Kate Chopin published her novel The Awakening in 1899 and it is regarded as one of the earliest novels in the United States that deals with the aspects of feminism and women issues without any specific condescension. The fundamental approach to the subject of femininity and motherhood by the author is unorthodox in the context of late 19th century, though it could be regarded as moving documentation of feminism that presented a great panorama of pragmatic description, perceptive social observations, and psychosomatic intricacy. It can be stated that art and creativity are fundamentally governed by the flow of emotions and Kate Chopin’s work The Awakening isa good example of that. The mind thinks about the way the idea may work. Along with vision anticipation comes, which makes the mind believe that the idea will work out to actually be something striking. The following action requires the conceiver of the idea to take the plunge and implement the idea. This is the most decisive part of the entire process. There are many creative ideas, which do not have an outcome and remain unfinished, because of being curbed at this stage. There may be many emotions such as excitement and suspicion involved at this stage. As the process advances the clarity of the idea is enhanced and implementation proceeds. In Chopin’s novel The Awakening, subsequently, after a long tussle in the creator`s mind, a product finally matures and emerges and is validated by the real world of feminism. From the point of view of a reader, it is nothing short of an artwork to savor that is feministic and realistic at the same time. Nevertheless, the fact remains that in this novel, there is a wide variety of roles that women play in the novel and it can be illustrated how everybody play their each roles. However, the most interesting feministic aspect is how Edna fits into these roles.
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In the beginning of the novel we see the Pontellier family, Léonce Pontellier, a prominent businessman, his wife Edna and their two sons, Etienne and Raoul, vacationing on Grand Isle, on the Gulf of Mexico, in a resort, which is managed by Madame Leburn and her sons, named Victor and Robert. Edna likes to spend her time with her friend, Adele Ratignolle, who often advises her about the duties of a wife and a mother. In the resort, Edna strikes up a connection with Robert Lebrun, a very charming young man. In no time, they fall for each other, but at that time Robert realizes that the romance is bound to end in a failure. And due to that, he makes up a business venture in Mexico and goes away from Edna. This is a turning point of the narration changes to portray the complex and shifting emotions of Edna as she tries to start her maternal duties, which also clash with her social freedom. After the summer vacation, the Pontelliers return to New Orleans. Here Edna tries to take control over her life and subsequent duties. In the process, she isolated herself from the society and eventually her duties as a mother. Leonce senses the problem and seeks the advice of a mental counselor for the restoration of Edna’s mental health. The doctor suggests that it is important to let Edna be what she is. After that as Leonce goes to New York for business, Edna gets some emotional space and shifts to a bungalow nearby. Here she meets with Alcee Arobin with whom she goes on have sexual relationship, but it was awkward and emotionally fragile. The meeting of Edna with Mademoiselle Reisz moved Edna. She rekindles her relationship with Robert through Mademoiselle Reisz, and as Robert returns to New Orleans, he also professes his love for Edna. But in the course of time Robert also lefts Edna, leaving her emotionally shattered. Finally, Edna commits suicide in the Gulf of Mexico.
The aspect of feminism is obvious throughout the novel. The parameter of feministic attitudes starts with the causes of oppression. It starts with Leonce, who is a successful businessman, but a male chauvinist. He considers his wife as his property, and feels that the sun burned wife is similar to a damaged piece of artifact as we find him "looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property, which has suffered some damage" (Chopin, 3). He does not believe in the self fulfillment of his wife and bars her independence. He also feels that Edna is always getting away from her duties both as a wife and a mother. “He reproached his wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children. If it was not a mother's place to look after children, whose on earth was it?" (Chopin,7). That is why he calls her irresponsible at times. As per his idea, women should look after their families and do regular house hold duties. His frustration comes to front as Edna tries to become independent after their trip from Mexico. The anger of Robert for Edna shows eventually.
Adele Ratignolle, the friend of Edna, is the symbol of womanhood in the last century. Though she is the closest friend of Edna, she could not make an impact on Edna’s mind. Adele is devoted to her husband and kids. She is into lavish clothing and jewelry. She is beautiful and noted for her devotion. But she is aware of Edna’s mentality and that is she warns Robert that he must not play with the emotions of Edna. Edna’s sense of feminism is primitive. While Adele can flirt with Robert, but Edna does not do that kind of things unless she is sincere about that. She is extremely worried about the effects of Robert’s relationship with Edna, and how it will affect Edna in the long run.
