She was “no longer [...] content to “feed upon opinion” when her own soul had invited her” (Chopin 103), summoning her to experience the rich and complex world that inhabited her being. However, as Edna’s ability for self-expression grows, the amount of people who can truly empathize with her gets increasingly smaller. The fact that solitude becomes a direct result of Edna’s independence is clear evidence of her awakening. Since the societal expectations of the late 1800s gave Victorian women very limited opportunities for individual expression, they preventing them from tending to their own wants and needs. For this reason, as Edna acknowledges her desire for freedom and verbalizes her emotions, she is met with disappointing resistance from the world surrounding her.
Edna is struggling to choose a identity between a mother, wife, lover etc. She seems to not want to be subject as the possession of anybody. She focuses on independence even denying Robert of her love towards him which if she chose to stay with him, she would be associated with him and therefore labeled. She looks up to Madame Reisz as an independent woman, pursuing her passions and doing as she pleases. "I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn 't give
She admits, “Her marriage to Leonce Pontellier was purely an accident, in this respect resembling many other marriages which masquerade as the decrees of Fate…closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and dreams” (Chopin 18). In marrying Leonce, Edna abandoned her hopes for love and adventure. Although she thought that she would outgrow her childish desires, Edna still yearned for something more in her life. She did not fit her role as a housewife, “In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman… They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands” (Chopin 10), Edna is not one of them.
As Edna is walking into the sea, Kate Chopin expands on the setting and states, “The water was chill, but she walked on. The water was deep, but she lifted her white body and reached out with a long sweeping stroke” (176). The emphasis is placed on the water, explaining how it affected Edna. Kate Chopin utilizes anaphora to accentuate the choices Edna makes and how it defines the meaning of becoming aware and conscious of one’s self wellbeing over others. Furthermore, Kate Chopin continues with, “She went on and on.
This married woman with two children had inadvertently fallen in love with another man. Although he leaves, Robert is the most important part of Edna's awakening. He is the one who gives her the love that her own husband will not. She starts to truly blossom when she falls for Robert. After he leaves, she often goes to Madame Lebrun's home to look at Robert's baby pictures.
Edna fully understands that society would brand her as a terrible woman, but she does not view herself as a bad person. There is an external and internal difference that Edna hopes to one day reconcile. Chopin, instead of creating tension within Edna, created tension within the society and Edna with her newfound independence does not mind how society classifies her. Decisively, it can be concluded that the tension between outward conformity and inward questioning builds the meaning of the novel by examining Edna’s role as a wife, mother, and as nontraditional woman in the traditional Victorian period.
Edna tries to satisfy this desire by taking part in an adulterous affair with Alcee Arobin, a known playboy. However, this relationship doesn’t satisfy Edna’s wish for companionship as she uses Alcee only to satisfy her sexual desires. This all changes once Edna meets Robert Lebrun, who invokes a sense of excitement and love in Edna. Edna sees her relationship with Robert as her only chance to gain freedom from the confines of society; additionally Robert gives Edna the chance to have a fulfilling relationship as opposed to her loveless one with Leonce. Although the two are deeply in love with one another, Robert is unable to reciprocate Edna’s desires to be together.
The other reason makes Edna realize her own self is swimming, as if a release to her. Refer to what she said in the novel, to beyond other women, it can express that her aspiration on being alternative and get rid of the constraint from the society. Also that is the first body contact with Robert, she find herself in the ocean, and there is the place she longing, also aware of the freedom. Robert, is a boy she falls in love with, yet she aware of that, if she marries to Robert, her future just same as now, she will lose her freedom.
Adele has her sewing and Madame Reisz has her piano playing. One day, Edna agrees to go swimming with Robert. This experience awakens something inside her. She realizes swimming in the sea is some kind of escape for her. She can forget about all her responsibilities as a wife and a mother for a little while and just focus on herself.
Edna’s perspective on this shows after she and Robert have finally confessed their love for each other. Robert, a man, immediately suggests that they ask Mr. Pontellier, Edna’s husband, to set Edna free. Only then would Robert, Edna’s new man, be able to marry Edna. Edna bristles, saying, “I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose.
Throughout the novel Edna imagined this perfect life with Robert filled with impetuous passion. Though Robert loved Edna, he decided to leave for Mexico to avoid a morally wrong relationship with her. Even after returning to Louisiana, Robert abandons Edna a second time only leaving a note stating “I love you. Good-by—because I love you” (Chopin 198). The reality of Edna’s relationship with Robert would never meet her expectations due to her legal connection to Leonce.
For example, when the couple returns from Grand Isle, Edna begins to act on her own and refuses to show hospitality towards her guests and it begins to exasperate Mr. Pontellier. As the novel progresses, it is evident that the relationship between Mr. Pontellier and Edna is purely superficial; it lacks sentiment and is only picture perfect for society. Because Edna is portrayed as an object of her husband, it fits the the fact that marriages in the nineteenth century viewed women as an “object of others [rather than] the free subject of their own fates”
In the late 1800s, nearly all women were viewed as subservient, inferior, second class females that lived their lives in a patriarchal and chauvinist society. Women often had no voice, identity, or independence during that time period. Moreover, women dealt with the horrors of social norms and the gender opposition of societal norms. The primary focus and obligation for a woman to obtain during the 1800s was to serve her husband and to obey to anything he said. Since women were not getting the equality, freedom, or independence that they desired, Kate Chopin, an independent-minded female American novelist of the late 1800s expressed the horrors, oppressions, sadness, and oppositions that women of that time period went through.
Edna’s marriage to Leonce “was purely an accident, in this respect resembling many other marriages which masquerade as the decrees of Fate. It was in the midst of her secret great passion that she met him. He fell in love, as men are in the habit of doing, and pressed his suit with an earnestness and ardor which left nothing to be desired” (Chopin 18). As Edna’s awakening develops, she begins to act out of character, driven by her inward desires. She starts spending more and more time with Robert, and while Leonce is aware, he pays no attention to the affair.
Edna’s inner identity reaches the breakpoint where it is necessary for her well-being that it is expressed. At this point, nothing else matters besides her intuitions and desires. This brings difficulty to her familiar relationships and friendships due to her rejection of living according to her role as a mother and a wife. Even though this conflict is addressed, it does not make an impact on her decision to remain a bit selfish through this time that she is finding herself. As a way of explaining her state of mind, Edna states that she "would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself.