Edna's Displacement

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Edna's Displacement

By | March 2013
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Displacement is the state in which you are not where you belong. The time, the place or with whom you are can greatly affect how you feel, given that humans seem to always lean towards their comfort zone. In The Awakening, a novella written by Kate Chopin, the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, is a displaced person in the Creole world. She feels uncomfortable and out-of-place amongst the Creole women on Grand Isle because of their different cultures. Edna also seems to be ahead of her time, as she submerges herself in an identity crisis, and a system of ideas new to the 19th century. The protagonist struggles with her displacement, causing her to act irrationally. She becomes daring and simply self-destructive. The novella proves to us that displacement takes a lot of courage to overcome. If one fails to conquer their displacement, overwhelming feelings may surface, and self-destructive actions may occur.

In The Awakening, Kate Chopin uses Adèle Ratignolle to illustrate the social conventions of the 19th century, helping us understand where Edna initially stands in the novella. Adèle Ratignolle’s character and values represent Edna’s origin of displacement. Madame Ratignolle clearly represents a “mother-woman”, or, in other words, a woman defined for her role as a mother. She is a responsible mother to her children, already preparing their winter wear, whereas Mrs. Pontellier is not even concerned about such an issue:

Mrs. Pontellier’s mind was quite at rest concerning the present material needs of her children, and she could not see the use of anticipating and making winter garments the subject of her summer meditations. (Chopin 8)

Edna’s priorities greatly differ from Adèle’s, given their different cultures. In fact, it is their differences that contribute to Edna’s cultural displacement and to her social displacement as well. Concerning the societal issue, there are the expectations of a wife’s role. On the one hand, Madame Ratignolle is not only a...