Recklessly In Love
In the novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the readers are introduced to the creole society in which the main character, Edna Pontellier, lives. Readers soon discover that Edna herself does not quite fall into place within the society and she feels uncomfortable at several points within the text. While she is feeling uncomfortable within the society she lives, she is actually becoming more comfortable with herself. This “comfortableness” she is obtaining is actually her awakening. Edna is gaining a new outlook on life within this novel and the new view is affected by the people she encounters and skills she learns. Robert, a young man she met during the summer, has a huge impact upon Edna. The awakening that was instinctively occurring within Edna was soon terminated due to the love she found in Robert; her awakening soon turned more abrupt, reckless, and rebellious which ultimately lead to her suicide.
During Edna’s lifetime she has always gone after men that she is technically not allowed to “have.” In the criticism of the novel titled “An American Madame Bovary” by Cyrille Arnavon, Edna’s personality is analyzed. The fact that Edna sought after men that were unattainable was commented on; “Since Early adolescence, her gestures and descriptions of herself reveal, she possessed a very ardent temperament. She had felt attracted to men for some reason or other were inaccessible: the cavalry officer, the engaged man, the actor” (Arnavon 187). Robert has become that man that is inaccessible to Edna. Now that she was married all men, except her husband Léonce, are not allowed. This being the case, Edna starts with a small lust for Robert. The lust that is formed from Edna is soon her fixation. She consumes herself with the thoughts of Robert and a life with him soon becomes a false goal of her awakening. Instead of finding herself throughout her awakening, Edna is trying to live a life that Robert can be present and active in.
The feelings Edna has formed for Robert are mysterious to her because she does not just have a small lust that she has had in the past with the cavalry officer, engaged man, and actor; but instead she is falling in love with him. She has never felt real love, not even for her husband. Marie Fletcher wrote a criticism titled “The Southern Woman in Fiction” and stated “it is suggested that the marriage was purely an accident, a decree of Fate, for it is ‘his absolute devotion’ and ‘the violent opposition of her father and her sister Margaret to her marriage with a Catholic’ that led Edna to accept Léonce” (193). Fletcher is saying that Edna may be married to Léonce, but she does not love him. She married him out of spite for her family. The feelings Edna has for Robert are bizarre to her and she will do anything to be with him. The fact that she is willing to do anything is sending Edna down a slippery slope of social execution. She is soon embarrassing Léonce with her extreme behavior.
Edna who was a “young woman of twenty eight” (Chopin 14) was beginning to discover herself during a summer at Grand Isles. “In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her” (Chopin 14). She was launching her “awakening” and becoming more aware of herself. Lee R. Edwards, author of the criticism “Sexuality, Maternity, and Selfhood,” states about Edna; “awareness of her body’s life alters the psychic and social structures that orient her in the world” (282). Becoming more aware of herself, Edna was able to become more aware of everyone else around her, and in particular Robert. As the summer progresses Edna becomes more and more mindful of Robert and the feelings she developed for him. Edna’s self-awareness is more abrupt as soon as the summer is over and Robert leaves for Mexico. Edna quickly longs for Robert and she no longer is...
Cited: Arnavon, Cyrille. “An American Madame Bovary.” Chopin, Kate, and Margo Culley. The Awakening: An Authoritative Text, Biographical and Historical Contexts, Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. Print. 184-188.
Chopin, Kate, and Margo Culley. The Awakening: An Authoritative Text, Biographical and Historical Contexts, Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. Print.
Edwards Lee R. “Sexuality, Maternity, and Selfhood.” Chopin, Kate, and Margo Culley. The Awakening: An Authoritative Text, Biographical and Historical Contexts, Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. Print. 282-285.
Fletcher, Marie. “The Southern Woman in Fiction.” Chopin, Kate, and Margo Culley. The Awakening: An Authoritative Text, Biographical and Historical Contexts, Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. Print. 193-195.4
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