Breaking Free From Society in The Awakening

Essay by jolleymanHigh School, 11th gradeA+, May 2004

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Kate Chopin's The Awakening takes place during the late 1800's in New Orleans, Louisiana. The protagonist, Edna Pontellier, fights to obtain independence, which places her in opposition to society. Her society believed that a married woman needed to make both her husband's and children's needs her first priority. Her duty included chores around the house and obeying her husband's demands. Chopin focuses triumph as the theme in The Awakening, as Edna unleashes her true identity in her society.

Edna's triumph began early in the book when she initially realized her desire to rebel against her husband's commands, unlike her habitual obedience to him in prior years. The narrator described Edna's changed behavior when she stated, "She could not at that moment have done other than denied and resisted. She wondered if her husband had ever spoken to her like that before, and if she had submitted to his command (Chopin 41)."

Edna considered her past and found it almost incomprehensible that she dealt with his demands for so long. When she realized her fault, Edna determined to change her behavior, regardless of her society's position.

Edna feared nothing when forced to make major decisions. She attempted to rise above society and the conditions forced upon her to act as the proper housewife who tended to her husband's every command. Edna often visited the ocean because it provided her with the strength and power to stand up to her husband and her society. Edna stated, "How few of us even emerge from such a beginning" (Chopin 17), which clearly demonstrated that she felt vast changes with her emotions and ideas, which allowed her to begin a new life. The sea, which Chopin described during the novel represented Edna's chance to break free and start over; "The voice of the...