Motherhood In Chopin's The Awakening Essay

Length: 3 pages Sources: 1 Subject: Literature Type: Essay Paper: #30156094 Related Topics: Awakening, Friendship, Literary Theme, Passion
Excerpt from Essay :

Edna develops an independence to the point that this final tug of society makes the two completely incompatible; Robert is gone when she returns, and Edna drowns herself, ignoring Adele's dying admonition to "Think of the children!'" (289). One woman dies in grace, the other in despair.

The two ways in which the women relate to their families are hugely important in defining the two characters and thus illustrating the theme of the novel. Madame Ratignolle is a born mother and wife; she dotes on her children and worships her husband, but does not seem at all vapid. Rather, she does these things because she truly enjoys them and finds them rewarding. The difference in the Pontellier household is made palpable when Adele suggests that Leonce and Edna might be more "united" if he stayed home more in the evenings, to which Edna reacts blankly, saying "We wouldn't have anything to say to each other" (179). This makes it clear that it is not a difference of situation that defines these two women as so diametrically opposed to each other, but rather a difference of temperament. Adele Ratignolle enjoys -- that is, is individually suited to -- the traditional role of wife and mother. Edna Pontellier is decidedly not suited to this lifestyle, but it is still demanded of her. Adele's inability to comprehend this is reflective of society's rejection of Edna's individual desires and attitudes.


Throughout the novel, Adele Ratignolle continually identifies herself with the achievements of her children and husband; she is seen knitting winter outfits for her children in the summer vacation landscape, sharpening the appearance of her maternal drive in an almost comical way. Edna defines herself largely through her passion, and specifically her sexual desire. Her response to music is also somewhat sexual; after an encounter with Arobin, she begins thinking about the pianist Mademoiselle Reisz. When he continues to tell Edna about herself, she protests, "talk of me if you like...but let me think of something else while you do'" (217). She is resistant to anyone else defining her, but must do it herself on her own terms, following the whims of her own passion. This independence eventually leads to her downfall, as she sees no way to achieve her independence in life.

Just as Adele and Edna's friendship begins the story in many ways, the end of the friendship is also the end of the story. Adele's illness called Edna away from Robert and possibly ruined her last chance at independence and happiness. Edna kills herself shortly thereafter; unable to live up to the life her friend exemplified, she followed her into death instead.

Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York:…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Herbert S. Stone & Co, 1899.

Cite this Document:

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