Feminist Lens: a Perspective - the Awakening

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Feminist Lens: A Perspective - The Awakening
Kristin Miller
South University Online

Feminist Lens: A Perspective - The Awakening
During the late nineteenth century, a woman’s place in society was confined to the reverence of her children and constant submission to her husband. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin is a novel about Edna Pontellier whose life was embraced through the frustrations and triumphs as she attempts to cope with the strict cultural demands in which she was confined. This essay focuses specifically on the feminist critical perspective, however, The Awakening can be perceived to also observe the historical or psychoanalytical critical perspectives as well. First, the story can be interpreted using the psychoanalytical perspective by the using the events and emotions experienced by the characters within. According to South University Online (2010) defines both perspectives as follows: “the psychoanalytical perspective aims to reveal the influence of the unconscious in the text’s plot, setting, conflict, symbols, point of view, language, and character development” (p.2). Whereas, the “historical perspective, look at the political, social, racial, cultural, and economic structures in place as well as the traditions and counter traditions of the literature.” (p. 4) Consequently, Edna battles the pressures of 1899 that commanded her to be a submissive and devoted housewife, while contravening the stereotype of a “mother-woman”. The Awakening supports, as well as, inspires feminism by as a way for women to challenge their gender role, embrace symbolisms implied in life, and establish their individual identity.

Feminist theory argues that “to say gender is socially-constructed means that ideas about women’s and men’s roles, behaviors, and abilities come from human choices rather than from actual physical differences” (South University Online, 2010, para. 5). Chopin gave Edna’s role as a feminist in many ways by her indulging her more selfish needs. During a conversation with Madame Ratignolle; "she would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for anyone” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 16, para. 10). Subsequently, this embodies the theory that if Edna were to give up her soul, the very base of her womanhood and what she stands for in life, then her world and existence would be over. Therefore, she would end up drifting away into the void of commonality. Edna believes in herself and senses her inner individuality by moving forward to achieving her sexuality and opinions. She does so by strongly imposing the beliefs of feminism to intimately discover one’s mind and body, the ultimate freedom. Expanding on the many different definitions of feminism, there are “Clues showing beliefs about gender are in every aspect of the text, and you can choose which thread you care to examine.” (South University Online, 2010, para. 2). The focus remains on what Edna is not: “…Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman” (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 4, para. 4). This is Chopin’s way of defining Edna of all the things she is not, thus showing Edna’s rebellious power against what was considered “normal” for women. For example, the relationship between Edna and Leonce Pontellier demanded a conflict due to Edna challenging the ideas as her role to be restricted to a wife and mother.

Subsequently, Chopin narrates the feelings and emotions of Edna by the use of symbolism by the mention of birds to suggest that Edna has finally found her Awakening. From the start of the novel to the very end, the birds play a very dominant part in the imagery of Edna’s Awakening. The parrot yells: "Allez-vous en! Allez-vous en! Sapritsi!" (Chopin, 2005, Chapter 1, para. 2), translated in Edna’s language, “Get out! Get out!” is a clear clarification of Edna’s way to communicate to her husband Leonce. Thus, the parrot is representing Edna by symbolizing being confined in the cage of motherly and wifely duties craving to be released, but held back by the bars...
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