"The Awakening" - Edna's awakening on her marriage

Victorian society

Term Paper, 2012

12 Pages, Grade: "keine"


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Unconsciousness of her state in marriage
2.1. submission to her husband
2.2 Ignoring his inadequacies

3. Edna’s new self awakens
3.1. Disobedience in marriage
3.2. Non-conformity to social norms

4. Living an independent life
4.1. Financial independence
4.2. Ownership of her life

5. Conclusion


Honor Pledge


“It is not good that the man should be alone”1 People all over the world are given in to marriage. But for what do people enter into this covenant? Men are social beings and need each other for love and companionship. Marriage is one of the closest unions and intimate relationships among humans. For this very reason it is of the utmost importance that the couple builds a relationship which is founded on deep affection, respect and trust. Prerequisite for this mutually beneficial marriage tie is the idea of equality of both men and women. Back in the time, women were not always seen as equal to men. On the contrary they were seen solely as objects, who were supposed to quietly submit to their husband in every aspect of life. To our time, this would clearly speak against human rights, which declares everyone to be born equal, with dignity and rights. Though even in the past, the somewhat innate consciousness of these rights caused oppressed women to speak up and not to remain silent. This sense of justice not rarely caused individual women to be confronted with seemingly insurmountable obstacles that society placed in their way, offering only death to escape. Edna Pontellier, the protagonist of the novel “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin, was such a women caught up in her role as wife and mother but awakened to the realities of a male dominated culture that would counteract her self-definition and made self-denial a prerequisite for marriage.

The purpose of the first chapter will be to examine the early stage of Edna in her marriage when she overlooked her husband’s inadequacies and lived the submissive life given to her by the Victorian society of the 19th century as property of her spouse. This is followed by Edna’s alienation from the patriarchic society, when she rebels against Léonce as the head of the family and the common mindset of the people of her time. Furthermore it will be examined which consequences this liberation from a male dominated environment in a marriage entailed. Special attention will be given to Edna’s financial independence as well

as her self-determined authority over her own life. Last but not least, the analysis will end with a brief summary and a conclusion.

2. Unconsciousness of her state in marriage

2.1 submission to her husband

At all times, people are eager to follow what is highly valued and esteemed to the present time in their culture. They are naturally drawn to follow the masses because the society’s outlook on life is involuntarily adapted by the individuals living therein. Not to obey these codes would manifest itself in an exclusion from social life, as people naturally keep a distance to people whose behavior and views do not conform to the pattern of their form of living.

An ideal for women of the 19th century was to find a husband and be “the

angel in the house,” supporting her husband with loving care and fulfilling her duties at home.2 So Edna too had to find her identity in her role as wife and mother. To that time though, marriage often did not meet the expectations one longed for when entering into this union with the opposite sex, but was rather externally imposed to improve one’s status in society.3 Edna did in part heed society’s requirement by giving herself to Léonce in marriage. This observance of the cultural code of her time though displayed a hidden rebellion, since she entered this marriage with Léonce, a Catholic, partly because of her father’s and sister’s strong disapproval.4

“The acme of bliss, which would have been a marriage with the tragedian, was not for her in this world. As the devoted wife of a man who worshiped her, she felt she would take her place with a certain dignity in the world of reality, closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and dreams.”5

For Edna it had always been a fact that her expectations would never fully be met in marriage, at least not in reality. However, as long as her husband openly displayed his great affection towards her, there was no reason to escape into a world of dreams and romance. When she felt respected and loved, she could in turn show adoration and appreciation for her spouse. At the early stage of their relationship, the high estimation of Edna by Léonce in her given sphere as wife

and homemaker transferred to her the same appraisal of her part in their relationship. Hence, her submission to her husband, the one who cherished her, did not weigh so heavy on her shoulders as it was to be later in their partnership.6

2.2 Ignoring his inadequacies

By entering into matrimony, the roles of women and men were determined by their culture. The woman was supposed to see to her task in the domestic sphere, keeping her husband in a good spirit and self sacrificially giving herself up for him.7 Early in the novel though, we see a gap between the couple, Edna and Léonce. Their relationship had changed, and Léonce’s strong attachment and devotion to Edna had become impersonal because he regarded her only as “a valuable piece of property,” not as a human being with rights and desires.8 In the time Edna found herself, the late 19th century, no door would open for women to choose another way than enduring a sorrowful marriage.9 Even

though Edna felt relieved when left by herself, she would not admit this early in her life, since such a thought did not have room in a society that regards women’s independence as unfeminine and requires them to define themselves through love, marriage and motherhood.10 Counting all the voices that were praising Mr. Pontellier as the best husband in the world and drowning her own, Edna initially did not give way to her disappointment in Léonce and their marriage. Robert

instead simulated the husband- and father figure, giving support to Edna, while Léonce only gave her money and presents, performing the, in society’s view, honorable duty of keeping his wife out of the workplace, but withholding the most valuable of all, his time and affection.11. Though she could ignore and suppress the the awareness of his inadequacies for a while, Léonce’s behavior contributed to Edna’s awakening to her real self, because she could not define herself with an identity that would abnegate her rights of a human being with dignity.12


1 The Bible, Genesis 2:18

2 Cooper, p.10.

3 Cf. Walters, p. 55.

4 Cf. Chopin, p.18.

5 Ebd., p.18.

6 Cf. Chopin, p.18.

7 Cooper, p.10.

8 Chopin, p.2.

9 Cf. Walters, p.56.

10 Cf. Cooper, p.50.

11 Cf. Ebd. p.10.

12 Cf. Chopin, p.5-6.

Excerpt out of 12 pages


"The Awakening" - Edna's awakening on her marriage
Victorian society
University of Heidelberg  (Anglistisches Seminar)
The Awakening Proseminar 1
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
411 KB
Kate Chopin, Edna, Awakening, marriage, Edna's suicide, The end, Victorian society, women, 19th century, 1800
Quote paper
Susanne Wrobel (Author), 2012, "The Awakening" - Edna's awakening on her marriage, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/190405


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