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The Essay

1260 words - 6 pages

By: Anonymous

Society's Standards In the late 1800's, as well as the early 1900's, women felt discriminated against by men and by society in general. Men generally held discriminatory and stereotypical views of women. Women had no control over themselves and were perceived to be nothing more than property to men. They were expected to live up to a perfect image that society had created, while trying to comply with their husbands' desires. While many women felt dissatisfied with their lives, they would not come out and say it. However, in 1899, Kate Chopin wrote The Awakening, which showed women that they were not alone. This novel showed the discriminatory views and treatment towards women. ...view middle of the document...

Nowadays, you would never find a father telling his son-in-law to be harder on his daughter. This was something that Edna would not accept. Chopin cleverly adds that it was this same treatment from her father that killed her mother. "The colonel was perhaps unaware he had coerced his own wife into her grave" (Chopin 663). "She would, through habit, have yielded to his desire; not with any sense of submission or obedience to his compelling wishes, but unthinkingly, as we…go through the daily treadmill of life which has been portioned out to us" (Chopin 631). This best indicates how routine everything had become for women, and how entrapped they must have felt to be stuck in this daily routine. "It is worth noting that Edna does not face any explicit oppresion. She is merely expected to run the house, care for the children and do her best to please her husband. Nevertheless, she finds the role unbearable. She cannot give her life, her identity to others. It is better to die" (Aull). However, this almost methodical way of life affected Edna worse than many other women. Others, such as Adele Ratignolle, who is described as the perfect Creole "mother-woman," accepted their female roles with enthusiasm. She represents the perfect woman according to society, which is what Edna does not want to be. Even though Edna has two children, she does not want to accept the conventional mother role. Mademoiselle Reisz represents another type of woman and another alternative for Edna. Although she is not married, Mademoiselle Reisz still fits society's role because she is "under control." She is a stable woman, who is not seeking "unladylike" excitement and adventure, as is the case with Edna. Rather, she has devoted her life to music, which is a worthy cause. However, Edna, having been awakened to her new-found desires, seeks excitement and independence. Eventually, especially in the case of Edna Ponteiller in The Awakening, Chopin's women select (men) on the basis of their own sexual desires rather than for reasons Darwin attributed to civilized women, who are largely influenced by the social position and wealth of the men (Bender 462). This shows a direct opposition to the common practice of women marrying for social status rather than for love. Edna, in fact, sacrifices her security, a valuable commodity in those days, in order to seek out her own sexual desires. This is another example of Edna refusing the role that society has created. Of course, men could have never imagined that a woman could ever have sexual desires as men do or even think of the idea of independence by themselves. Men literally thought that women were too ignorant and lacked...

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