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The Awakening by Kate Chopin: an analysis

It is during this vacation that Edna meets Robert, who will eventually become the love of her live, though he is not her husband, Madame Ratignolle, and Mademoiselle Reisz. Edna has come full circle, and now she is trying to return to the most childlike state, that of the fetus. Throughout the novel Edna illustrates her yearning for a mother and her need for a mother figure, while shunning her own motherly duties.

During the childbirth, Edna obscurely recalls her own experience of childbirth, but almost as if it happened to someone else and not herself. Oh think of the children! This realization is magnified when she returns home and Robert, her true love, has gone. Not only can she not escape her family, but now she must also live without the man that she loves. She swims far out into the ocean knowing she is possibly going to swim too far out for her to return: She looked into the distance, and the old terror flamed up for an instant, then sank again.

She heard the barking of an old dog that was chained to the sycamore tree. The spurs of the cavalry officer clanged as he walked across the porch. There was the hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air. The sea is a sensual, comforting image, and it draws Edna into its embrace much like a mother.

Inspiration for Writers and Readers from Classic Women Authors

Walker views Edna as a character guided by destiny, and that her life is a pattern of decisions made on a purely emotional level: Edna acts as if sleepwalking: She appears to have little to no control over her actions, and repeatedly acts without knowing how or why she is acting. At this point everyone else on the island has recognized that there was some sexual tension within their relationship except Edna.

Walker argues that Edna does experience a sexual awakening in the hands of Robert and Arobin, her second extramarital love interest, yet she is never conscious of the actions she takes, continually acting without thinking: Edna is never conscious of her decisions, therefore she cannot be a feminist. To be considered feminist, Edna would have to be aware of her awakening, and would have to view herself with a sense of social equality, instead she is only aware of increased emotional and sexual urges.


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By committing suicide Edna successfully escapes the society she no longer knows how to live in, although according to Walker Edna acts totally unconsciously. Seyersted disagrees with Walker and argues for a feminist interpretation of the novel. Throughout the novel Edna becomes increasingly sexual, also becoming aware of her sexuality.

For students and scholars

Her bond of friendship with Robert seems harmless at first, but when he leaves for Mexico Edna believes she is in love with him: Until this point, Edna seems to have not realized her feelings for Robert. Edna goes into a childlike pout, neglecting the familial duties she previously completed without fail. When Robert leaves her the first time, she is upset and broods, unable to believe he left so abruptly, and without saying goodbye. Through her experience with Robert, Edna has learned to keep her emotional distance from men, lest she be hurt again.

Edna is definitely a more sexual being now than previously in the novel. Before she recoiled at the touch of her closest friend, and now she is indulging in a forbidden kiss, holding Arobin close to prolong the contact. There are gray areas between any polar opposites, and no one belongs, fully, to either of these artificial categories. You might also like: Quotes from The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Think about Edna when we first meet her, and as she develops through the course of the novel.

Teaching "The Awakening"

How does she fit traditional gender roles for women, and how does she branch away from such expectations? This question constitutes a major theme of the novel. We can look at Edna specifically in her role as a mother. In women there is always more or less of the mother who makes everything all right, who nourishes, and who stand up against separation; a force that will not be cut off but will knock the wind out of the codes. A foil character is one basically similar to the protagonist, yet differing in certain ways that serve to illuminate the protagonist more brightly or clearly as in a tin-foil reflection.

She does not question her position, nor complain of her duties. Their conversation on mothering is a key to the novel. One could interpret this statement multiple ways.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin: an analysis | LiteraryLadiesGuide

Full text of The Awakening by Kate Chopin The pianist Mademoiselle Miss Reisz models the independent woman as artist, utterly unconcerned with personal appearance or public scrutiny. She encourages Edna to sketch, to cultivate her own creativity. The novel does not put forth a woman who can be both an artist and a mother. While one could suggest that Chopin was in fact a Victorian feminist ahead of her time, especially when one considers other stories by Kate Chopin , as by the end of the story categorizing this work in any way as feminist or pro-Victorian would be a mistake because of the complex nature of the period it is set in.

A reader may not understand or like Edna and while many find her selfish and rash and even manic-depressive it is important to draw together the clues about her society, especially in terms of gender relations and standards to see what she was rebelling against before judging her. Chopin had been raised in an intellectually open environment and was less familiar with the typical marital relationships of the Victorian era than many of her contemporaries.

This set her apart as a unique, but ultimately too potent writer in a literary period that had not yet awakened to the more modern notions of feminism. To make her points about the role of women in Victorian society, Chopin often presents a model of a certain ideal of the Victorian age and then offers the antithesis. Through these contrasts in domestic duty many of the central themes of the text are explored and the finer points of Victorian masculinity, femininity, social obligation and structure, and familial relationships are more fully developed.

Consider for example scenes that depict a distanced view of Madame Ratignolle and the images she represents. Her little ones ran to meet her. Two of them clung about her white skirts, the third she took from its nurse and with a thousand endearments bore it along in her own fond, encircling arms. Though, as everybody well knew, the doctor had forbidden her to lift so much as a pin" This image, while fleeting and apparently used only to establish setting is filled with a number of insights into Victorian ideals of femininity.