Examples Of Societal Standards In The Awakening

1624 Words7 Pages

Clara Schwind
AP English Literature & Composition
7 April 2023
Societal Standards in The Awakening
The 1800s was a time of extensive division between genders; men were believed to be the stronger, more independent sex whereas women were looked down upon for being “overly emotional” and seen as their husband’s property. Women were expected to stay at home, keeping up with their household duties such as cooking and cleaning while raising their children in the manner deemed proper by their husbands. In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, the main character, Edna, is portrayed as a mother who is dissatisfied with her pre-determined place in society through her relationships with characters around her, symbolic imagery of her environment, and foreshadowing …show more content…

While at the Grand Isle, Edna meets several contrasting characters who help develop her defiant thoughts eventually leading to her awakening. One of her closest friends, Madame Ratignolle, is described as the ideal mother and wife; she is attentive to her husband and cares for her children above all else. Ironically, Edna feels the opposite way; she would “give up the unessential; [she] would give [her] money, [she] would give [her] life for [her] children; but [she] wouldn’t give [her]self” (40). When she revealed this opinion to Madame Ratignolle “a rather heated argument [followed]; the two women did not appear to understand each other or to be talking the same language” (52). Edna’s attitude toward her children compared to Madame Ratignolle’s is the first of many rebellious …show more content…

She was constantly confronted with thoughts and feelings that sought to pull her away from her typical life with the promise of a new start. For instance, the thought of her children pleased her, yet the free and independent lifestyle Mademoiselle Reisz lived pulled at Edna. Her flippant personality leads Madame Ratignolle to tell her she seems “like a child” and is concerned about her new adjustment to the pigeon house (101). Edna, being constantly surrounded by various opinions, is overwhelmed by the pressure she feels from her husband, children, and society which leads to her suicide. The day she walked down to the sea “[a]ll along the white beach, up and down, there was no living thing in sight” yet just before Edna surrenders her life to the water “a bird with a broken wing” appears “circling disabled down, down to the water” (120). The bird, representing Edna, foreshadows her one-way trip into the sea as it, with an injured wing, falls into the water just as Edna, with a damaged mind, walks into the sea. She feels as though suicide is the only way to find a reprieve from the gender standards that have been forced onto her. As she stands underneath the bright sun “[s]he felt like some new-born creature” signifying her awakening (120). Edna departs this world with dignity as she ultimately found her freedom

Open Document