The Awakening by Kate Chopin is circulated around Edna Pontellier, the protagonist and the events throughout her married life. Chopin did not have the intention to show how different Edna is compared to her society of perfect “mother-woman”, but instead shows the way Edna becomes self-aware and discovers more meaning to her life. Chopin made it possible for the readers to give Edna’s awakening value by Edna freeing herself, which leads to taking her own life. Chopin made it prominent for the readers to have the intention to make more women aware of their own lives and wanting them to do more with their lives than Edna.
In Edna’s childhood, she would not act out on her own nor do things that were out of the ordinary for a female of her time in the late 19th century, according to the narrator “She had all her life long been accustomed to harbor thoughts and emotions which never voiced themselves.” (47). Edna always kept her emotions to herself, she would barely voice an opinion even to Léonce. As she moves out of her home from Léonce, she begins to feel these little bits of freedom, “Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual. She began to look with her own eyes; to see and to apprehend the deeper undercurrents of life.” (94). Edna, “began to look with her own eyes” this gives the readers a sense that ever since she was married to Léonce, she would have to abide by his rules and not get the chance to express any of her own opinions to him. Her marriage to Léonce felt more of a responsibility than a passionate desire of love for someone. This gives meaning in Edna’s awakening by showing that she is able to see that she can do more with her life, which eases Edna to take action. This pushes Edna to discover more of herself and do things for herself. It is understandable that she can come off as selfish, but it shows that her past is shaping her into someone better for her future.
Edna begins to show an advanced way of thinking for a woman of time in 1899, “.. I always feel so sorry for women who don’t like to walk; they miss so much–so many rare little glimpses of life; and we women learn so little of life on the whole.” (106). She shows that before she would act upon herself, she did not have many glimpses of life. This quote emphasizes that Edna has been able to discover more about herself and is not afraid to shy away from herself. It has a sense of awakening for Edna on women as a whole. In the time of 1899, women were not able to walk alone, because they have the potential of getting robbed or snatched off the streets. Edna is aware she is not the perfect-typical mother-woman, so she begins to sympathize for the women who have not tried things out of their own comfort zones. In a way, the author tells us that Edna pities women who bow-down to their husbands, the mother-women, Edna believes they do not learn and experience life as much as they should.
In Edna’s pigeon home, Robert and Edna are together, Edna pronounces to Robert that she was no longer one of Léonce’s possessions, “..I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. ..” (108). As to where earlier in the book, Léonce looks at Edna as if she was a “valuable piece of personal property” (2). This exposes that Edna and Léonce did not have a full-loving romantic relationship, which is what Edna wanted. Léonce himself was aware that they did not have the relationship they both wished for, according to the narrator, “He thought 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” (5) Léonce was very observant of Edna and when it states, “sole object of his existence” it expresses Edna as an object, connecting to how he sees her as property. In a way, Edna is just an abundance, but valuable piece of property, she is the reason he does things. Edna was able to show the readers and herself that she wants more out of her life and does not want to be with Léonce, and to just fulfill his views on reputation. She states, “I give myself where I choose”, this tells the readers that Edna is aware of her own self-value and she can make her own choices without holding back.
Edna’s awakening was not just an awakening for her whole life, but it was also for her own sexual awakening. To Edna, Robert is the true love of her life, not Léonce nor Arobin, “There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert;” (115). Edna was genuinely selfish for love. Her awakening gave her a pathway to discovering her love for Robert, this was a big factor in what Edna thought she was missing out on her whole life. Without Robert, Edna felt like a lost cause.
Edna might have done many actions for herself, but Edna was able to carry herself with these actions very critically. No other acquaintance in her life knew Edna better than she knew herself. Chopin makes these imagery connections with birds to women. To her peers, Edna was could be seen as a hard-headed “bird”, but to herself she was everything she wanted to be. The only thing she could not truly obtain was her romantic life with Robert. Edna’s awakening was able to set herself free, “Exhaustion was pressing upon and over-powering her.” (116) There were possible chances Edna could have done things differently, but she believed it was her fate. Chopin was able to express that Edna was self-aware, by Edna becoming overwhelmed and thinking she could not do more when Robert left her. Edna was able to discover meaning in her life, by taking her own life, Edna knew that she did not want to surrender her life to a life of such restrained, controlling powers.