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The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. Discuss The Effects of the Creole Society upon Edna Pontellier

“The Awakening”, by Kate Chopin follows a woman as she discovers herself in a society that expects women to be solely mothers and homemakers. Edna, the main character “awakes” on summer holiday, and realizes how unhappy she is with her life. Edna’s journey of self discovery is eventually ended by her suicide. Edna’s self awakening and suicide are the products of the society she married into and the people who formed that society. These are the factors that propel Edna into the ocean where she makes her last act of defiance, a decision that showed how much she prized her newfound freedom, for she gave herself up to the “waters that awakened (her).” (Richards)The Creole Society in the late nineteenth century wasn’t a place for women with new ideas. Especially ideas about women’s roles and rights in the home and in their lives. This was the society that Edna married into. The Creoles of “The Awakening” were white or mixed race people who spoke french, and “celebrated their French Culture”. (loyno.edu) Women were expected to live “as wife and mother, keeper of the household, guardian of the moral purity of all who lived therein”. (Veraquez) Edna did not fit into this mold, this expectation of a wife and Chopin shows how Leonce, Edna’s husband, noticed that she was different than the other women he was acquainted with, thinking how “very discouraging that his wife, who was the sole object of his existence, evinced so little interest in things which concerned him, and valued so little his conversation.”(pg. 5)The wives of the Creoles were also encouraged to perfect “their accomplishments in music, art, and conversation. Such refined women enhanced their husbands’ social status.” (Historical) This was their occupation when they weren’t running their household or caring for their children. Edna was at first, content with this life, but her happiness didn’t last long. She was still, despite her efforts “an outsider making attempts to fit into Creole society and its trappings,” and “failing in conforming.”. (C.) She first acted on that discontent while spending the summer on Grand Isle It was there that she learned to swim, something not many women of her class did. She also began making little rebellions against her husband, starting with a night spent in a hammock despite Leonce’s urgings.At Grand Isle, Edna also begins an affair with Robert Lebrun, which eventually played a role in her suicide. This affair and the suicide that followed was greatly impacted by the people in the Creole society. The people who are in Edna’s life follow rules of their society, which demands hospitality and openness.Edna is at first uncomfortable with this, but as the story progresses she becomes less and less reserved. Ironically, one of Edna’s first rebellions is aided by this society. Many of Edna’s take a keen interest in helping her learn how to swim, which is an example of how the Creole people were friendly and obliging. They gave access to the ocean that, even as a child she associated “with freedom as an individual”. (Richards) One person who greatly impacted Edna’s story was Madame Reinz.Mme. Reinz was an accomplished pianist who was present and contributed to the beginning of Edna’s awakening. With her help, Edna discovers herself as an artist, which changed the way she viewed her role in her life. Another character who influenced Edna was her husband. Leonce viewed Edna, as many Creole men did, as his property. And Leonce was extremely proud of his belongings. He enjoyed having the finest he could buy, and therefore placed great importance in his job as well. (C.) Leonce gave Edna and intense dislike for being “owned”, an emotion that contributed to her suicidal decision. Her dislike for being viewed as property was also reflected in a conversation with Robert where Edna stated that if her husband were to let Robert “take” Edna, she said she would “laugh at you both”.In the decision Edna made to marry Leonce, she changed the course of her life. She immersed herself in a culture that demanded she never seek out what her desires were, and for some time she submitted to these rules. However, the people and culture that she became a part of caused an enlightenment that also changed her fate. Edna’s awakening would have had a different outcome, if it had even occurred . For if Edna never entered into the Creole society, never met the people who inhabited it, she might have never been pushed to the point of her awakening.

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