The Awakening: Edna Pontellier as a Believable Character Apart from Feminist Symbol

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Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”, her most famous novella, was written in 1899 and is widely regarded as one of the earliest American works that earnestly focuses on women’s issues and ideals. Chopin's novel captures the essence of the struggle for freedom, equality, and independence in which women have been formally engaged for almost 150 years. In Edna Pontellier we find a woman that goes beyond being a symbol for freedom and the pursuit of female independence, but a complex individual coming to terms with very human cognitions and emotions.
As the novel begins, we are introduced to a “Mrs. Pontellier”, a woman seen through her husband’s eyes, one whose identity was clearly bound to her spouse, his surname, and perhaps most importantly –
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She would give her life, her existence for her children, but she would not compromise her identity for them, meaning she would not lose her essence for the sake of others – not her children and certainly not her society.
Breaking through the role appointed to her by society, Edna discovers her own identity independent of her husband and children, culminating in her release through death. She is throughout presented as a complex and emotionally dynamic character meant to both warn and inspire women through time. Many of Kate Chopin’s other stories feature passionate, unconventional female protagonists, but none presents a heroine as openly rebellious as Edna. In the end, Edna adhered to her philosophy of freedom, something not many women, both of her time and ours, have had the courage to

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