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Essay about The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

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Illogical, submissive, and sensual are some of the words used to describe the view of women during the nineteenth century. In the novel The Awakening, Kate Chopin tells the controversial story of a woman, Edna Pontellier, and her spiritual growing. Throughout the story, Edna constantly battles between her heart’s desires and society’s standard. The novel shows how two women’s lives influence Edna throughout the novel. Mademoiselle Reisz and Madame Ratignolle are both in their own way strong, motherly influences in Edna’s life. Mademoiselle Reisz is Edna the mother who wants Edna to pursue her heart’s desires. Madame Ratignolle however, is the type of mother to Edna who wants Edna to do what is socially right. The way the two live their lives not only plays an important role in Edna’s mothering role, but it also represents the only two outcomes that Edna thinks she has for her life.
In the manner of most mentors, Mademoiselle Reisz supports Edna as she begins to obtain the responsibility free life she yearns for. Mademoiselle Reisz is a free-spirited, hot tempered, childless, and unmarried woman. She is an outcast in her own town because of the way she lives her unconventional life. One of Mademoiselle Reisz’s neighbors says, “ In truth he did not want to know her at all, or anything concerning her – the most disagreeable and unpopular woman who ever lived on Bienville Street” (69). During the summer people’s view of Mademoiselle Reisz is still the same. Everyone seeks her out because she plays the piano well, but no one truly likes her other than Edna. As she walks into the entertainment room at Grand Isle where everyone is seated, “A general air of surprise and genuine satisfaction fell upon everyone as they saw the...


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...eing a mother, she spends more time on her artwork and her art improves drastically. Although Madame Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz guide Edna throughout her awakening, Edna realizes that she could be neither. She wants to be free and without responsibility, but truly cannot. Edna still wants the life that Madame Ratignolle has, although it pushes her towards being responsibility free. Edna still cares about what others think unlike Mademoiselle Reisz. Unfortunately, these factors lead to Edna’s demise. Edna knows she will not be able to run away without hurting her family, but she does not want to stay. Edna’s choice says a lot about her, as a mother she was willing to give up her life than rather be with her children.



Works Cited

Chopin, Kate, and Barbara H. Solomon. The Awakening: And Selected Stories of Kate Chopin. New York: Penguin, 1976. Print.


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