Kate Chopin's Awakening - Edna Pontellier as Master of Her Destiny

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In Kate Chopin's The Awakening, the main character, Edna leaves her husband to find place in the world. Edna believes her new sexually independent power will make her master of her own life. But, as Martin points out, she has overestimated her strength and is still hampered by her "limited ability to direct her energy and to master her emotions" (22). Unfortunately, Edna has been educated too much in the traditions of society and not enough in reason and independent survival, admitting to Robert that "we women learn so little of life on the whole" (990). She has internalized society's conception of woman as guided by her emotions and not her mind and, therefore, in the search for another man to fill the void of love in her…show more content…
The grand patriarchal tradition of marriage refuses to be so easily destroyed. Realist resistance to the romantic ideal was necessarily vague during the fin de siecle, partly because of intensifying competition between the irreconcilable paradigms of Victorian domesticity and the feminism of the New Woman. Raised to believe that such a woman as Adele Ratignolle is Madonna-like in her passivity and self-effacement, Edna is unavoidably confused by her instinctive rebellion: "She was flushed and felt intoxicated with the sound of her own voice and the unaccustomed taste of candor. It muddled her like wine, or like a first breath of freedom" (899). The same vague confusion and hazy awareness that comes with intoxication fills her mind when she becomes drugged with freedom. Chopin uses dream imagery to contribute to the atmosphere of ambiguity. Edna's sleep is "disturbed with dreams that [are] intangible, that elud[e] her, leaving only an impression upon her half-awakened senses of something unattainable" (913). She is only half-awakened because she is like a child not knowing what to do with her new toy, and does not possess the skills to turn idealism into realism. According to Michael T. Gilmore, both Chopin and Edna remain trapped in habits of thought they oppose, conceptual systems that prove so pertinacious that they saturate the very act of opposition. Edna, who

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