Edna ’ s suicide: The Awakening to inner freedom
In this research paper I will analyse the main character of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Edna Pontellier, and discuss reasons for her suicide. Edna step by step relieves herself from the obligations of her surrounding and undergoes a development that leads to new strength and independence. However, Edna never succeeds in reaching full individuality and goes the only possible way: she commits suicide. The novel gives several hints that lead to the conclusion that Edna’s suicide is an act of liberalization. Edna is surrounded by a society she cannot identify with and does not want to be part of. The role of the woman in the 19th century was clearly limited to being a mother and wife. Edna does not feel satisfied with this life, as she desires to make her own rules and decisions. During her awakening, she brakes free from the social conventions and tries to lead an independent life. Yet although Edna begins to be independent, the only way she can complete her intention is to commit suicide.
For six years, since the marriage with Léonce Pontellier, Edna accepts her role in society as mother and wife. However, in the summer vacation at Grand Isle Edna begins to understand that she does not want to be oppressed any longer. Slowly, she frees herself from all the duties and refuses the world she has been living in. She lets go of everything around her: her friends and family, but also the security and support from them. She brakes free from financial as well as domestic domination, and even leaves her children to seek for her desires. In the 19th century the supremacy of a woman was motherhood, and they were judged by their qualities as mothers and wives. Edna, however, does not want to be possessed by her husband and children, and she refuses to self-sacrifice herself for them. She feels that not only the duties of caring for her children, but also motherhood itself limit her independence to become an individual. As Edna sees no future in combining motherhood and selfhood, the only possibility for her is to commit suicide, which offers her the only way of eluding her children. She seeks to be a complete person and “sees no way for a mother to keep the freedom of her soul […], except to dissolve her attachment to her children.” Edna does not want to give up selfhood as for her “a woman’s identity as a human being is more important and essential than the role as a mother.” On one occasion she says to her friend Adèle Ratignolle: “I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself” (47). This hints at the impossibility to be mother as well as individual. In committing suicide Edna gives up everything and leaves nothing that could get destroyed.
 Kate Chopin, The Awakening, ed. Philip Smith, 1899 (New York: Dover, 1993) 115. All references are to this edition.
 Joyce Dyer, The Awakening, (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993) 101.
 Dyer, 100.
- Quote paper
- Nicola Dürr (Author), 2003, Kate Chopin: The Awakening - Edna´s suicide: The Awakening to inner freedom, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/23899