Chopin's Untreaded Waters

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Chopin’s Untreaded Waters In The Awakening, Kate Chopin takes aim at 19th-century gender roles by presenting a female protagonist who deliberately refuses to abide by society’s rules. As the wife of a successful 19th-century businessman, Edna Pontellier is expected to behave as a submissive wife and devoted mother to her children. In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Edna Pontellier seems to be like every other wife and mother. She is a woman of less than 30 years of age with a husband and children, and she is typically surrounded by people who understand her reserved nature. Conversely, while on vacation at Grand Isle on summer, a different Edna emerges; she has feelings, a desire to act upon those feelings, and little regard for societal rules. Her husband, Léonce, plays the role of affectionate husband very well. However, reading between the lines of the story it can be seen their relationship is flawed and feels almost platonic. Edna at one point proclaims her marriage to Léonce “purely an accident” and struggles throughout the story to freely express herself (Chopin 18). Critic Carley Rees Bogard contends that Edna gets pulled into a “web of romantic illusion” and that too much focus is put on the sexual encounters and not her efforts to become herself. On the other hand, for Edna, sexuality is how true freedom presents itself. With complete disregard to the stereotype of “mother-woman,” Edna fights against the demands of 1899 that regulate her to be a controlled and dutiful housewife (Chopin 8). In The Awakening, Kate Chopin symbolically traces a 19th century woman’s steps toward enlightenment to an ultimate choice. Chopin created one of the most memorable feminist icons of the feminist movements before we knew what being a feminist really entailed. A tool commonly used to educate society on the rights of women is feminism. Feminism teaches women to
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