The Struggle For Identity And Freedom In Robert Chopin's The Awakening

959 WordsOct 30, 20174 Pages
One of the most important themes of the The Awakening is the struggle for identity and freedom. Edna Pontellier, a wealthy women living in late 19th-century New Orleans, attempts to pursue independence from her marriage and motherhood. The novel takes place in two different locations: Grande Isle, on the coast of Louisiana, and New Orleans. Each of these two distinct settings reflect a particular part of Edna’s journey and advance her character in various ways. While staying on Grande Isle, Edna experiences the Creole culture dominant there, which allows her to spend time alone around Robert Lebrun even though she is a married woman. The Creole culture is a shock to Edna: “A characteristic which distinguished [the Creoles] and which…show more content…
She must be a “mother-woman”, a woman who “idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels” (Chopin, 10). Edna often does not conduct herself in a way that a woman at the time is expected to; she is not devoted to her husband or dedicated to taking care of her children. This aspect of the setting is crucial to the novel; during this time period, Edna is expected to be a dutiful wife and mother, which she does not want to do. Furthermore, she cannot divorce her husband, as she knows it will severely hurt her children. Therefore, Edna struggles between her identity and her desire for independence while balancing the expectations and restraints of society during that time. Enda tries once more to find a sense of identity in what she terms the “pigeon house”, a smaller house in New Orleans that she wishes to inhabit. This new house, separate from her husband, her children, and her life at her family home, is important to Edna’s search for her identity. When visiting the pigeon house, it is clear what effect the house has on Edna: “Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual. She began to look with her own eyes. . .” (Chopin, 127). However, even with the addition of the pigeon house, Edna cannot escape the expectations of society,

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