Edna’s Awakenings in the Novel In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, the title is very significant because it symbolizes Edna’s awakenings to the world around her. She not only awakes up to the understanding of herself as an individual and as a woman who is not happy in the domestic world of her peers, but also she is also awakening as a sexual being. Throughout the novel there are many examples of awakenings; she becomes an artist when she tries to paint, she can appreciate music, and her life has been unfulfilling up to this point.
Before Edna even begins to interrupt the regular womanly functions in this time eriod, she realizes how her husband treats her. For Mr. Pontellier, her husband, Edna is a possession something that belongs to him and she should fulfill the confining roles it has been assigned. He scorns her for her lack of attention for the children and at the very beginning of the novel Edna becomes unburned and he “looked at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property that has suffered some damage”(Toth).
This situation along with many others is what has pushed Edna over the edge and ready to become an independent woman, even if it is against society. At the beginning of the novel, Edna is a woman is accustomed to the conformed society that women are in. Edna attends functions with her husband, she takes care of her daily duties and has no objections to this. One day during the summer Edna recalls herself as a child “l could only see a stretch before me, and I felt as if I must walk on forever, without coming to the end of it. I don’t remember if whether I was frightened or pleased. ” (16).
She confides in Adele that she felt as though she was walking “aimlessly, idly, unthinkingly and unguided”, as a child Edna was free and eems to prefer this. She did not have to worry about a man controlling her and did as she pleased. Whether she was frightened or pleased she continued doing so to encounter new situations. While at the summer home in Grand Isle, Edna begins her “awakening” (Radliff-umstead). Also while at Grand Isle, she Edna begins to spend time with Robert, who is Just a creole man on the island expected to flirt with all the married women. The women who are flirted with are seen as the good and beautiful.
Edna feels an unexpected freedom and a sense of self-awareness when with Robert, oth attributing to her new found attitude. While at a party, Edna hears the music Mademoiselle Reisz plays, her mind Just begins to wander to images that never came up any other time before. Up until this point she had not realized where her freedom and happiness were found, she is finally using her brain to its full capacity. Later on Edna learns how to swim and takes her first swim to go out far into the ocean, when in reality it was not far at all. She feels a sense of freedom in being able to do something most women did not do.
This symbolizes a rebirthing; she is being aptized into a new person. No longer is she conformed to the Victorian moldings, she is renewed. Once they return to New Orleans, Edna visits regularly with Mademoiselle Reisz, she rarely talks with Adele; she is the new outcast in her town. Edna no longer instead Just wears her modest, regular house clothing. Her husband begins to notice this so he talks with the family doctor. The doctor believes that there is nothing wrong she Just needs her space and time to figure herself out. Mr. Pontellier follows what the doctor orders, allowing Edna to stay home while he is on business for a ouple months.
This gives Edna even more freedom to do as she pleases, starting with getting out of the mansion and getting her own place at the pigeon house. Now that she has her own place she can continue her awakening. In the pigeon house there was a sense of having “descended in the social scale but having risen in the spiritual sense. “(94). She can now be more free, she can expresses herself as a women and enjoys having people over. Alcee was one of these people who was her new physical lover; she enjoyed having him over and feeling new sensations she had not before.
Edna believed now that she was now free from her husband. Edna is no longer surrounded by her husband’s possessions and she is no longer one of those possessions either. She has carved out her own place to live and be herself, where she wants to carry out her ideal fantasy of being an independent woman (Eble). This however is not possible for her. By the end of the book Edna is so wrapped up in her fantasy, that whenever Robert returns she is hocked to realize that he did not come find her right away. A couple days after Robert had returned to the city, they have dinner.
She receives a call to go but before leaving professes her love for him. He as well professes his love for her but instead of staying, he leaves because Robert will not step outside the conformity of this society. Edna was so excited to start her new life she did not realize that others would most likely not follow, this is what brings Edna down. Edna’s awakening happened so fast, she did not have time to balance her new found freedom with her society. Her actions were too hasty and abrupt. She could no longer live with herself, she went to Grand Isle, where this all began.
Once there she stripped all her clothing off went into the ocean and swam and swam until she no longer had any energy left, eventually dying. To get rid of all her sins and impurities that enveloped her, the only possible choice was the ocean where her awakening really began. Eble, Kenneth. “A Forgotten Novel: Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. ” Western Humanities Review 3 (Summer 1956): 261-269. Rpt. in Novels for Students. Ed. Diane Telgen and Kevin Hile. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Literature Resource Center. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. Radcliff-umstead, Douglas.
Literature of Deliverance: Images of Nature in the Awakening. ” Southern Studies 1. 2 (Summer 1990): 127-147. Rpt. in Twentieth- Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 127. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. Toth, Emily. “Kate Chopin’s The Awakening as Feminist Criticism. ” Southern Studies 2. 3-4 (Fall-Winter 1991): 231-241. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 127. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Chicago: Herbert S. Stone & Company, 1899. Print.