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The Awakening

By hannahann75 Jan 13, 2013 1390 Words
“The Awakening”

Edna Pontellier’s action in the novel “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin, could be justified as her being selfish and unjustified in her actions. The story's romanticism changes the outlook of Edna to being an admirable character, in many ways. She emancipated herself from her restraints and achieved nearly all that she desired. Chopin could have used this book to glorify the women of this age, but because of the time period and life styles, most of what was referred to in the story was very straightforward and possible. Therefore, I believe her affairs, treatment of her family and lovers, and suicide were completely unnecessary and, well, idiotic.

People usually look to affairs when their marriage or spouse is not satisfying what the other wants. I think the Pontelliers were searching for someone to fill the love and devotion they were not getting for the other. This was not a justifiable cause for Edna's adultery. Mr. Pontellier was a loving husband who tried to show his love for Edna in all of the ways he could. Léonce bought her gifts and gave her the financial stability that she wanted. He has always had money so, he only knew how to express his love with objects rather than gestures and thoughts. He only fell to such a low standard because of the total lack of emotion from Edna. While this may not be an ideal solution to the problem, Mr. Pontellier tried over and over to fix the marriage they had together, but she would push him away more and more every time he attempted. Even though Edna knows of Mr. Pontellier’s lack of family skills, she is the reason they ended up married. The history of their relationship is far from perfect. Chopin states "her marriage to Léonce Pontellier was purely an accident... He fell in love...and pressed his suit with an earnestness and an ardor which left nothing to be desired. He pleased her; his absolute devotion flattered her" (18). Edna should not have married him unless she was in love with him, she was very unfair to him and his love for her. She "grew fond of her husband" (18), but fondness is not love, fondness is not a really feeling and not a reason to marry someone. One could make the argument that Mr. Pontellier was a controlling husband who thought of Edna only as a part of his wealth. However, Léonce Pontellier simply did not know how to express his love for Edna, or his family, in any other way. He has been living under stress, always worrying about his money and how to get more of it, and he has little energy to care for his wife and children. He tries as hard as he can, but he is not the typical family man everyone comes to know and love. Though he has terrible ways of showing his love, he does love them. If he is concerned about Edna, he will go to the doctor and follow all orders, so she stays well. Another illustration of this is when Edna was lying in the hammock after the dinner party. Léonce reacts by telling her "This is more than folly. I can't permit you to stay out there all night. You must come in the house instantly" (31). People could say Léonce is controlling Edna, however, he was simply concerned for her welfare and is trying to prevent her from falling sick. Léonce may consider his wife a part of his property, but it is because he only knows how to admire his belongs and family in that way.

Edna Pontellier had two young boys, ages four and five. Usually, toddlers around that particular age are very attached to their mothers. Yet the Pontellier boys, Raoul and Etienne, were not. "If one of the little Pontiller boys took a tumble whilst at play, he was not apt to rush crying to his mother's arms for comfort; he would more likely pick himself up, wipe the water our of his eyes and the sand out of his mouth, and go on playing" (7). The children had good reason not to be too attached to their mother. It is stated in the text that, "in short, Mrs. Pontiller was not a mother-woman" (8). Chopin tells us that Edna is not the motherly type. “She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would sometimes forget them.....she did not miss them except with an occasional intense longing. Their absence was a sort of relief, though she did not admit this, even to herself. It seemed to free her of a responsibility which she had blindly assumed and for which Fate had not fitted her. (18) She forgot her children and was relieved when they were not around. Her children are again taken away from her when Mr. Pontellier leaves because their grandmother is concerned that they will simply be forgotten. Edna should have never had children in the first place if she was not willing to or able to care for them. She brought two lives into the world only to practically abandon them and give them a childhood that will be with them the rest of their days. Edna acts like a child when it comes to her children. When she does not want to be around them or take care of them, she sends them off with the nurse. Yet when she is in a loving mood, she wants them by her side and acts like a motherly woman. This is unfair to her children and to others, like their nurse or grandmother, who must act as a mother when Edna is not up to the job.

In contrast to her uneven affection for her children, Edna Pontellier and Robert LeBrun were in love with each other. There is evidence of this all through the novel, but directly stated during a conversation between Edna and Mademoiselle Reisz concerning Robert's letters. Mademoiselle Reisz tells Edna, "It's because he loves you, poor fool" (80), and asks her, "Are you in love with Robert" (81)? She replies, "Yes" (81). Yet, when Robert and Léonce are not around, Edna finds another outlet for her passions through Alcée Arobin. Their relationship shows what a self-centered and immoral person Edna truly is when it comes to commitments. She never truly love Arobin because her heart is still Robert’s, but because of her loneliness without Robert and Mr. Pontellier, she is Arobin’s until she can be with Robert once more. Edna stays with Arobin until Robert comes home. When she first sees Robert and he does not admit to loving her, she stays with Arobin, though she, in a way, stops showing him compassion and caring for him. She cannot have what she wants, so, instead, she stays with someone who will satisfy her desires. When Robert admits to loving her, Arobin is completely forgotten and out of her life like last weeks lasagna. The relationships with the two men show Edna’s true colors and character. Summed up, Edna Pontellier, a married woman, cheats on her boyfriend with the man she loves.

The end of “The Awakening” is what her actions have brought upon her, the story of her being unable to take stress. Edna's suicide and abandonment of her children, her husband, and her lovers show that she was too self-preoccupied to ever be part of relationships. One of her last thoughts was about Léonce, Raoul, and Etienne. She had thought, "They were a part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could posses her, body and soul" (116). She was not concerned about how this would effect them, but why she wanted to leave them. Her last conscious thought was about Robert; and it too was selfish. She thought "He did not know; he did not understand. He would never understand" (116). Edna thought not about hurting Robert, but instead how he would not understand her decision. Alcée Arobin did not even cross her mind. Edna Pontellier left everyone who cared for and depended on her without a thought of their love and the outcome on them. Her actions throughout the entire novel were self-centered and unrational.

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