In her novel, The Awakening, Kate Chopin depicts a woman much like herself. In the novel, the reader finds Edna Pointillism, a young wife and mother who, like Chopin, struggles with her role in society. The Victorian era woman was expected to fill a domestic role. This role requires them to provide their husbands with a clean home, food on the table and to raise their children. They were pieces of property to their husbands, who cared more about their wives’ appearance than their feelings. Edna initially attempts to conform to these roles, her eyes are gradually opened to capabilities of liberation.
Throughout the novel, many aspects to Dean’s awakening are revealed. Dean’s emotional awakening and change in perspective on romance lead to Dean’s final awakening and her death. Edna begins an emotional awakening when she hears Mademoiselle Raise play the piano. Edna was, “very fond of music” and musical renditions, sometimes, “evoked pictures in her mind. ” Hearing Adele Rotational play, Dean’s imagines a “figure of a man. ” His countenance was one of “hopeless resignation. ” Here the music internally affects Edna only with feelings of loneliness.
Also, Edna pictures a man instead of a woman, which might suggest that early in the novel, Dean’s life is controlled by men. This control effects even her inner thoughts and emotions. Comparatively, when Mademoiselle Raise plays the first chord a “keen tremor” goes down Dean’s spinal column. Edna has heard other piano artist play. This time, hearing Raise play was perhaps the first time “her being was tempered to take an impress of the abiding truth. ” Edna waits for the inevitable lonely images in her mind, but they do not appear. Instead, “passions themselves were aroused within her soul. ” Edna, “trembles… Ekes… And the tears blinded her. Such is the physical reaction Edna has to the music. This physical reaction is described in sexual language, which shows that Mademoiselle Resizes music has awakened Edna to the possibility of sexual passion as well as emotional expression. This is the beginning of Dean’s awakening where she allows herself to fully feel and express her emotions. This emotional awakening leads to another major part of Dean’s awakening, which is her more liberated view of romance and sexuality. When Edna was a young girl, she had crazy, wild crushes, real or imagined, on the young en in her community.
Her marriage to Leonie Pointillism was one of traditional convenience. Edna married Leonie in rebellion against her father, who objected to her marrying a Catholic. Edna showed her natural inclination to rebel against authority but still married into a traditional Victorian role. Dean’s relationship with Leonie was traditional and boring with “no trace of passion. ” However, when Edna became acquainted with Robert on Grand Isle, she was awakened by Roberts attention and flirtatious attitude. Roberts flirtations introduce a new possibility to Edna, giving her the confidence she needed to embrace her own identity.
While Dean’s relationship with Robert remains non-sexual, when she meets Alice Robin her sexual awakening is completed. Allele’s kiss is “the first … Of her life to which her nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch that kindled desire. ” Afterward Edna feels, “as if a mist had been lifted from her eyes’…. “Allowing her to, “comprehend the significance of life. ” The traditional restrictions of Dean’s marriage to Leonie stifled her natural passion and required her to hide her desire for romance. With Alice, Dean’s romantic passion is liberated.
She does not have to feel ashamed of that part of herself. This sexual liberation awakens in her a passion for life that she has not experienced before. Dean’s final awakening occurs when she realizes she has created a liberated world for herself, but has no one with whom to share it. Robert, the one person that seems to understand Edna, has left because he understood the consequences of her actions. Dean’s ultimate liberation traps her into a corner where she must choose to carry on with her independent, yet isolated life, or o back to the traditional Victorian wife and mother she was.
Now that her awakening has occurred, there is no way she will go back to her previous “dual life”. However, she lacks the courage to face the new life she has created for herself. She decides to save her independence at the cost of a life that would have been spent in slumber. She does this by giving herself to the free and passionate Gulf. Dean’s suicide completes the message Kate Chopin was attempting to convey, women who try to liberate themselves, as they have every right to do, are ultimately defeated by society restrictions.
In the last pages of the novel, the reader is assured of Dean’s weakness by the reappearing of the image of the exhausted bird falling into the water. Although, Edna awakened to the possibility of a liberated life, in the end, society weakens her, preventing Edna from pursuing her desires. Dean’s seemingly reckless abandon of her former unsatisfying life does not produce the desired results and the consequences for Edna are obvious. Throughout the novel, Edna experiences several awakenings; the most important are her emotional awakening and her resulting sexual liberation.
Although these awakenings make Edna realize the excitement of living and give her the confidence to choose her own lifestyle, in the end, Victorian society prevents her from maintaining her new life. Because she is alone in her pursuit of female liberation, she is left alone. She cannot stand her lonely isolation, but also knows she cannot return to her former life. She refuses to give in to the demands of her world and gives herself to the freedom of the sea.
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