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The Awakening

In her novel The Awakening, Kate Chopin contrasts two characters, Edna Pontellier and Adèle Ratignolle. Edna is a young woman who makes an important discovery about the nature of her marriage, her role as a woman in her society, and the degree to which her circumstances and the social setting have constrained her. Because of her inability to break free from the prison into which she now feels she has been placed simply by virtue of her being a woman, she commits suicide. Adèle Ratignolle is the woman in whom Edna confides. She is a motherly figure who revels in her roles as wife and mother, a contrast to Edna, who more and more chafes at those roles. Madame Ratignolle is a contrast for Edna, but her lifestyle is not a real choice for the latter, given the artistic temperament Edna possesses and the awareness that Madame Ratignolle is unaware of the fact that she as well should have greater choices than have been offered to her.

It is Edna who achieves both the awakening of the title, the awareness of how the social traditions imposed on her are stifling her and preventing her from expressing herself as she would wish, and also fails in that she cannot overcome these traditions and so chooses suicide rather than continue under such a repressive system. Chopin implies that there is a danger in awakening, in understanding the nature of the female role in society, and in trying to overcome that role. Chopin believes that some people possess the energy to keep up with their times and in effect to accept whatever may be their lot in life. These people do not need to examine reality or its meaning--they indeed may not be able to do so, and instead they simply live. Madame Ratignolle is such a person, but Edna is not. Edna questions and examines, and the answers she finds do not allow her to continue as before, or to emulate her friend Madame Ratignolle and simply live. Edna corresponds to the artist, the artist who is always ...

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The Awakening. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:27, January 20, 2019, from