The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, takes one back to an earlier time while still provoking the questions of morality and self-sacrifice that exist today. Edna Pontellier, the protagonist of the story, places herself in the position to be the individual going against society from the beginning of the novel. In the beginning chapters of the novel, Edna's characteristics and actions worthy of rebuke lead to a breakdown of her moral integrity. These behaviors eventually lead her to become a woman that not only the Creole culture rejects, but civilization in general can no longer accept.
Edna's plight throughout the novel perfects her status as that individual going against society. Her reserve toward her children places her in abnormal standing. Her behavior, not necessarily of neglect but rather of apathetic involvement in their lives, contrasted the ideal motherly figure of the age. Madame Ratignolle, Edna's friend, maintains quite a different air about her. She possesses the dependent attitude which the Creole society seems not only to encourage, but in some aspects requires. Although Edna loves her children dearly, and in spells needs them with fervor, she was more accustomed to leaving them with the nanny or a friend rather than looking after them herself. She would give anything for her children, but she would not give of herself. In an age of expected domestic dependence, Edna's rejection of her obligations as a mother and a wife go against the tacit rules of the world in which she lives. Although Edna was outwardly performing the duties of her life, her heart was busy thinking other thoughts. Throughout the course of the summer, she falls in love with Robert Lebrun. Yes, he previously established he "third wheel" status in the families at Grande Isle, but this was another aspect of Edna's life that pits her against her surroundings. As Robert falls in love with Edna, and she with him, her independent longing is inflamed, and her passions begin to...
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