Kate Chopin the awakening

A Kate Chopin and Edna Pontellier Comparison

It is no question that Kate Chopin's, The Awakening, created a controversy when it was first published due to some of the content. During this time in history it was seen that women were to be a house wife and care for the children and house. So for this novel to come out and have a main character such as Edna could very well create a problem for Kate Chopin. Many can often offer an argument that Kate Chopin was showing some of her own feelings and traits through Edna. The Awakening could have been Kate Chopin's way of portraying herself through the main character, Edna Pontellier.

Edna Pontellier is a wife and mother in a time were it is a wife's job to take care of the cleaning, cooking, and caring. Mothers at this time were obligated to want to spend time with the family and in some ways looked at as the man's property. Edna, throughout the story is constantly battling this life that has been put upon her by society and a sense of obligation. Chopin brings Edna to light as a woman who is trying to break from this normal lifestyle of the time. Edna wants to be free; she wants to be an independent woman in its entirety. However Mrs. Pontellier does love her family she just feels that she does not belong in this role. Her children mean the world to her This quote shows a direction that Chopin makes for Edna's growth in the novel, "Edna had once told Madame Ratignolle that she would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for anyone... I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself(Chopin 571)".

This could be how Kate Chopin really feels. Chopin living her dreams through bringing the character, Edna, to life. Chopin did write a comment after the harsh criticism of her novel that she did not identify herself with Mrs. Pontellier and did not approve of her characters behavior (Cantwell). Edna did what Kate wanted to. Chopin would never sacrifice herself either it seemed. No matter what happened she stayed true to herself and kept on through even after the death of her husband. She did what she had to do. Kate Chopin very well could of felt just as Edna did; trapped in a society that is nothing more then a world of housewives. Edna is said to be " passive, an artist at the mercy of her work (McHaney)".

Edna throughout her "Awakening" is realizing that there are many things that her marriage cannot fulfill, such as sexual desire, female freedom, and creativity (Brantley). Therefore Edna get a place of her own away from the family house to fulfill her freedom, "The pigeon house pleased her...There was with her a feeling of having descended in the social scale, with a corresponding sense of having risen in the spiritual.(Chopin 608)". She was having an affair and had some other encounters. She did not want a full on relationship because she did not want to be trapped again. To everyone around her they could not stomach her actions any longer, it seemed like she may have gone crazy.

Chopin also was participating in a sexual fulfillment with her affair with a married man, Albert Sampite (Brantley). Edna's affair is her betraying her husband but still very similar. Chopin seems to have a common theme in some of her works, being "female desires that cannot be fulfilled by marriage (Brantley)". Having so many common themes in her work must have a strong connection to it. This would translate with putting some of her own experiences in her characters paralleling herself to them. "The flamboyant Chopin soon developed a reputation for her urban ways" and "Chopin would collect much of the raw material for her later short stories, novels, and poems (Brantley)". Chopin wanted to voice her views through Edna which is her voice not the characters. This is showing that she is very much Edna in the novel, with slight variations and a fiction twist. That is exactly what it is, a fiction story. This would be an easy outlet for Chopin to say that she is by no means portraying herself through Edna.

Edna Pontellier seems to also be more connected to women. She can talk to them, and confides in them. Kate Chopin was also around women much of her life. Her father died when she was five and so she was raised without a father figure. Kate Chopin was very independent much like her character Edna was growing to be. Kate was often smoking in front of people and straying around town alone, which is not usual for that time, much like what Edna does (Larue).

In the end of the story Edna then commits suicide "because she realizes that something is due to her children and she is too weak to face the issue (Porcher). She went naked into the ocean "for the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her. How strange and awful it seemed to stand naked under the sky! How delicious!(Chopin 624)". Edna was now feeling this new freedom and a sense of her true self (Brantley).

Chopin too was awakened and stood naked, maybe figuratively (Brantley). She opened herself to "exploration of female creativity and sexuality. Opened the nineteenth century female readers' eyes to a familiar world they had never known (Brantley)". Chopin by publishing this book hurt her career tremendously. She was bombarded with savagely reviews of the novel that other then a few short stories she wrote nothing more (Cantwell). This may have been Kate's way of suicide, not herself but her career; maybe she too was not strong enough to further her literary career.

Kate Chopin may or may not be directly representing herself through Edna Pontellier, but it is no doubt that there are many aspects of the two lives that are parallel. It could very possibly be that some of the things that Kate could not do she lived through Edna. Edna could have just been an exaggeration of Kate's life. The aspects that have similarities are the affairs, independence, staying true to themselves, and both having some sort of an awakening. The two women shared a setting, place, and possibly problems. This is a solid argument that Edna could have very well been Kate Chopin's voice in a society where female rights were not as strong as they are today.

Works Cited

  • Brantley, Jennifer. "Kate Chopin: Overview." Feminist Writers. Ed. Pamela Kester-Shelton. Detroit: St. James Press, 1996. Literature Resources from Gale. Gale. LAKE SUMTER COMMUNITY COLLEGE- CCLA. 5 Feb. 201o .
  • Cantwell, Robert. "The Awakening." The Georgia Review. 4(Winter 1956): 389-494. Rpt. In Literature Resource Center. Detroit: Gale, 489-494. Literature Resources from Gale. Gale. LAKE SUMTER COMMUNITY COLLEGE-CCLA. 5 Feb. 2010 .
  • Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York. W.W. Norton and Company. 529-625.
  • Larue, Dorie. "Unveiling Kate Chopin (Book Review)." Rev. of Unveiling Kate Chopin, by Toth Emily. Southern Quarterly 38.2 (2000): 9 pars. Wilson Web. Web. 6 Feb. 2010. .
  • McHaney, Pearl A. "Unveiling Kate Chopin." The Southern Literary Journal. 33.1 (Fall 200): p158. Literature Resources from Gale. Gale. LAKE SUMTER COMMUNITY COLLEGE-CCLA. 5 Feb. 2010. .
  • Porcer, Frances. "Kate Chopin's Novel." Kate Chopin The Awakening: An Authoritative Text, Context, Criticisms. Ed. Margaret Culley New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1976. 145-146. Rpt. In Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Vol. 199. Detroit: Gale, 145-146. Literature Resources from Gale. Gale. LAKE SUMTER COMMUNITY COLLEGE-CCLA. 5 Feb. 2010. .

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