Awakening of Edna Pontiller
It can be said that the main character of “The Awakening” Edna Pontellier, “awakens” in several ways through the course of the book. But in the grander, broader sense, they are all sub-instances, mere symbolism to one major occurrence – her mental, emotional and physical severing of and escape from the cultural shackles that which suppress her soul, and cripple her fulfillment, sense of self-worth, and burning desire to live and be respected as an individual. Edna awakens from the monotonous drear that is the expectations of her husband and of her peers -- the expectations she has subjected herself to by marrying into the creole culture. She awakens from her cultural “cage”, spreading her proverbial “wings”, to experience her “ocean” of freedom. The story is rife with symbolism, as I just made use of, hinting heavily from the very start at the caged bird / free bird analogy, establishing the ocean as imagery of freedom, and relating it all to the plight of Mrs. Pontiller. Upon initial introspection of her relationship with Mr. Pontillier, it is swiftly evident that she is not in a terribly desirable or happy situation. She is living in an existence of which she does not feel “alive”. The superficial preoccupations of her businessman husband set the tone of this conflict. “She’s not one of us; She is not like us” (p. 24), foreshadows Madame Ratignolle, when scolding the young Robert Lebrun to be careful with his flirtations towards the naïve Edna, who “[…]might make the unfortunate blunder of taking [him] seriously.”(p 24) It is this young fellow who – above all else – serves as the main catalyst to Edna’s emotional shift from submissive object to vibrant individual. Though much of her transformation occurs even in the absence of his presence, it is the lasting effect of her encounters with Robert, her incessant longing for him, and her subsequent pain and heartbreak, which fuels the significance of her personal revolution. It...
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