Edna Pontellier in the Awakening

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Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Emory University historian and women's studies scholar was once interviewed on a documentary about Kate Chopin, the author of The Awakening (Fox, 2007, p. 27). She described Chopin as, "…a woman who took women extremely seriously. She never doubted women's ability to be strong. She came from a long line of strong women whom she loved and respected," (E. Fox-Genovese, personal communication, June 23, 1999). Although she was influenced by the womanizing author Guy de Maupassant, Chopin's most recognized novel, The Awakening, leaks feminism on every page (E. Fox-Genovese). Throughout The Awakening, Kate Chopin develops her heroine, Edna Pontellier, as the "ultimate feminist".

Although the first nine chapters hint and suggest feminism, Edna Pontellier does not begin to express her independence until chapter ten when Edna is able to swim for the first time (Chopin, 1972, p. 47). This epiphany is strongly symbolic of Edna's empowerment and her viewpoint changing from seeing herself as a lady and a product of society to an independent person who does not need to follow society (Wyatt, 1995). This is shown in the narrator's saying, "She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim where no woman had swum before," (Chopin, 1972, p. 47). This quote shows Edna's desire to break away from society and be bigger and better than any woman of her time. This is an example of Edna's feminism because Edna's swimming is symbolic of breaking free; she is her own person and no longer being controlled by her husband nor any other man in her life.

This event alone is significant, but also in this and the following chapters, Chopin shows Edna's independence even more. The beginning of Edna's awakening occurs in Edna's insistence on sleeping in the hammock; her mind so strongly set that in the hammock she remains even after her husband asks her to come inside several times (Chopin, 1972, p. 50). This is Edna's first...
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