Conflicting Desires In Mademoiselle Reisz And Madame Ratignolle

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Grace Wilson
Mrs. Schroeder
Advanced Placement Literature and Composition
3 January 2018
Conflicting Desires
Mademoiselle Reisz stands alone, singing. Madame Ratignolle radiates happiness with children among her, and a young child resting on her hip. Edna stands between them staring into the endless ocean. Her mind strained and confused, Edna walks into the ocean until the water envelops her. With no children shrieking, or large women singing, she feels at peace in the silent solitude. Chopin uses the characters Mademoiselle Reisz and Madame Ratignolle to foil Edna and highlight her two lifestyle paths as a woman. In the pursuit of redefining her identity, Edna Pontellier struggles to deny her previous self as a mother, while also transforming into an independent individual, ultimately proving that a woman in the late 19th century cannot truly escape societal conventions.
The initial description of all three women immediately sets them up in contrast. Chopin introduces Mademoiselle Reisz as a “homely woman” that possesses no taste in clothing and always embellishes her hair with an artificial violet (Chopin 33). Mademoiselle Reisz’s appearance represents how she also stands out among the Creole women because of her complete independence and refusal to conform to society. Chopin parallels Adelé Ratignolle to an angel with grace and beauty, regardless of her growing a little stout. Adelé also has long and voluptuous golden hair that “comb nor confing pin could restrain” (11).
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