Summary of Chopin\'s The Awakening

Justin Barbieri
Dr. Anne Coddington
English Composition 102-15
2 March 1999

The Awakening, written by Kate Chopin, tells the story of a woman, Edna Pontellier, who transforms herself from an obedient housewife to woman who is independent and strong. This metamorphosis is shaped by her surroundings. Just as her behavior is more shocking and horrifying because of her position in society, it is that very position which causes her to feel restrained and makes her yearn to rebel.
Adele Ratignolle is Edna\'s close friend and confidante, but the two women are nothing alike. Adele is the perfect housewife and mother; she is the epitome of what a Creole woman and mother ought to be. She lives her life for her children, always making sure that they are properly cared for, clothed, and educated. Unlike Adele, whose life is fulfilled through loving and caring for her children, Edna is "fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way" (Chopin). They are not enough to justify her life.
Adele could not understand how Edna could say that she "would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for anyone" (Chopin). Edna\'s being is taking on a new importance in her life. She is starting to realize just how important it is to be true to herself. She has never done that before. She went along with the way things were supposed to be, holding her socials and tending to her house until she became aware that she needs more from her life.
Edna\'s marriage to Leonce is safe, but there is no passion or excitement. "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

Barbieri 2

dissolution"(Chopin). While this lack of emotion is enough to satisfy Edna for the majority of her marriage, after she begins to allow her true self to come forth, she feels trapped and seeks a way to escape. She realizes that she needs intrigue and flavor in her marriage, especially, in her life. Leonce cannot understand that she does not fit the mold of the typical Creole woman. Her lifestyle is suffocating her.
While on vacation, Edna falls in love with Robert Lebrun. She often goes to the beach with him. She begins to realize for the first time, at age 28, that she is an individual. Edna feels like one who awakens gradually from a dream to the reality of life. After this discovery, Edna changes. She disregards her husband\'s wishes and often ignores her children. She learns to swim which also makes her begin to feel more independent. Edna befriends two women, Mademoiselle Reisz, a pianist, and Madame Ratignolle, a motherly lady. Edna often visits Mademoiselle Reisz to whom Robert writes.
The person whom Edna truly admires is Mademoiselle Reisz. Her talent is somewhat lost on the other people on the island. They cannot appreciate her artistry as does Edna because Mademoiselle Reiz does not fit their idea of what a proper woman should be; she is eccentric and bold. Her music touches Edna to the very core of her being. Something inside her is stirred, and she feels alive like never before in her life. Edna respects Mademoiselle Reiz because she has the courage to be different. It is Mademoiselle\'s music that starts to "awaken" Edna and allows her to see the beauty and passion in life.
Edna runs into Robert at Mademoiselle Reisz\'s home. Edna is upset to find he had been in the city for two days and had not contacted her. Even though she was having an affair, she is still

Barbieri 3

in love with Robert. The two meet again a few days later, and Robert walks her home. She kisses him, and he returns her passion. He confesses that he went to Mexico because he was in love with her. He knew there was no hope for them because she was married. They are interrupted by a message for Edna to go to the bedside of Madame Ratignolle who is ill. She asks Robert to wait for her. When she returns, he is gone. His note reads, "I love you. Good-bye, because I love you." Edna is so distressed that she returns to Grand Isle where