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Lam 1

Vy Lam


English 4- Block D

5 Dec 2016

Breaking from Restraints

Almost every work of literature in the past centuries has been flooded with gender

inequality. In the nineteenth century, women were confined from almost everything that men

could do. Women at the time had to walk in the virtue line. Any action that goes above this line is

strictly prohibited. Edna in The Awakening is one of these virtuous women in her community;

however, she eventually comes to the conclusion that she will not endure these restrictions on her

freedom. Edna is a controversial character that has gone against women expectation during her

time. The Awakening demonstrates a whole different aspect of the woman virtue at that time.

Through the development of the character Edna, The Awakening highlights the importance of

woman's freedom and intelligence.

In the beginning of The Awakening, a virtuous Edna is a woman who always cares about

her children and her husband. However, her husband doesn't seem to notice her care for the

family. When Edna asks her husband if he would come back to dinner; Mr. Pontellier "did not

know; perhaps he would return for the early dinner and perhaps he would not. It all depended on

the company which he found over at Klein's and the size of "the game." (Chopin 7). Edna is a

very sensitive woman. In contrast, her husband is very authoritative, he does as he pleases. If Mr.

Pontellier ever thinks about her wife and gives her proper attention, Edna would not feel lonely

and decides to separate from her own family. In the other hand, Edna seems to think a lot about

her family as well. She plans to get her sister the best presents for her wedding as possible. Edna
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is trying to fulfill her responsibilities as a daughter of her family and as a mother and wife of her

own little family, but she continues to fail. At first she did not try to escape from it; however,

Edna continues to fail at caring for her family. When Madame Ratignolle wants Edna to make

winter garments together. Edna "could not see the use of anticipating and making winter night

garments the subject of her summer meditations" (Chopin 13). Edna might not be the woman of

the family like Madame Ratignolle, but she does try to walk in the women's virtue line.

A good woman, The Awakening lays out, is the one who "idolized their children,

worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals

and grow wings as ministering angels" (Chopin 12). Edna, in this case, is not what would be

considered a good woman. Her society would expect her to behave virtuously as her friend,

Madame Ratignolle, does. Madame Ratignolle, in the other hand, worships her family

religiously. She gives Edna advice when Edna tells her about her sad feelings while living at her

house. Adele tells her not to overthink about family and her husband that way, and always put the

children first because it is the right thing to do. Edna does try her best to tolerate her husband's

authoritative behavior; however, no one seems to notice her pain. Edna apparently cries a lot

when she is in her marriage; she admits "Such experiences as the foregoing were not uncommon

in her married life. They seemed never before to have weighed much against the abundance of

her husband's kindness and a uniform devotion which had come to be tacit and self-understood"

(Chopin 11). Even though Edna does try to listen to her friend's advice, but she still feels herself

lacking freedom. When all things come at once, and Edna's tolerance comes to its point, she

dares to do whatever to gain freedom. This idea of freedom continues to intrigue her and lead her

to think about her life more closely.
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Edna Pontellier eventually realizes that she puts her freedom over everything. She admits

"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. I can't make it more clear; it's only something which I am beginning

to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me" (Chopin 52). Eventually, Edna comes to the

conclusion that after her whole time married to Mr. Pontellier that all she needs is freedom. It

takes Edna so long to come to this conclusion that she decides she would not share her freedom

for anything, not even her love. When Robert proposes to her and reveals that he wants to marry

her, Edna tells him that she doesn't want to be restricted by marriage anymore. Edna strongly

declares to Robert that "I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier's possessions to dispose of or not. I

give myself where I choose. If he were to say, 'Here, Robert, take her and be happy; she is yours,'

I should laugh at you both" (Chopin 113). She dares to say what other women don't dare to say.

Her declaration of her freedom opens to her a completely new world where she would not regret

what she does. She is now free from marriage, from society, and from a subordinate life of an

obedient wife.

Edna gives an illustration of the women in the nineteenth century. She stands out from

other women in her determination to choose freedom over love. She demonstrates the picture of

a modern woman before her time. Through Edna, audiences are aware of the nineteenth-century

women's wish to break themselves from restraints. They wanted freedom so that they can do

what they love. Every woman in Chopin's time had longed to be accepted as a strong individual,

not as a subordinate of their father or their husband and son. Edna in The Awakening serves as a

media to express Chopin and other intellectual women at her time's desire for women's freedom.

And The Awakening surely catches people's attention. It too serves as a minor contribution to
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bring women's freedom to public attention and thus helps bring the movement one more step

forward to acceptance.
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I. Thesis statement
Almost every literature in the past decades have been flooded with gender inequality.
However, The Awakening is one book that stands out from that pool. The Awakening highlights
the importance of woman's freedom and intelligence. It shows a whole different aspect of the
woman virtue at that time.
II. Body
Edna lives within the woman virtue line in the first chapters of the book: she cares for her
husband and children
woman virtue: Edna's friend- Madame Ratignolle: always tell her she shouldn't leave her
husband, tell Edna to put the children first, tell Robert to stop flirting with Edna because she
could take it seriously...
Edna realizes how importance her freedom is to her.: "She would not give herself to
III. Closing
Edna gives an illustration of the women in the 19th century. She stands out from other
women in her determination to choose freedom over love. She demonstrates the picture of a
modern woman before her time.