Essay on Adele in 'The Awakening'

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Edna and Ramatoulaye are both mothers but have different outlooks on motherhood. While Edna is not willing to compromise herself to be just a mother to her children, Ramatoulaye enjoys being a mother and accepts it as her duty with no qualms. Edna lives in a society in which an ideal woman is a mother-woman. A mother-woman, as defined by Kate Chopin, is one who, “idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.” Edna is not a mother woman and does not believe in sacrificing herself, motherhood to her is stifling and oppressive. Chopin highlights this attitude of Edna towards motherhood by juxtaposing her, a ‘non mother-woman’, to Adele Ratignolle who is described as the absolute manifestation of a true “mother-woman”, one who spends her day taking care of her children and husband.

It wasn’t that Edna did not love her children but her affection towards them wasn’t very abiding, as she explains it, “She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to heart; she would sometimes forget them.” She did not neglect her children exactly, but more the image or idea of a mother-woman. She was more pragmatic in her devotion, she did not want to knit winter clothes for her children as she did not think it was necessary, whereas all the other Creole woman did it out of love and duty towards their children. To fit into this society she was forced to engage in this activity and knit clothes for her children. This attitude of her towards children might be due to the fact that her own mother died when she was young and therefore Edna does not have many memories of the nurture a mother usually brings to child’s life.

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Edna’s attitude towards motherhood is not understood by others in her society, “Edna had once told Madame Ratignolle that she would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for any one. Then had followed a rather heated argument; the two women did not appear to understand each other or to be talking the same language. Edna tried to appease her friend, to explain.” Ratignolle, symbolizing the norms and conventions of 19th century Creole society does not seem to understand that Edna is not willing to forsake her identity and just be a mother. The battle between traditions and individuality are shown through these contrasting ideas of motherhood. Murihead’s analysis of The Awakening in his journal Articulation and Artistry: A Conversational Analysis of the Awakening notices that, Edna finds Adele’s position unbearably limited in life experience and passion. Despite that, Adele considers herself happy content. She reminds Edna of her responsibilities as a mother. These reminders contribute to Edna’s feelings of being trapped (Murihead 42). Unable to fit in with the society but also not having enough courage (initially) to revolt against the norms imposed on women , Edna is forced to act like a ‘mother-woman’ leading to her feeling confined and oppressed. When she revolts against these norms she leaves her children with their grandma and moves to a separate house. Upon living on her own, she seems to enjoy spending time with herself until, “the acute longing which always summoned into her spiritual vision the presence of the beloved one” overpowers her and she goes to see her children. She spends time with them for a whole week having overcome with a rush of emotions and love for them, however ,as soon as the week is over the children again become an afterthought. Edna, as a mother, does not want to be bothered with motherly duties all the time. She was one to shower love upon them when it felt like and forget them the next instant.   

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Essay on Adele in ‘The Awakening’. (2024, May 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
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