The Awakening: the Uncaring and Unselfish Aspects of Edna Pontellier

Category: Feminism
Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021
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The Awakening is a short novel that is written by Kate Chopin. This novella is about Edna Pontellier, a wife and a mother of two sons, who had a strong desire to experience the freedom or independence a woman, can have. She tries to achieve this desire, with many selfish decisions. In those days, in eighteen hundreds, many had an orthodox view on feminism. This social attitude deprived many women with the power to live an independent life or do whatever they pleased in life.

The only role women had to adhere with no choice were to either be housewives, nurturing mothers, or both. However, those who showed their unorthodox view of this social attitude were considered to have a bad reputation in society at that time. In the novel, the importance of being a nurturing, caring mother and an ideal housewife is emphasized. Edna, however, almost completely ignores these priorities and only does it when she has been forced. For example, when Leonce returns from playing billiards, he went to check on his kids and found out that one of them have fever.

However, when he tells her this she responses in a carefree tone that nothing is wrong with them and returns back to sleep. However, after much prodding by her husband, she wakes and goes to take care of the child (Chopin 48). This shows her selfishness, because she cares more for her sleep than being a nurturing mother and giving priority to her kids. Another example is that she leaves her children under the care of their grandmother, without any hesitation. It makes it seem as though she wants to be away from them so that she can achieve her independence.

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Furthermore, she explains that she simply wants her own way, although she acknowledges the difficulty of this, especially when it means she must “trample upon the lives, the hearts, and the prejudices of others. ” Edna Pontellier at first has an affair with a young man, Robert LeBrun, whom she wants to settle down with, running away from her marriage in which she feels like a possession. Moreover, when she was with Robert she felt this form of happiness, which actually made her pleased with life.

However, she also finds happiness with Leonce, because he shows his care for her at times and treats her lavishly, which she appreciates, but that does not entirely become a base of her happiness. Therefore, it is expected for her to involve in another affair, but at the same time it is still selfish, because she is betraying her husband. However, what is even worse is that, she has an affair with another man named Alcee Arobin, after Robert leaves to Mexico.

To elaborate, if Robert was her “true love”, Alcee Arobin should have never even appeared in the picture. All in all, agreeing with the author of the essay “Edna Pontellier: Selfish, Adulterous, and Suicidal”, the fact that she embraces Alcee, is married, and is supposedly in love with Robert, just puts emphasis on the selfish nature of Edna. In the end of the novel, Robert leaves her once again because this time, he does not want to be another step involved in Edna’s selfish search for independence and her marriage.

Edna cannot live with Roberts’ decision of leaving her and she commits suicide, leaving her kids to become motherless at a young tender age, and not thinking about how their upbringing would be without her or the emotional breakdown Mr. Pontellier can go through. In conclusion, Edna showed importance mostly to herself for most of the time. She was a selfish woman who tries to break out of the social norms, commits acts of adultery, falls in love with a man she cannot have, and who commits the ultimate act of selfishness by committing suicide.

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The Awakening: the Uncaring and Unselfish Aspects of Edna Pontellier. (2017, Apr 11). Retrieved from

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