Edna Pontellier's Awakening In A Stifling Society

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A Voyage of Self-Discovery: Edna Pontellier’s Awakening in a Stifling Society Edna Pontellier is a woman out of time. Born into the patriarchal society of the late Victorian era, she is pulled into a loveless marriage and struggles in vain to fulfill her axiomatic duties. But Edna possesses an inner soul that constantly questions her position in the universe and pushes her to satisfy her most basic desires. Kate Chopin’s novella, The Awakening, illustrates the voyage that Edna undertakes in order to fulfill her life as a woman in an oppressive reality. While sailing through both rough and silky waters, she discovers herself as a single entity and not as part of a sunken populace. Consequently, Chopin’s revised title is effective because it…show more content…
She is no longer just discovering her strength, but is now using it to craft her identity. Accordingly, her awakening becomes more self-involved. With Robert and her husband away, Edna freely explores both her creative and sexual desires. Just as she does when she first learns to swim, Edna embraces her power and confidently clashes it against the tides of life. She becomes a “soul that dares and defeats” as she rejuvenates her painting skills, toys with young Arobin’s heart, and even moves into a new house (Chopin 64). Through these bold actions, Edna starts to view herself as an individual who is in control of her fate. Even others, including Mademoiselle Reisz and Doctor Mandelet, begin to notice Edna’s rapid metamorphosis into a “beautiful, sleek animal waking up in the sun” (Chopin 70). As a result, Edna’s second awakening streams with aplomb as she gains sweeping independence; but while this self-assurance is refreshing, there is also an imminent uncertainty to her urgency, which Edna gradually recognizes when she navigates through the last phase of her…show more content…
Haunted by doubt, she starts to consider the plausibility of her endeavor. The difficulty with Edna’s awakening is that as she molds herself into an individual, the world refuses to accept her independence. During her dinner party, she initially presents herself with glorious poise as a “regal woman, one who rules, who looks on, who stands alone” (Chopin 89). But that is just what she is: alone. Once she understands her impasse, an “old ennui” seeps into her body, weakening her bright strength, and “overpowering her at once with a sense of the unattainable” (Chopin 89). Furthermore, Edna spends some intimate time with Robert; but when she discovers that he is unwilling to abandon the demands of society to be together, she is crushed. The cruel truths of life shake her from her illusory haze and throw her back into a stifling Victorian reality. For the first time, Edna realizes that it is impossible to elude society completely, that being herself and fulfilling her dreams are wants that “would trample upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of others” (Chopin 112). This epiphany marks a third major awakening, in which Edna comes to terms with reality. Overwhelmed by her realization, Edna concludes that the only way to escape society’s pressures is to escape the world entirely. Because she had plunged into the currents of her awakening too rapidly and was unable to establish a balance

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