Isolation, Identity, Independence: "The Awakening" By Kate Chopin

The Victorian Era allowed very little limitations for women. An era in which women solely cared for their husband, children, and household, there was no room for them to hold a prominent role in society. During the nineteenth century women were pictured as the nurturing mother that tended the needs of their family, instead of living independently. Edna, a young rebellious woman living in a suppressed society, bearing the load of an unwanted marriage, has an inner awakening that allows her to make necessary changes in her life. Each day Edna finds herself depressed, unhappy, and lonely until she decides to isolate herself from the world she lives in. Living in such a suburb area Questioning her role as a women, Edna started to make decisions based on her instincts and behaviors. Edna takes a journey to find her identity beyond the “caretaker”. In The Awakening, Kate Chopin uses isolation, identity, and independence in order to show the deeper meaning behind Edna’s existence in a corrupted society.

Isolation in marriage

Edna Pontellier faced a lot of obstacles while trying to detach herself from the toxic marriage she was trapped in. Trying is disconnect herself from the vow she took was becoming very difficult. Breaking free from the unhappy marriage she was caged in had given Edna the confidence to start exploring. Edna refused to let anybody or anything overshadow her journey to independence, which meant pushing away her husband and her children. Living so isolated from her marriage she goes on a mission to find her inner happiness. “It was eleven o'clock that night when Mr. Pontellier returned from Klein's hotel. He was in an excellent humor, in high spirits, and very talkative. His entrance awoke his wife, who was in bed and fast asleep when he came in. He talked to her while he undressed, telling her anecdotes and bits of news and gossip that he had gathered during the day. From his trousers pockets he took a fistful of crumpled bank notes and a good deal of silver coin, which he piled on the bureau indiscriminately with keys, knife, handkerchief, and whatever else happened to be in his pockets. She was overcome with sleep, and answered him with little half utterances”. Edna had no energy to listen to her husband rant on and on about the night he had. She was very withdrawn from her marriage and did not value any form of communication with her husband. Leonce, slowly starts to realize Edna slipping away from the bond he though they once had. 'Mr. Pontellier had been a rather courteous husband so long as he met a certain tacit submissiveness in his wife. But her new and unexpected line of conduct completely bewildered him. It shocked him. Then her absolute disregard of her duties as a wife angered him”. Edna’s odd behavior had bothered Leonce, and contributed to his suspicion that Edna was transforming. The only thing Mr. Pontellier wanted was Edna’s attention, lately her mind has been taken over by the thought of finding herself. Leonce came home excited to tell Edna what joy he had experienced, but instead she was uninterested and unresponsive to his great news. Edna was tired of living the Victorian housewife, and instead she wanted to find the meaning and worth of her life outside of being a wifemother. Mrs. Pontellier was longing to escape the life she had rushed into, which involved slowly breaking away from the vow she solemnly swore to live by.

Isolation in society

Living so isolated from society, Edna started to feel unhappy, lonely and depressed. Society was intolerable for Edna because of the fixed roles they provided for women. Edna felt smothered with no way to get out. “Edna is at a point in her life where she begins to realize that the romantic mythology surrounding marriage and motherhood is an ideological device functioning to entrap women into accepting an unfulfilling and limited role in society”. Every turn, every which way Edna felt like society was trying to claim the last of her independence. Isolating herself from society was the only way Edna could breathe. Edna was angered by the chances women were provided. Taking control Edna isolates herself from society and any type of social interaction. “Every step she took toward relieving herself of 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. No longer was she content to 'feed upon opinion' when her own soul had invited her”. Isolating herself from society and the high expectations she was to live by was a great relief and relieve of pressure. Edna was done feeling obligated to let society give input on how she governed herself. Tired of seeing society's opinion overcome her, Edna breaks free and starts to depend on her needs and wants. Distancing herself from society gave her the opportunity to live and experience life more. Furious with the world, Edna completely shuts down and continues to reroute her life.

Isolation as a mother/wife

Edna Pontellier started to isolate herself as a motherwife, and the role she played in their lives. When Edna started to transition her role as a mother and wife drastically changed. Edna Pontellier struggled to resemble the wives/mothers in the Victorian Era. “She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would sometimes forget them. The year before they had spent part of the summer with their grandmother Pontellier in Iberville. Feeling secure regarding their happiness and welfare, she did not miss them except with an occasional intense longing. Their absence was a sort of relief, though she did not admit this, even to herself. It seemed to free her of a responsibility which she had blindly assumed and for which Fate had not fitted her”. Edna was relieved of her motherly duties and found that her kids were not a priority on her life. Her children’s wellbeing did not seem to cloud her judgement or behavior. Edna’s unfit ability to be a mother was seen clearly through her words. Edna’s life is viewed as a joyful, loving marriage, when in reality she feels trapped. Leonce was giving Edna materialistic things instead of the simple things, such as talking or listening to her. Edna hated how caged society made her feel. The Victorian society held a standard for all women, one Edna could not abide by. Living in a shadow Edna hid her emotions and feelings from everybody. Secluded from all activity and events, she began to feel lonely and the urge to break free. Edna strongly rejects of the ideal role of a mother. Edna’s responsibility as a mother was very absent. Throughout Edna’s awakening not once does she feel any empathy or towards her children and how might her behaviors affect their lives. As a mother, children are the priority, the needs of your kids come before anything. Edna felt that the kids abrupted her life and served as an interference to her life. “The mother-women were women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels”. Edna disagreed with the idea that children were supposed to fill the void in her life. She believed society envisioned women to love their kids above all things, Edna strongly disagreed with that ideology. The role as a mother was to serve the needs of their husband and children, Edna could not bear letting her life revolve only on her precious children.

