Essay On Gender Roles In Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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During the late nineteenth century, the time of the protagonist Edna Pontellier, a woman’s place in history was mostly confined to her children and her husband, with there being little of herself to enjoy. Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, embodies the triumphs and frustrations in a woman’s life as she struggles with handling strict societal demands. Defying the roles of a typical “mother-woman,” Edna battles with the pressures of her time that demand she be a devoted and controlled housewife. One of the first overtly feminist novels, The
Awakening criticizes gender and social roles in ways that have now heavily influenced what we call feminism. One of the first ways that Chopin battles the nineteenth century Victorian era is with
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Her thoughts take precedence over images,
Instead of being given lovely images of her children, the reader is left to imagine the fleeting moments of mother-child interaction. Unlike with the idealized relationships of Madame
Ratignolle, much of Edna’s raising of her children is out of necessity and they are simply a force that keeps Edna from having her own individuality. In the society represented in The Awakening, it is clear that mothers who err from the patterns of married female behavior are frowned upon by their husbands. Chopin also makes it clear that the husbands in the book, especially Edna’s husband Leonce, feel that it is necessary to intervene in their wives lives, in order to make judgments of their profession as a mother and wife. In her husband’s relationship with Edna there is no question of his devotion to her, but the reader cannot ignore the issue of economics that continually comes up anytime he finds himself dissatisfied with his wife.
Of course the division of labor by gender was normal in Victorian society and it was considered a woman’s job to take care of the home and children. As happens in the book, if Edna fell short of her “job” requirements, she would be reprimanded by Leonce. This behavior
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