Essay on Naturalism in 'The Awakening'

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The Romantic movement expressed the assertion of the self, the power of the individual, and nature of the universe. The writing praised the power of nature and the spiritual link between nature and man, and was often emotional, marked by a sense of liberty, inner contemplations, and scenes of love. An example of nature is when the narrator explains how “she was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day. She liked then to wander alone into strange and unfamiliar places. She discovered many a sunny, sleepy corner, fashioned to dream in”(56). Edna is finding her inner nature.

Naturalism is the 'idea or belief that only natural laws and forces operate in the world.' It relies on the experience, reason, and science to develop understanding. The Awakening can be considered a naturalist work, because of the emphasis on social status, environment, human instincts according to the protagonist Edna. An example of a natural force is where the narrator says “the voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander…”(14). It “speaks to the soul”(14). This represents the natural forces at work and how it is used to describe Edna’s connections with the sea and water.

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Searching for one’s identity is a specific theme that is portrayed throughout the novel. The protagonist Edna goes through an entire identity crisis. She puts on a quest for independence, sovereignty, and most importantly her rebirth as a woman. There is a large process that goes into Edna breaking free from the chains that her husband has put on her, and also by the ideal woman image that was set forth by the society at the time. She wanted strongly to escape her bubble that she kept herself enclosed in due to her inability to go against her husband and the ways of the society. “In short, Mrs.Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her'(14). Edna is beginning to find her true self, set apart from her children and especially from her husband.

This is also another theme that is associated with the protagonist of the novel Edna. Edna alienates herself from the traditional society by being bold and challenging the status-quo placed upon women by the society. She wants to be free of the chains she was put on by her marriage. She slowly begins to alienate her own family. Even though she was a mother, she wanted to separate herself from her children. She doesn't feel as if she is the best mom, especially when she compares herself to Adele, which is the ideal mother-woman. She wanted to escape and be alone from her situations with her children and husband, so that is why she lives in the pigeon house by herself. Hair breaking from society’s expectations leads her to be completely be lost. She has a sense of solitude which is an example of her awakening. She needs to be alone and have distance to be able to find herself. During a conversation between Adele and Robert, Adele says that “ ‘she is not one of [them], she is not like [them]’ ”(20). This represents how alone she is in the society. Many people see her as an alien within the society.

Edna’s personal freedom comes from her binding the rules and stereotypes of society. She is taking herself away from obligation, including her children and husband. She has a driving force to be free, which is the achievement of being herself within a society that doesn't allow her to. She wants to be free from any chains of society, and also motherhood, and the mother role that is believed to be constricting for her. She explains how she is “ longer one of Mr.Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. [She gives herself] where [she] choose”(102). This is an example of her not being obligated to anyone and anything. She has the personal freedom to make up her own mind and do stuff the way that she wants to.

Anagnorisis applies to The Awakening, through the protagonist Edna. She slowly begins to realize her purpose in the universe, and recognize the correlation between the world within her. The epiphany moment for Edna comes the night she realizes that she can actually swim. Swimming comes so naturally and easy to her that she herself is even shocked. As she is swimming, she doesn't want “...a hand nearby that might reach out and reassure her”(27). From swimming, Edna discovers her own “space and solitude” (28). She sees herself not only as an extremely unique person, but also as someone now connected to the world. Although she still felt that fear, she reached a new awareness that changed the way she looked at the world and especially the way that she looks at herself from the point leading forward. After her swim, she begins to rebel against society’s norms as the marriage with her husband Leonce begins to fall apart. From this anagnorisis, Edna has found herself and her true calling for freedom.  

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Essay on Naturalism in ‘The Awakening’. (2024, May 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from
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