11 April 2014
A Journey of Self and Sexual Desire
The Awakening by Kate Chopin is a novel about a woman who leads the typical life of a
nineteenth century woman. During this era, a woman's role is to be a wife and mother. The
main character, Edna Pontellier, begins to struggle with this obligatory role in society. Even
though she is an upper woman in society, she has feelings of suffocation and frustration. She
begins to neglect her duties such as caring for her children, housekeeping, and social visitations.
She is also starting to have feelings for men other than her husband. Through Edna's Creole
friends, she learns a great deal about freedom of expression. As a result, Edna Pontellier goes
on a journey of self discovery and sexual desires through a series of life awakenings.
In Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening, Edna Pontellier and her family are vacationing
at Grand Isle in southern Louisiana. While there, Edna becomes close to a gentlemen by the
name of Robert Lebrun. Robert each summer at Grand Isle had constituted himself the devoted
attendant of some fair damsel (Chopin 13). Throughout the summer, Edna spends time with
Creole women who liberate her to seek independence from social norms. Their freedom of
expression was at first incomprehensible to her (Chopin 12). Edna's character goes on a journey
of self discovery and experiences a series of awakenings that lead to her death.
The Awakening depicts the lifestyle for women in the early nineteenth century. The
setting of the novel is set in a Creole section in south Louisiana. The women in the Victorian
Era are expected to have the same thoughts. The men of this era would never ask a woman
about her opinions nor her beliefs. Edna's husband, L'eonce, thinks of her as a possession and
not like his wife. Edna begins to feel she is part of a loveless marriage. According to the
narrator, "An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of
her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish" (Chopin 8). After a vacation to
Grand Isles, Edna realizes she is unhappy. Therefore, "This discovery of self realization did not
just happen on its own-there were events and people surrounding Edna at the time, which helped
influence and awaken her desires and urges for music, sexual satisfaction, art, and freedom that
she can no longer tolerate to keep hidden” (Boren 166). Edna does not believe she is her
husband's property and seeks to escape from it.
In the first chapters of The Awakening, Edna is exposed to the life of a Creole woman.
Creole woman are thought of as being well rounded, admirable women. Creole mothers have
loving and caring relationships with their children. At the same time, they are very open about
sexuality. Creole women, "…were women who idolized their children, worshiped their
husbands…" (Chopin 16). However, Edna is not this type of woman. Her upbringing is very
different than that of a Creole woman. Therefore, Edna senses she wants to live like a Creole.
She wants to be open about herself and express her emotions. One source states, "…she
discovers within herself a growing desire to control her own life" (Harris 2). Moreover, her
fascination with the Creole lifestyle prompts her to explore her sexuality with other men.
Also, Edna finds the courage to learn to swim. A rush of exhilaration and freedom
overcome her. The narrator states, "The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing ,
whispering, clamoring, murmuring , inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses; to lose
itself in mazes of inward contemplation" (Chopin 18). She begins to feel some sort of control
over her body. One source explains, "…it’s beginning a mature woman's awakening to...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document