This is a look at "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. When
you first look at the life of Edna you think there is not much to
discuss. Edna is a married woman who at first seems vaguely
satisfied with her life--"she grew fond of her husband, realizing
with some unaccountable satisfaction that no trace of passion or
excessive and fictitious warmth colored her affection, thereby
threatening its dissolution." (Chopin, 558).
Edna doesn't know what she wants from life. It is evident
from the way she tries to change her life to make it better, that
she wants her own happiness. She refuses to stay home on
Tuesdays, which she is expected to do to satisfy the social
conventions of the time. She spends more time on her art. She
goes to races and parties all the time. All of this doesn't seem to
help her maintain happiness all the time.
There were days when she was very happy without knowing
why. She was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole
being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the
odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day.
There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why,
when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be dead
or alive; when life appeared to her like a grotesque
Pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly
toward inevitable annihilation. (Chopin, 588)
Edna struggled to make her life more fulfilling. Edna
wanted what? Passion, excitement? She states to the Doctor,
"But I don't want anything but my own way. That is wanting a
good deal, of course, when you have to trample upon the lives,
the hearts, the prejudices of others--but no matter--still, I
shouldn't want to trample upon the little lives." (Chopin, 629).
In the title of "The Awakening" I get the impression of
someone waking up and deciding that their life is not what they
want. Edna goes from being reasonably happy in her life to very
unhappy with her life and tries to change it to make it better.
The ways she goes about it are not necessarily the right ways,
but at least she tries to change it to make it better.
The acceptable behaviors of the time in which she lived
worked against her. Edna stays married because divorce was
unheard of in those days. She wants to marry Robert, but he will
not because it will disgrace her to leave her husband. She
exceeds the social boundaries of the day by going her own way
and doing what she wants, but she is still bound by the will of
others no matter what she wants. In the time period we are
talking about she would have been ostracized by society if she
and Robert were to be together. The only solution she sees is to
commit suicide. That would not happen in this day and time
either, because she would have been able to get a divorce and
marry Robert with no special stigma. Edna could not get what
she thought she wanted and ended up with no responsibilities.