In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Edna Pontellier continuously struggles with breaking the social norms that are imposed upon her by the people around her including her own friends and husband. Throughout the novel, Edna is able to detach herself from the lifestyle that society appoints her by emulating Mademoiselle Reisz, an independent woman who has lived her life without conforming to society. Mademoiselle Reisz is not only a model for Edna’s awakening, but she also represents the freedom and individuality that Enda wishes she could attain. Through imitating Reisz, Enda realizes the woman she is capable of becoming, but later learns that she cannot truly be an independent woman because of her differences from Mademoiselle Reisz.
The relationship between Edna and Reisz is constructed on the artistic connection between the two character’s. Enda, a painter, is very fond of Reisz’s musical talent. Edna specifically likes one of Reisz’s songs that she calls “solitude.” Chopin writes, “The name of the piece was something else, but she called it ‘Solitude.’ When she heard it there came before her imagination the figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the seashore. He was naked. His attitude was one of hopeless resignation as he looked toward a distant bird winging its flight away from him” (38). This is what the relationship between Edna and Reisz is built on. Not only is it the artistic connection, but it is also the desire to be an individual that brings the two together. The song portrays an almost a vivid painting in the mind of Enda, the form of art that she enjoys. This particularly touches her because even though it is a different form of art, Edna still is able to understand and interpret it. In her mind, Reisz’s song leaves her with the sensation of being alone and free, a feeling that Edna longs to have for herself. The sea, which resembles freedom and knowledge throughout the novel is placed as an obstacle for the man who can...
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