The Theme of Feminism in The Awakening

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Marissa Cavanaugh

For countless years, women have been subject to follow tradition and those who break that tradition would suffer the consequences. However, in literature, there are female characters who have the strength to overcome and break tradition. For instance, the main character and protagonist, Edna Pontellier in Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, and the main character, Dominique Francon, in Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, refuse to conform to what is societies view of tradition in order to achieve happiness. Although both female characters break tradition, they do it in their own particular and unique way.

The Awakening is set in the late nineteenth century, during a time period when women were treated like objects instead of humans. In the late 1800s, the only purpose in life women had was to find a husband, reproduce, and then spend the rest of her life serving her husband and children. Kate Chopin referred to these types of woman as “mother-woman . . . who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals” (Chopin 21). This traditional role women were forced to play is degrading and Edna Pontellier refuses to be that type of woman.

Although Edna, in the beginning of the novel, served her husband, Mr. Leonce Pontellier, and children, she knew she could not continue on living that way, because she was utterly despondent. Edna was “beginning to realize her position in the universe within and about her” and was going to find a way to change her current position in life (Chopin 29). Although Mr. Pontellier was known to be “the best husband in the world” by the woman in Grande Isle, the main setting in the novel, Edna was still not content with her husband or her life in general (19). For this reason, Edna spent much of her time on Grande Isle avoiding her children and spending time Robert Lebrun, a young man who was in love with Edna. Robert helped Edna realize...
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