella, Edna Pontellier makes an attempt to discover herself in many distinct aspects of her own being. She grows cold and distant to her husband and children as she focuses on herself completely. She has multiple affairs with Mr.Pontellier and eventually ends up living on her own after buying herself an apartment. Most readers would be left believing that Edna would be satisfied with discovering herself in being that she spends all of her time within the novella trying to do so. But, in the long run
In The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the character of Edna Pontellier can be considered dynamic. A dynamic character is defined as a character that undergoes a change in personality or perspective throughout the course of a story. Their counterpart is the static character. A static character remains unchanged throughout a story in most/every aspect. At the start of the novella, Edna was submissive to her husband. She was his obedient prized possession; she did all that he asked of her even if she did not believe he asked of her was necessary. A good example of this is in Chapter 3 (pg. 7), stating Mr.Pontellier returned to his wife the information that Raoul had a high fever and needed looking after Mrs.Pontellier was quite sure Raoul had no fever Even though Edna was sure that her son did not have a fever because he held no symptoms and did not complain of anything before he went off to bed, she still went to check on Raoul simply because her husband had told her to. But as the story progresses, the once obedient Edna grows to defy the commands of her husband. In Chapter 11 (pg. 42), Edna refuses to return inside when her husband calls for her. She does not just say no either; she boldly turns him down, stating, Leonce, go to bed I mean to stay out here. I don’t wish to go in, and I don’t intend to. Don’t speak to me like that again; I shall not answer you. This is a drastic change in personality in comparison to how she was just a few chapters early in the story. She is more independent and outspoken than she had ever been. Along with not submitting to her husband’s commands, Edna has also gone from being a half decent mother completely isolating herself from her family. She went from doing the tasks that most mothers of that time were accustomed to doing to living away from home and cheating on her husband.