Responding to Chopin's The Awakening

1. Adele Ratignolle and Edna Pontellier represent two types of women. Adele lives only for her children, while Edna needs some freedom in order to save her personality. “I would give my money, I would give my life for my children, but I wouldn’t give myself”, says Edna (Chopin 53). However, Adele can not understand this sentence – maybe because her children mean everything for her and she considers them a part of her personality. Another way to interpret the contradiction between these women is to say that Adele does even not possess her individuality because she is not awoken, unlike Edna. Besides, Adele and Edna are not antipodes because it is Mademoiselle Reisz who is Adele’s opposite as she devotes herself only to art. Edna tries to find a balance between these extremes because her aim is to lead a full, happy life free from pressure and traditional obligations. At the same time, she wants to contact with the society and to realize her sexual power in contrast to Mademoiselle Reisz whose understanding of artist’s way of life denies it. Through the character of Adele, Chopin tries to show one of the alternative ways Edna could live. Besides, she has already awoken and she can not live as Adele does because of the eternal inescapable capture of her life in marriage. Adele is Edna who does not understand that she is primarily an individual and only then a woman, wife and mother. Adele embodies the happy state of an innocent mind when one is not aware that they are not free, while Edna understands that her children may “drag her into the soul’s slavery for the rest of her days” (Chopin 127). That is the main difference between the characters of Edna and Adele.

2. Edna Pontellier as the main character of The Awakening is the person who has awoken while others remain sleeping under the cover of the social customs and oppressive behavioral paradigms everyone has to follow. That is why she acts in a very strange way in comparison with other characters of the novel. Some of her decisions can seem wrong or irrational through the prism of the social order contemporary for her, but one can not judge Edna for them. There were two main choices she made in the novel: Edna denied her role of a wife and mother and she decided to commit suicide. The reason of these actions has its roots in the pressure the society had on every woman, particularly on Edna. In those conditions a human, especially a woman, could not realize his or her individuality. The institute of marriage and motherhood became the main source of the chains that brought every young girl to despair of everyday responsibilities. Certainly, some women could find such life satisfactory (as Adele Patignolle does, for example), but it was mostly because they could not awake from the social pressure. “I could only see the stretch of grass before me, and I feel as if I must walk on forever without coming to the end” (Chopin 19), says Edna concerning the life in accordance to the social norms. The main problem of Edna is that even after she has understood that the current order needs some changes, other people start to judge her behavior in a negative tone. She wants to find some middle way between the life of Mademoiselle Reisz who lives only for her art and Adele who devotes her life to others entirely. Both of them can not understand Edna, and the only way to escape it is suicide. Edna’s real murderer is the social stability which can not accept anything unusual; that is why the reader has to judge the society for Edna’s decisions and her death.

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