Society's Connection To Motherhood In 'The Awakening' By Kate Chopin

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Imagine being a bird, wishing to fly free, but being tied down like a dog with a chain around its neck. In the novel, The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, Edna is trapped by society’s ideals. Edna is a young housewife living in New Orleans in the nineteenth century. All her life she has lived by society’s standards and lived up to everyone’s expectations. During the novel, she discovers her true self and attempts to defy society’s standards of women. Edna’s awakening is influenced by her relationship with her friends, children, and lovers. These people shape her identity as a mother figure. Her identity as a mother provides her with struggles that she must confront, and holds her back from her true desires. Chopin uses Edna’s connection to motherhood…show more content…
Adèle is also a young mother in the 1800s who conforms to society’s expectations of mothers. At the beginning of the novel, Edna describes mothers at the Grand Isle that summer: “They were women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels… one of them was the embodiment of every womanly grace and charm… Her name was Adèle Ratignolle” (Chopin 10). Adèle is the perfect mother and wife to Edna. She would do anything for her husband and children, including giving up herself which is something that Edna cannot do. Due to Adèle’s devotion to her children and her husband, Edna is constantly reminded of what the perfect mother figure is. As Edna discovers herself she begins to feel pity for Adèle and strays away from wanting Adele’s life. After spending time with Adele realizes she wants freedom of thought and choice. She begins to want to follow her own direction (Lant). The time that Edna spends with Adèle shows her a life that she does not desire, and pushes her towards becoming her own individual. Edna describes how she views Adèle’s life later on in the novel, “She was moved by a kind of commiseration for Madame Ratignolle — a pity for that colorless existence which never uplifted its possessor beyond the region of blind contentment, in which no…show more content…
Mademoiselle Reisz is a friend of Edna’s in the novel. She was described by Edna as, “She was a disagreeable little woman, no longer young, who had quarreled with almost every one, owing to a temper which was self-assertive and a disposition to trample upon the rights of others” (Chopin 34). Edna views Mademoiselle Reisz as a free woman who can do what she pleases without conforming to society’s expectations. She can be “self-assertive” and quarrels with others, which is not common among the women in her life. Mademoiselle Reisz shows Edna what it is like to be free from the bounds of motherhood and marriage. However, Edna cannot be completely like her because she is connected to motherhood: “Mademoiselle Reisz, a pianist, is unmarried, despises children, and behaves rudely to everyone. … Mademoiselle Reisz is a woman completely alone, devoted only to herself” (Lant). Edna still has a physical connection to her children that she cannot be free from. Mademoiselle has no children and is unmarried, therefore she can think only of herself and be a true individual. Edna wants to be free, but she desires to love, unlike Mademoiselle who is not involved with men. As a result of Edna still wanting to experience love and being connected to her children, she can never truly be like Mademoiselle Reisz. Although she tries to do this through art and taking with her, she

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