“The Awakening” is a novel written in 1899 by Kate Chopin (1850-1904). “The Awakening” is a novel of life in the south and opens in the late 1800’s in Grand Isle near New Orleans. “The Awakening” can be viewed by three different perspectives; psychoanalytical, historical, and feminist. The historical perspective focuses on the setting of the story; the year and the major events of that time period. For the historical perspective “The Awakening” is set in the Victorian times of the south when Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 until her death in 1901. The British people had a long prosperity during her reign (ukanswers. om). The feministic perspective focuses on gender and the beliefs of society during that time. The psychoanalytical perspective focuses on the characters and how they actually feel and their dreams, hope, and desires. There is a strong feministic perspective of identity in the story “The Awakening. ” One main character, Edna Pontellier, is dealing with her own identity of a woman, wife, and mother. Edna was a young woman in Victorian times who is lacking the ability to fulfill the domestic duties of a wife and mother because of the loss of her own identity.
She was a woman surrounded by a society in which she does not fit in; a society of Creoles. Although Edna was married to a Creole she was never at home at Grand Isle as she was never so immersed with them before. (Chopin, 1899, chap 4, para 11, lines 1-2). Edna was a young wife with little concern for her husband and her marriage. Edna did not conform to the envisioned role of a wife. “He thought it very discouraging that his wife, who was the sole object of his existence, evinced so little interest in things which concerned him, and valued so little his conversation. ” (Chopin, 1899, chap 2, para 3).
Edna did not marry her husband out of love; at least not for love on her side. Edna did not have the typical marriage of a woman in her era, especially at Grand Isles. ”Her marriage to Leonce Pontellier was purely an accident, in this respect resembling many other marriages which masquerade as the decrees of Fate. ” (Chopin, 1899, chap 7, para 27). Edna was not your typical wife of Grand Isle. Edna later learned how she thought of Leonce was not as it seemed previously. Seeking out being a wife was not what Edna had intended. ” It was in the midst of her secret great passion that she met him. “She fancied there was a sympathy of thought and taste between them, in which fancy she was mistaken. (Chopin, 1899, chap 7, para 27). Edna was never a woman without completeness in her life. Even during Edna’s younger life, she was not whole; she did not feel full. “Mrs. Pontellier was not a woman given to confidences, a characteristic hitherto contrary to her nature. Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life–that outward existence, which conforms, the inward life which questions. (Chopin, 1899, chap 7, para 1). Edna’s marriage to Leonce was not one of total commitment; not for Edna. Edna was not the warm, enamored wife which she was expected to be. “The acme of bliss, which would have been a marriage with the tragedian, was not for her in this world. As the devoted wife of a man who worshiped her. ” (Chopin, 1899, chap 7, para 28). When Leonce is away in New Orleans he sends Edna a package, which he often does, filled with bon bons, fruit, and other treats. Edna shares with the package of delicacies with the other ladies of Grand Isle. Chopin, 1899, chap 3, para 18 lines 1-2; para 19 lines 2-3). Edna has little respect for her husband as a man and provider; Edna does not carry herself as a devoted wife that the society in which she lives “all declared that Mr. Pontellier was the best husband in the world. Mrs. Pontellier was forced to admit that she knew of none better. ” (Chopin, 1899, chap 3, para 19). Edna’s identity as a mother was absent; she did not have the motherly instincts. She was not a doting compassionate mother which was expected. Edna was not the type of mother to run to her child’s side and kiss away the tears and provide comfort. If one of the little Pontellier boys took a tumble while 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 out of his eves and the sand out of his mouth, and go on playing. ” (Chopin, 1899, chap 4, para 2). Edna was not a woman who fit in with the society at Grand Isle. She did not fit the stereo-type of a mother of that time and did not behave as the women at Grand Isle behaved. Because of her lost identity it was a difficult task for Edna to belong. Edna did not live up to her expectations as a mother. In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The mother women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. ” (Chopin, 1899, chap 4, para 3). During the night when her son Raoul was ill with a fever she failed to attend to his needs claiming he was not actually running a fever, even after Leonce saw Raoul. There was no question in Leonce’s mind that Raoul was ill and expressed to Edna the he needed to be tended to. Chopin 1899, chap 3 para 4, lines 1-2) (Chopin, 1899, para 5, lines 1-3). Edna was not an attentive mother; even neglectful. “He reproached his wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children. If it was not a mother’s place to look after children, whose on earth was it? ” (Chopin, 1899, chap 3, para 6). Edna did not have any regards to Leonce’s feelings or request as a wife and mother ought to be. Edna does eventually get out of bed; however it is not to attend to her child. Edna ignores Leonce when he questions her; she will not answer him when he speaks to her. Chopin, 1899, chap 3, para 8, lines 1-3). Edna did not express love towards her children or even feel the love that a mother would feel for her children; she sometimes would not even have them on her mind. (Chopin, 1899, chap 7, para 30 lines 1-2). When her children were away, Edna did not have a sense of loss or an empty feeling without her children. She knew that motherhood was not befitting her. She was not happy with and did not conform to the responsibilities of being a mother. (Chopin, 1899, chap 7, para 30 lines 1-4).
Edna ends up abandoning her husband and children as she cannot be the wife and mother she should be. Edna has little regard for Leonce or her two young children; she thinks only of herself. Edna could never give 100% of herself to her husband and her children; something that was the norm for the woman of her era. “They were a part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul. ” (Chopin, 1899, chap 30, para 30). “I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself.
I can’t make it more clear; it’s something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me. ” (Chopin, 1899, helpme. com) (69-70). There came a time when Edna informed her husband Leonce of her intention to leave him and their children. Leonce wrote to Edna disapproving of her decision to abandon their family. Edna gave Leonce reasons unfitting to him. “When Mr. Pontellier learned of his wife’s intention to abandon her home and take up her residence elsewhere, he immediately wrote her a letter of unqualified disapproval and remonstrance.
She had given reasons which he was unwilling to acknowledge as adequate. ”(Chopin, 1899, chap 32 para 1). The story “The Awakening” can be viewed by different perspectives; historical, psychoanalytical and the feministic perspective. The feministic perspective has a strong emphasis in this story. Edna Pontellier was a young woman who could not mesh with the responsibilities of being a wife and mother as the society surrounding her. Edna did not fit or belong in the society in which she was living. Edna lived in a society that had much different expectations of Edna; expectations that she could not achieve or satisfy. The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul’s slavery for the rest of her days. But she knew a way to elude them. ”(Chopin, 1899 chap 39, para 2). Edna comes to the realization that she cannot meet and does not want to meet the demands and expectations of society that women are to be faithful and committed to husband and children. Edna was unable to be what society wanted her to be. When the story comes to an end so does Edna’s life. Instead of giving her life, her heart and her soul to her husband and children, she gives it to the sea.