Novel The Awakening tells the story of Edna Potentellier – a woman said to have gone through a struggling marriage and living to achieve a satisfying life. At the beginning of this marriage, Edna is not lucky to feel the love of her husband, Leonce, who, however, gave her a pampered life. She is an infidel since she is seen leaving her husband for other men and, hence, not a good caring mother. Nevertheless, the woman later finds new feelings of freedom, which causes a great change in her and, thus, she becomes totally liberated unimaginably and gets an “awakening”. The main aim of this essay is to analyze the meaning of “Edna’s awakening” through realization of what she experiences, and the view at the people and events in the novel that contributed to her freedom and awakening, as well.
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In the 1980s, Leonce moves his wife Edna and their two children to vacation in the Grand Isle for the summer, where Edna meets Madame Ratignolle, who becomes her close friend. Unlike Edna, Madame Ratignolle maintains a distinct personality, who plays a big role as a mother, a faithful wife to her husband and committed to the service of her household. Later, she also meets Mademoiselle Reisz, who is a brilliant pianist but hates almost everybody. However, she likes Edna and friendship ensues. The main character’s relationship with her husband becomes more distant: since she develops a deeper passion for art and attention to two newly infatuation relationships with Robert and Alcee Arobin.
Her relationship with the two women continues and during this short relationship Madameisexpectant. Soon Edna meets Robert in Mademoiselle Reisz’s house and demands that he commits himself romantically to her through forcefully kissing him. At this time, she is interrupted to go and attend to Madame Ratignolle’s labor and delivery where for the first time Madame Ratignolle advices her to stop her adulterous behavior, which may affect her children. For instance, it will be offending for her little boy if she dumps her husband and moves on to another man. Unfortunately, this good message meant to give a new outlook to life so as to become a better wife and mother lead her to conceive suicidal thoughts. With the awakening, she cannot go back to Leonce and be his wife for it is a shame, and also divorcing him or continuing with open adultery will stigmatize her children. So she ends her life by drowning herself.
Edna is portrayed by Chopin as a parrot since nobody seems to understand her language, and similarly nobody can tell what exactly is missing in her life to an extent she cannot settle down in her family. Nonetheless, when Mademoiselle Reisz’s piano is played, Edna seems to hear a message which her heart has been thirsting for. The sound brings a realization which awakens Edna’s great passions, which ironically sparked her being rebellious even to her own husband. Madame is testing Edna’s symbolic wings and the warnings of those, who become bruised if they do not make it in the artistic industry, became a fore shadow of Edna’s final scene after a second awakening through Madame Ratignolle.
Although Mademoiselle Reisz does not match with the motherly Madame Ratignolle, her play contributes to the awakening of Edna’s passion for art, too, which became one of the initiating encounters that would have led to her recovery. The heroine, therefore, becomes silent, and most of her time goes into sketching portraits and painting. For this reason, she ignores her responsibility of household chores and social duties such as refusal to attend social conventions.
The awakening, aroused by Madame Ratignolle is well intended, but brings bad results on Edna, and finally leads to her regrets and death. It is, consequently, depicted ironically like a bad thing. Madame Ratignolle is the epitome of what a normal mother and wife ought to be. She plays an important role of bringing into the picture of new and different awakened woman a claim to be indifferent, and immune to social prohibitions barring her from going for extra-marital sex. This awakening on the part of Edna is not for better; it casts a danger even to marriage relationships such as that of Madame Ratignolle.
Robert Lebrun who is portrayed to be very promiscuous contributes richly to main character’s process of identifying herself. His charming and charismatic manner appeals to Edna’s love of sensuality but treats her with great chivalry. He also makes her desire for imaginative living after she was influenced by Robert’s determination to go to Mexico to so as to make a fortune. However, the woman is finally disappointed for by Lebrum’s lack of bravado like her as well as posing to be naive. She is further aggrieved when all her efforts to seduce him bear no fruits, but instead Robert disappears suddenly. Edna’s having met Robert who can only act as a lover; and husband was an awakening to her, but he goes away. Having no one or anything to hold on to, she entertains suicidal thoughts and ends her life.
The novel talking about Edna Pontellier’s awakening brings out various scenes, in which the heroine’s awakening takes place. Mademoiselle Reisz plays the greatest role in such process: her playing by the piano awakens Edna’s great passion of being an artist. Also, Madame Ratignolle makes the “awakened” woman realize she is supposed to let her lover go. This final awakening did not help her but led to her committing suicide. Therefore, the awakening Chopin is addressing is quite ironic: for it does not make Edna better, but a worse person, and later costs her life.