Identity in Romance

Edna’s identity was incomplete because of the absence in romance she was never able to experience. Edna’s marriage was crumbling bit by fit, while it withered away Edna started to long for a companion that could love and fill her heart with peace. “There were days when she was very happy without knowing why. 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. And she found it good to dream and to be alone and unmolested”. Edna was longing for her true love, one in Romance that would give her an abundance of joy, one that did not come and go but rather a constant feeling. Mr. Pontellier never gave her. Going her entire life without feeling pure love, Edna was looking for love in the wrong places. In search for “the one” Edna had multiple affairs that ended up hurting her heart. “Edna yearns for a more physical relationship, where she can be touched and pleasured, so she rejects Mademoiselle Reisz as a role model”. Edna was in need for a man’s love, affection, and attention she was persistent to find just that. Having a spiritual awakening, Edna was able to accept that her marriage was a “pure accident” that was not built on the foundation of love, happiness, and loyalty.

Identity in art and culture

After Edna breaks out of her isolated thoughts, she decides to take up some hobbies and passions. Painting allowed Edna to gain independence and empowerment. Finding herself through art gave Edna a name to her identity. “Edna translates her growing dissatisfaction with her life into abandoning her previous routine, cultivating her aesthetic interest in painting, and in the eye of her husband, neglecting her assigned duties in his household”. Painting provided an escape from Edna’s smothering lifestyle. It gave her motivation, and a way to trace her new identity. Edna lived her life trying to grasp what was left of her dignity. Facing a thousand emotions at once, Edna failed to see her identity as a woman was slipping away. Never seeing a strong independent woman in society, Edna shied away from standing firmly by herself. “The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, Inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude, but whatever came, she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself”. Edna vows to speak u and claim her independence and voice. Pleading to never let society overshadow her existence.

Inner Identity

Identity was a word without a meaning to Edna Pontellier. Living her life as a wife and a mother she watched her existence on earth perish. Edna attributes motherhood as one of the primary reasons her identity was lost for years. Rejecting society's norm, Edna tries to solve the definition of living and breathing on an earth that provides little opportunity for independent women. “I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give up my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only something I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me”. In this quote Edna emphasizes the worth of her identity and the value of what's left of her life. Living in a loveless marriage and domesticated society has withheld her ability to experience her personal journey. “Edna finds that the life of the mother-woman fails to satisfy her desire for an existence free from definition”. Edna recognizes that she will never be able to meet the expectations of the typical Victorian women. Realizing she needed to break free from the barriers of society gave her the new refound mindset to rebel and seek her lost identity.

Painting was a tactic Edna used to disappear from reality and her duties as a mother/ wife. Edna painted so that she could gain a sense of fulfillment or satisfaction. This activity allows Edna to feel joy and happiness. Painting provides Edna with an income, which slowly helped contribute to her break free from her husband. “Mr. Pontellier had brought her sketching materials, which she sometimes dabbled with in an unprofessional way. She liked the dabbling. She felt in it a satisfaction of a kind which no other employment afforded her”. Edna felt in control, painting allowed her to maneuver her way through life in a calmy fashion. Painting gave Edna the push to be her own person, not needing anybody to overlook her life. Something so little allowed a young woman to seek her independence and feel alive once again.

Although Edna was in a bonded relationship with Mr. Pontellier, which was overseen by God, she still went against the promise she vowed to keep. Unhappily married, Edna was tired of feeling empty, lonely, and no physical/emotional pleasure. Edna was exhausted of feelings this way, and started to seek attention from other men. Edna was persistent to find a man who could fulfill her needs. Acting out of bad faith, Edna became an adulterer. “Edna finds that the life of the mother - women fails to satisfy her desire for an existence free from detention. Edna begun to play her rules, and act on her instincts and judgment. In The Awakening we saw Edna Pontellier struggling to escape a life she was not ready for. Edna was enduring stress, isolation, and emptiness. With no more to give to the world she ended the misery she was living for years. Ending her life she felt at peace with her soul. Leaving behind a “husband” and two kids to live without her. Edna ended her life because she felt no happiness within her heart. Saying goodbye to the life she was already drowning in.

10 October 2020
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now