Senseless, inferior, and sensual are words that describe a woman. Marriage inhibits an individual from becoming an influential figure in feminist society. One may seek marital liberation and individuality in a male dominant society. In the novel The Awakening, Kate Chopin illustrates that a sense of freedom and independence come into realization when weak women confront conformist societies. This symbolizes the societal expectations of a married woman, the conflict with society’s oppression on Edna, and the development through the characters escape from feminine stereotypes.
Additionally, Chopin uses symbolism to demonstrate one’s entrapment in society’s expectations. Women are encouraged to be discriminated and not live life according to their wants. Despite having received few warnings as to what a marriage would provide, divorce is often an impossible opportunity to escape unsuccessful marriages.
Edna apprehends that longing for freedom is hopeless and she eventually develops a defeatist attitude. The temptation to destruct the ring is a representation of her entrapment in marriage, and as a mother, it limits her independency. She is influenced to become an ideal wife because of the roles society places. Likewise, the impotence regarding a female’s suffering corresponds to the domination society holds. The birds inability to escape their cages exemplifies this notion. Near the cottage house, “a green and yellow parrot which hung in a cage outside the door… He could speak a little Spanish and also languages nobody understood, unless it was a Mockingbird that on the other side of the door” (Chopin 13). Birds represent both imprisonment and freedom. The caged bird symbolizes Edna’s entrapment in societal expectations, and the bird’s wings demonstrate the inability to fly and be free as it is only there to protect themselves. Chopin uses tame animals to display a women’s nature and to also demonstrate Edna’s ultimate spiritual liberation.
Similarly, when a woman defies social norms, they begin to sense oppression from society. In this case, Edna struggles in her marriage because society classifies women as solely wives, mothers and caregivers. Edna accepts the fact that her marriage with Mr. Pontellier is an accident and that she is dissatisfied with her life. She refuses to be tied in marriage again due to the eager for freedom and independence. Edna decides to defy oppression and become more than just a traditional wife.
Correspondingly, through the use of conflict, Edna fights against society’s idea of oppression and discrimination. Due to her actions, denying to worship her husband and idolizing her children, she is forced to confront society.
The oppression and control felt by Edna are the reasons for rejecting social norms. If women refuse to follow the demands of society, they are ignored and criticized by society. It is known that a woman’s role is to accept and conform to society’s beliefs and values. In like manner, Edna realizes she is unsuitable to take the form of a mother because it disrupts her path to freedom. Unwilling pressure to conform overwhelms many women which causes them to defy the conventional role of a woman.
Edna struggles with society’s oppression and encourages herself to defy social norms. The refusal to accept this image society asserts on Edna shows the development of her character.
In addition to society’s oppression, as women fall into the entrapment of feminine stereotypes, society discourages one to seek independence and freedom. In this case, Edna decides to reject traditional thought and social conventions. Mr. Pontellier begins to realize that his wife is constantly failing in female roles. He considered “it very discouraging that his wife, who was the sole object of his existence, evinced so little interest in things which concerned him, and valued so little his conversation” (14). It becomes more evident that Edna is not willing to give up her emotions as demanded by patriarchal norms and her unhappiness shows that she resesnts stereotypical beliefs. Leaving no alternatives, she is forced to push her emtions aside. Furthermore, Edna believes she is able to accomplish things on her own, she gains a sense of power where she refuses to let go of.
“… Edna does make several radical lifestyle choices throughout the novella. In learning to swim, she experiences a moment of delicious joy and ecstasy, realizing that her potential is unlimited, that she is freer than she suspected: ‘A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul’ (36)” (Ramos 6).
Edna reveals her passion for experiencing new things. She gradually begins to gain emotional and physical control over herself. As a woman, it is necessary for Edna to accomplish something no one has ever done before.
Besides, Edna’s attempt for self-transformation had brought her into the actualities of life. A sense of awareness arises in Edna when she realizes there is more in life than being a mother and an obedient wife. During a conversation, Edna says that, “I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself… it’s only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me” (Chopin 94). Unwilling to give up her essential refers to the development of her new identity. Her identity is more essential than the role society holds for her. She denies to sacrifice herself for her family. Thus, actualities of life come into realization when Edna is forced to conform to feminine stereotypes.
Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, demonstrate that a sense of individuality eventuslly develops when women defy conformist societies. This symbolizes the societal perspectives on women, the struggle between society and Edna, and the development of the character’s entrapment in feminine stereotypes. The portrayal of Edna’s search for her identity is filled with realizations. Women who defy social conventions are usually targeted and criticized with little recourse. These factors are the reason for many women not being able to fulfill their desires and are commonly dependent on men.