Kate Chopin's Novel The Awakening

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Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening expresses the difficulty of finding a woman's place in society. Edna learns of new ideas such as freedom and independence while vacationing in Grand Isle. Faced with a choice to conform to society's expectations or to obey personal desires for independence, Edna Pontellier realizes that either option will result in dissatisfaction. Thus, Edna's awakening in Grand Isle leads to her suicide. Edna's awakening occurs during her family's vacation in Grand Isle. It is here that she learns to freely express herself and be unreserved in her behavior and speech. Through the Creole women, Edna becomes free from the chains that bind her to societal expectations. Adele initiates Edna's arousing as does the local flirtatious man, Robert Lebrun. It is at Grand Isle that Edna feels most alive: engaging in idle talk, flirting unabashedly, receiving loving attention from a man, paints, learning to swim, an awareness of independence, and becoming conscious of her sexuality. Edna's awakening and transformational journey leads to her death because she cannot be the wife, mother, lover, artist, and daughter she wants to be without the support of Mr. Pontellier, her children, Madame Ratignolle, Robert, Madame Reisz, and her father. While Edna sees support for herself in these roles the way the other characters see them, she does not believe that she has their support for herself as an individual, apart from these roles, or as a person defining these roles for herself. As she takes her final walk down to the beach, the sea continues to call to her soul: "The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude" (654). The sea has helped Edna see into her innermost being and the transformational journey has helped her realize that she wants to fulfill her roles in life as an autonomous individual. But because Edna feels that she cannot achieve her goals, she succumbs the sea.
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