Right from the beginning the plot is almost conveniently evident. You find a
woman, Edna Pontellier, tired of living her life as a pampered and "owned"
wife and mother. She is searching for much more in her life, some sort of
meaning for her whole existence. She searches for a long time but in the end,
the inevitability of her life's pattern and direction wraps around her,
suffocating her. She is overcome with wonder, confusion, and guilt for what
she believes and what she does to express her beliefs. She finally finds a
way to beat the "proper" 1890's lifestyle by committing suicide. During this
story Edna struggles with three main opposing powers. First, there is the
society's opinion of what a woman's "roles" in life was and how they should
act, look, and feel. Second, is her independent nature. The last opposing
power she comes across is her undying love for the charming Robert Lebrun.
It is the unwritten rule that a woman should marry, have children, and be
happy and content with that as their life. Society portrays this to be a
woman's rightful job and duty. A woman should act and look "proper" at all
times. This is what Edna is fighting against in this novel. She feels that,
though many women agree with this "known" rule, it isn't fair. For six years
Edna conforms to these ideas by being a "proper" wife and mother, holding
Tuesday socials and going to operas, following the same enduring schedule. It
is only after her summer spent at Grand Isle that her "mechanical" lifestyle
becomes apparent to her. She sees how much she is unhappy with the
expectations, held by society, of her life and she wishes to erase them and
live her life as she wants.
Edna has an independent, almost self centered, nature about her. Her need
for an uncontrolled lifestyle is what leaves her feeling "owned" and wanting
to break that label; she fights to do as she wishes. Little by little she
breaks free of society's' image, letting her independence shine through. She
cancels her Tuesday socials and helps out around the house doing little
chores. The biggest step she made was her decision to move away from her
mansion and into the "pigeon house", a little cottage around corner. After
this move she was free to explore her new profound freedom and desires. She
succumbed to the passion in her heart and had a meaningless affair with
Arobin, a known heartbreaker. She was in control of this new relationship and
she loved feeling in control. True, she felt nothing beyond lust for the man
but she was able to do as she wished.
Her love for Robert Lebrun was truly her biggest obstacle she was to
overcome. Every thought and feeling she had sprouted from the love she had
for him which kept growing long after the brief summer in Grand Isle. She
thought about him always and was in constant yearning for him to return from
his escapades in Mexico. When he finally did return, his love for Edna was
apparent and he wished to be married to her. Once again she felt trapped, not
wishing to become "property" to a man. She just wanted to be with him and
love him without having to give up her independence. When she left to assist
her friend in her childbearing, she bid him to stay and wait for her. Alas,
when she returned he was gone, in his place was a letter. He stated his love
for her and his inability to keep interfering with her life and her duties to
her husband and children. That was the end of Edna Pontellier. She feels
alone, with no one who would understand to confide into. Rather than be
forced to live in such a world of tyranny and succumb once again to the
mechanical lifestyle she had lived for so long, she chooses death. In death,
there are no expectations, no one to impress or be "proper" for, and most
importantly she has no one to answer to, except herself.
It is all these aspects of the plot, in the story, that make it enticing. It
was so rare for a woman to feel this way back in those days. Edna is truly an
admirable character. Her fight for independence against a social world that
shows no mercy was a courageous task to try and accomplish. She tried hard
and even though she failed, it is her strength in which she fought that
captured the hearts of