Running Head: “THE AWAKENING” FROM A FEMINIST PERSPECTIVE
In Kate Chopin’s novel, “The Awakening”, Edna finds herself in a society where women were socially confined to be mothers and wives. This novel embodies the struggle of women in the society for independence along with the presence of women struggling to live up to the demands that their strict culture has placed upon them. A part of Edna wants to meet the standards of mother and wife that society has set, however her biggest desire is to be a woman free from the oppression of a society that is male dominant. Readers will find that the foundation of “The Awakening” the feminist perspective because of the passion that Edna has for gaining her own identity, and independence, which was not customary in the era of the 1800s.
Kate Chopin reveals the social construction of the setting in the novel in subtle phrases placed throughout chapter one. Readers start to understand that a male is the dominate gender from the choice of word Chopin uses to describe how Leonce’s expression after Edna returned home from bathing, “looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage” (Chopin, 2005). This description of the husbands expression in chapter one a vital phrase when analyzing the novel from a Feminist Perspective. Leonce viewed Edna as a piece of property that he owned rather than his partner in life. Feminism, in general, is the idea that people regardless of gender, should not oppressed and devalued by being treated as property. Reading further it is evident that, Edna is quite aware of what society expects of her. Because of this awareness of social demands and her own personal desires, Edna begins to struggle with her identity creating an inner turmoil when confronted about the care of their children. Edna becomes so overwhelmed because she is struggle to decide whether she should conform to societies demands of serving her family, or breaking free of society to follow her desires of obtaining her independence from her husband and men in general. Edna, after understanding her oppression fully, starts to utilize the ocean as comfort and also as a means to practice being independent.
In the novel, Chopin uses the ocean as a setting and also symbolism. Looking at how the ocean is used from feminist perspective, readers will understand that Edna find comfort in the ocean because since the ocean is not judgmental toward her. To Edna, the ocean is a safe zone where she can be herself. The ocean allows Edna to express her feel from site and the sounds that she hears and see, “and the everlasting voice of the sea, that was not uplifted at that soft hour. It broke like a mournful lullaby upon the night. The tears came so fast to Mrs. Pontellier's eyes that the damp sleeve of her peignoir no longer served to dry them” (Chopin, 2005). It Begins to become apparent to readers that the ocean reflect, and comfort to Edna as she is confronted with the emotions of how unhappy she was with her marriage. The personification of the ocean in this particular excerpt gives readers the sense that the ocean is serving as a manifestation if Edna’s thoughts and feelings. The ocean being said to voice a “mournful lullaby” is the reflection of what Edna is experiencing within. The ocean also gives Edna a chance to practice her independence when she decided to swim without guidance. Swimming is a symbolic element of Edna taking a small step to gaining her independence. Edna views the action of swimming without guidance as a chance to test whether she is, in fact, strong enough to break free of social oppression, “She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before” (Chopin, 2005). While venturing into the ocean, she turns and notices that she didn’t get far from the shore as she thought. This realization made Edna become frightened enough to head back to the shore. The...
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