The Cost of Self-Expression
Within the play The Awakening there are many different ideas and themes expressed about the entire piece concerning Kate Chopin’s message to society. It is obvious that there are many motifs Chopin could have been trying to communicate in order to create controversy and insight. However, the main focus of this play is that self-expression, if suppressed, could become too much for any one person to bear.
It is not difficult to see that Edna has a great deal of hidden emotions that have built up overtime. She entered a society entirely different from that which she had known in her previous life, she was faced with new responsibilities (which she did not find any enjoyment in), and she was met with a new set of expectations which restricted her personal freedom. She even described her marriage to her husband as “purely an accident, in this respect resembling many other marriages which masquerade as the decrees of Fate” (Chapter 6). Her options in the given society were highly limited. She could either find an outlet by which she can express herself, or she could spend the rest of her days working to maintain a life which she is not happy living. However, this choice proved to be a difficult one.
If Edna were to express herself and become more independent, she would have to break some of her ties with her husband, her family, and her lovers, not to mention her high-class friends. In addition, that very action of breaking away from her husband by moving out of their house would shed a very bad light on her family (Chapter 26). Edna was even willing to trade her social status to freely express herself. “There was with her a feeling of having descended in the social scale… Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual.” (Chapter 32). With the society of the day being so based on image and loyalty, she was socially condemning herself and her family; especially...
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