A Journey of Self and Sexual Desire

Topics: Grand Isle, Louisiana, Kate Chopin, The Awakening Pages: 10 (1616 words) Published: July 7, 2014
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English 102-105

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.

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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

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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...
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