Kate Chopin The Awakening Essay

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Kate Chopin The Awakening

To what extent does Edna Pontellier, in Kate Chopin's The Awakening, mark a departure from the female characters of earlier nineteenth-century American novels

The Awakening was published in 1899, and it immediately created a controversy. Contemporaries of Kate Chopin (1851-1904) were shocked by her depiction of a woman with active sexual desires, who dares to leave her husband and have an affair. Instead of condemning her protagonist, Chopin maintains a neutral, non-judgmental tone throughout and appears to even condone her character's unconventional actions. Kate Chopin was socially ostracised after the publication of her novel, which was almost forgotten until the second half of the twentieth century. The
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Kate Chopin's The Awakening and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper capture, in their respective works, two women who have turned down these expected roles, and, consequently, suffer because of it. The husbands of these women, entirely because they stand to represent patriarchal society, are a great deal to blame for the "condition" of their wives. In the first scene of The Awakening, after being scolded by her husband about not being a good mother, Edna responds by crying, and later with defiance, refusing to come in to sleep, according to her husband's wishes. This behaviour, as well as the journey into the sea at the end of the novel suggests that she has become awakened to the oppressive nature of her husband, and that of the institution of marriage in general. The very act of Edna's struggle, her resistance, suggests her awareness that there is a way of speaking and thinking that will accurately reflect her desires, her worldview and her 'self'. She muses on the gap between what she feels and what society decrees must be:

By all the codes which I am acquainted with, I am a devilishly wicked specimen of the sex. But some way I can't convince myself that I am. [2]

The Yellow Wallpaper is a story which shows the anatomy of an oppressive marriage. Simply because the narrator does not cherish the joys of married life and motherhood, and therefore, is in…