December 20, 2018
The short story “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin is about a woman who suddenly has
an epiphany about her life; the issue is that the story is set during the late 19th century when
women had no say and they simply had to live the life that was presented to them. However, this
story goes against every social norm that was expected of women. The main character, Edna
Pontellier, is depicted as the exact opposite of how a woman would typically be portrayed in
novels during the time. Which is a quiet and quaint woman who knew her place as a mother and
a housewife. Women were always expected to be maternal and to want to have children.
However, this is no the case for Mrs Pontellier, who seems to have no interest in the typical
lifestyle. The main theme throughout the short story is sudden awakening that Edna, Mrs.
Pontellier, experiences. It always seems to happen when she is on the beach or in the water.
Water being the common symbol for rebirth and purity. This sudden awakening leads her to
drastically change her life by leaving her husband and kids for her lover. The issue is that her
lover does not reciprocate the desire she feels and leaves her. This is when Edna decides to take
her life into her own hands and emerces herself into the sea, never to be seen again. Since water
was a big theme throughout the story, Edna turning towards the sea in the end represents the
rebirth of Edna as a woman. Although this may seem very heroic, as the tortured feminine soul
regains her identity, many believe that this was selfish of Edna, leaving her children behind and
committing suicide. Although that is one way of looking at it, another way to view it is that this
was the only escape for her. As mentioned, woman did not have any say in their lives, they
simply had to listen to their parents and then their husbands. By committing suicide, Edna took
the reins on her life and decided what would be best for her, even if that meant leaving
everything behind. However, one can easily make an argument for either outlook on the ending,
when the real concern is whether it really matters if it was selfish or not. The novel does more
than just tell the story of a young woman finding herself. It validates that women have their own
identities in a world that argues against it.
The novel The Awakening was extremely ahead of its time being written in the late 19th
century. Even for the 21st century a woman reclaiming her identity is and has always been
considered taboo. This ought to make one wonder why would Kate Chopin choose to write about
such a controversial topic. Chopin often wrote stories charming stories about Louisiana and the
folks that resided there. Along with being a widow she was also the mother of six children.
According to the article “Kate Chopin on Divine Love and Suicide: Two Rediscovered Articles”
by Emily Toth, Chopin was “Like many nineteenth-century women writers, Chopin presented