After the Ratignolle’s party, Edna ventured into the Ocean. We can say that the move is her first attempt to secure a little bit of freedom from her frustrating and mundane existence. She is well aware of her new found talents and showcases the talents in front of her friends. She is actually proud of her achievements, however small it might seem. Every other person watches Edna effortlessly swimming in the ocean with batted breadth, but no one could gather enough courage to go besides her. The venture into unknown territory is deeply meaningful. It is the symbol of her awakening, the growth of her woman`s sensibilities and capabilities. She is not a person who is meant for cooking, cleaning and producing children, she is a person in blood and flesh.
The meeting both of the husband and the wife, Leonce and Edna, after the swimming, is very important in the development of the later actions of the novel. They meet the same night, where Edna refuses to follow her husband for the first time.. He gets angry to hear Edna’s lack of respect towards his orders. On the other hand, Edna feels that she had suddenly waked up from a long and tiring sleep, which has now made her rejuvenated. She hopes to leave behind all her past life and move forward with her new found freedom. It becomes clear, when the author writes, "The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clearing, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in the abysses of solitude; … The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace" (Chopin, 17).
Robert informs Edna about his departure to Mexico for some business. That really hurts her and she felt mentally suffocated. She was depending on Robert for both her livelihood and happiness. She did not felt that she is enjoying her independence without Robert’s presence. It all became really irrelevant. Edna later claims that she does not want to be a general female who goes to do household works she might give up her life, but she holds her independence more than anything. It shocks Mademoiselle Reisz, especially when she is coming from her mother. But she also understands the position of Edna, and feels sorry for her condition. Edna, on the other hand, is successful to detach her soul from her family. Edna explodes silently after Leonce yells at her. She breaks glass, cries and even stomps on her wedding ring, which finally showcases her rebellious self. It is the clear picture of a woman awakening to her impending independence.
Later, she increasingly acts for her personal desires and does not care Leonce’s wishes. She goes outside along, continue to visit friends and that frustrates her husband, which he deciphers as a symbol of mental instability. Here, Dr. Mandelet advises that as women are complicated so it is better to leave her on her own. She will one day come out of the illusion altogether. At that point of time Edna starts enjoying her new and independent life without Leonce. She gradually grows up on her own and meets new people. She also admits that she is not is not dependent of anyone at that point of time. This shows her independent side, the side of a futuristic and feministic woman. The author writes, “She was seeking herself and finding herself in just such sweet, …They jeered and sounded mournful notes without promise, devoid even of hope” (Chopin, 69). She later moves out of her husband’s house. Some times she also visited her children in their grandmother’s house. But she is more interested to alienate herself from all her previous life. She always tried to devote her life to herself not to any thing else. That is why the going away of Robert has left her scarred and probably the instability caused her death. Edna is portrayed as a messed up woman who really cannot decide what is right and wrong, but still, she is a very prominent creation of the writer, who tried to confront the general norms of the time, where women were considered as toys of the houses.
In the process of describing this creative process of the writer in the above section, it is evident that how closely the word ‘Genius’ is intertwined with her creativity. Intellectual brilliance in combination with highest quality of creativity brings in the concept of genius. Beautiful ideas and their proper implementations, which have a profound influence on the observers get tagged with the label of creative genius. Individuals are often said to be creative on the basis of their lifestyle, their works in respective fields and their attitudes. Their creative process can be perceived as imaginative, supple, not stereotyped, influential and authoritarian. Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening is a completely different story in context of contemporary setting, tone, character and statement and the emphasis remains in the fact that the story tells the tale of an oppressed woman and her own way of survival. Edna was trying to survive in physical and spiritual context within the parameter of an apparently failed marriage, and at the same time she was fighting a battle of survival against oppression of secluded socio-economic circumstances and in reality, this is a saga of overcoming oppressions. Stories in every era have represented the time of its origination through the characters, their way of living and their mentality. But, there are some stories, which though reflecting an age old tale appeals so much to the readers of all ages that they become timeless. The characters of such stories show very similar feelings and emotions, courage and boldness, conflicts and pains, which are not time bound. It is present always. It is called art and Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening easily qualifies as pure art that speaks volume of survival and seclusion and thus it connects with the reader immediately. Furthermore, readers like to see their beloved characters fighting hard battle and here too this story comes out with flying colors.
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