Inner Conflict In Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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The central conflict in The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, is not a physical confrontation, although it surely finds expression through physical interaction with others. In actuality, the most crucial conflict is the metaphysical turmoil churning within Edna Pontellier as she manages two competing foci- first, the “outward existence which conforms,” and second, the “inward life which questions.” Indeed, the transformation of Edna from a timid housewife into a philandering independent may be entirely attributed to this clash, which upheaves the stable, yet unfulfilling foundations of her domestic life and drastically alters the entire mindset of the protagonist. Stated in full, the conflict between Edna Pontellier’s desire to conform and longing…show more content…
While dormant, this conflict has been raging since the beginning of her marriage, as demonstrated by a poignant scene from chapter three in which the reader is first introduced to Mrs. Pontellier’s marital dissatisfaction. After spending an ungrateful amount of time with her husband for the first time all day, Edna reacts bitterly; “The tears came so fast to Mrs. Pontellier’s eyes that the damp sleeve of her peignoir no longer served to dry them... She could not have told why she was crying. Such experiences as the foregoing were not uncommon in her married life.” (Chopin 6) At this point, her life has been spent in servitude to the “outward existence which conforms.” She performs the duties obligated to her by virtue of marriage; rearing children and caring for a home. This oppressive existence brings no satisfaction to Edna, and ironically, she is more alone in marriage than she has been at any point in her life. This despondence will cause her to seek fulfillment from other sources, leaving her vulnerable to the advances of Robert Lebrun. Robert is the catalyst for change in Edna’s life- before him, Edna is, as previously mentioned, thoroughly enveloped by outward conformance. However, by committing an act that is inherently selfish and seeking personal satisfaction through means unapproved by society- such
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