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Feminism perspective has been evidenced in Awakening through the “jobs” that were traditionally assigned to women, such as tending of a home, caring for the husband, and bearing of children, and the writer portrays ways in which these kind of jobs were used to keep women in a powerless position. Female sexuality has also been used to show the constraints to the liberation of woman wood, the writer portrays men in the way of a patriarchal system thereby forming a societal structure in which men are the authorities.
Edna as the female protagonist embarks upon her quest for her independence from the patriarchal system and self-fulfillment, she finally finds herself at odds with the expectations and the conventions of the society, where the society requires a married woman to subvert her own needs to the needs of her husband and children. The Society in which Edna lives has given a heightened meaning to what it meant to be a woman. Women are seen as docile, domestic creatures, whose concern in life is to raise children and remain submissiveness to their husbands.
In the novel, The Awakening, the writer shows Edna Pontellier’s confrontations with society, the imprisonment in her marriage and her exploration of her own sexuality. However Edna is portrayed as a symbol for feminism rebellion, just after her experiences at the Grand Isle she wants to live a full and free life without following the rules of the society.
Leonce Pontellier, the husband to Edna Pontellier in The Awakening, becomes is perturbed when his wife, in a short period of just a few months, suddenly drops all of her feminist responsibilities. Afterwards she admits that she has “let things go,” Leonce angrily asks, “on account of what?” Edna on the other hand is unable to provide a definite answer, and says, “Oh! I don’tâ€¦
On Edna’s vacations at the Grand Isle, several events initiate her awakening. Her candid conversations with Adèle remind her of the long-repressed passions; as a result Robert Lebrun’s flirtations with her cause her to develop the desire for more autonomy from her husband; and to boost her self esteem she reverts to Mademoiselle Reisz’s piano playing which serves as the artistic inspiration for her. During her time at the Grand Isle, Edna was able to swim in the ocean for the first time; this gives her the courage which she needs to embark upon the journey of self-understanding and self-fulfillment.
Edna Pontellier, as the protagonist of The Awakening, she sees independence and solitude as being inseparable. The expectations of the traditional views coupled with the limitations of law give women few opportunities for individual expression, and independence. Women are generally expected to perform domestic duties and be in charge of the health and happiness of their families, The Victorian women, belonging to the likes of Edna were prevented from seeking the satisfaction of their own wants and feministic needs. In the process of her gradual awakening, Edna is able to discover her own identity, she acknowledges her emotional and sexual desires.
Initially, Edna is able to experience her independence which is no more than an emotion. As she swims for the first time, she finally discovers her own strength, and through her pursuit of her painting she is reminded of the pleasure of the individual creation. Edna begins to verbalize her feelings of independence, but she soon meets the resistance from the constraints, her husband. This weighs on her active life. As a result she makes the decision of abandoning her former lifestyle, she realizes that the independent ideas cannot always be translated into the kind of simultaneous self-sufficient and the socially acceptable existence.
Basing on the feministic feelings, the passion that Robert feels for Edna is not developed enough to the levels that can join the lovers in a true union of the minds, this is because Robert’s passion cannot consume his strong conscience and make him feel torn between his love and the sense of moral rectitude, it cannot make him decide in favor of his love. The note which Robert leaves for Edna makes it clear to Edna that she is left alone in her awakening. Robert’s refusal to trespass the established boundaries of the societal convention makes Edna to acknowledge the profundity of her solitude.
However, Edna’s discovery of the ways to express herself leads to the revelations of her long-repressed emotions. In her awakening, Edna was able to learn that at least three new things. First, the mode of expression for the Creole women on the Grand Isle; despite their strong roots in chastity, the Grand Isle women speak freely and share their deep emotions openly. Edna is initially shocked by their frankness; she soon finds it to be a form of liberation (A reputable Woman Chapter 4 pp. 184).
Secondly Edna is able to learn that she can face her emotions and the sexuality directly, without any fear. Her Creole friends showed her that it is okay for one to speak and think of her own feelings, Consequently Edna began to acknowledge. She named, defined, and articulated her emotions.
Thirdly Edna learns to express herself through artwork. This lesson specifically occurs in Chapter 9 A reflection pp 205, when Edna realizes Mademoiselle Reisz performance on the piano. Previously, the idea of music had called up the images to her mind; finally the mademoiselle’s piano playing is able to stir her in a deeper way. The writer says that, “she saw no pictures of solitude, hope, longing, or despair. The very passions themselves were aroused within her soul, swaying it, lashing it, as the wave’s daily beat upon her splendid body.” Music ceases to conjure up the images in Edna’s mind; it then becomes for Edna a sort of a call to do something within herself. In addition, Mademoiselle Reisz felt that maybe she and Edna were communicating through the music as she notes Edna’s “agitation,” she then says that Edna is “the only one” who is “worth playing for.” at the party. Once Edna is aware of the power of music to express her emotions, she begins her painting where she has never painted before. For Edna painting ceases to be a diversion, instead it becomes a form of true expression.
Through Robert, Edna learns how to optimize her expression of love and the passion that she has kept secret for so long. As it is with her ways and other processes of language-learning, Edna finds that once she is able to learn how to express her needs and desires, she is also able to define them. In her awakening Edna can learn anything from a person and surpass her teacher’s use of the newfound form of expression (Chapter 8 The Locket pp. 203). For instance, Adèle teaches her on openness with one another, thereafter Edna wants to apply this frankness to all areas of her life. Robert teaches her the languages of sexuality; she then wants to speak this language loudly, while Robert is still under the social pressure to whisper. Contrary to her expectations, As Edna’s ability to express herself grows, the number of people who can understand her newfound languages shrinks.
Ultimately, Edna’s protagonist ways portrays failed motherhood as the thoughts of her children finally inspires her to commit suicide, this is because she realizes that no matter how little she depends on other people, the lives of her children will always be affected by the society’s opinion of her. Moreover, it is clear that her motherhood and her children represent an obligation that, which unlike her obligation to her husband, is completely irrevocable. This is because the children are so closely linked to Edna’s suicide, as her increasing allusions for the little lives of the children prefigure her tragic end.
Socially Edna’s suicide is directly linked to decline of people who can truly understand and empathize with her which led to her social isolation. Especially after the intentional Robert’s rejection of her in Chapter 37, Edna was convinced definitively of her social separation because she comprehends the language of Robert. Although Robert was instrumental in teaching her the exploration of sexuality, Edna became too fluent. In this dilemma, she mirrors the social context in which the parrot in Chapter I The awakening pp. 34, “Speaks French and part of Spanish, in addition it also speaks a language which nobody understands, unless it was the mocking-bird. . . .” The mockingbird language involves a scenario which it merely whistles inarticulate “fluty notes” with the “maddening persistence,” which resembles Edna’s friends who seem to be understanding Edna but do not speak back.
The novel’s blend of realistic narrative, incisive social commentary, and psychological complexity makes The Awakening a precursor of Motherhood in modernism. The Various locations that the writer included in the Novel serves to psychologically mold Edna Pontellier into a very bold transgressor of the outdated social conventions, and this developed her psyche which allowed for her dynamic growth (Chapter 7 A pair of silk stockings pp. 194). Thus Edna’s womanhood grows accustomed to the lax customs that she found on the Grande Isle, and it gradually transits into a more independent state which saw her fail in her motherhood.
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