Awakening By Edna Pontellier There are many important paths that we must follow on our journey through life. We follow the path without questioning its intent. The path informs us when we should learn to talk, to walk, to marry, and to have children. We are told that we should never stray from it, because if we do, society will make it certain that we are bound for damnation. In the novel The Awakening the main character, Edna Pontellier, has followed this path without so much as a fuss.
All that changes when Edna is awakened from a life long slumbera slumber, which she found repetitious, monotonous, and futile. She discovers that she is incomplete being just a wife and a mother. She needs to fill the void that has been empty for so long. She finds herself looking aimlessly beyond the path toward a destination of new feelings, adventures, and awakenings her quest for true love. Edna stands under this symbol of love, she is faced with a dilemma.
Should she kiss, (or in this case, marry), whether or not it is love? Or should she pass by the opportunity and prepare herself for the hurricane winds of a disappointed and disapproving society? Edna chose to do what society wanted her to doshe got married and left her fantasies and dreams in the depths of the shadows. “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.” (P. 24) After marriage, hidden around the curvatures of the path, were the expectations of motherhood and being a devoted mother, after all “if it was not a mother’s place to look after children, whose on earth was it?” (P. 7) The appearance of Edna’s life looked perfectshe was the envy of many women who declared, “Mr.
Pontellier was the best husband in the world. Mrs. Pontellier was forced to admit she knew of none better.” (P. 9) The cover of her life had that of a fairy tale, but inside, the pages were filled with the emptiness and the loneliness she was feeling. During that summer at Grand Isle, the pages were finally read, and slowly Edna became less and less concerned for the welfare of her family.
“He [Mr. Pontellier] thought it 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.” (P. 6) In Mr. Pontellier’s eyes his wife was not a mother-woman, because “it was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.” (P. 10) His wife seemed more interested in using her “protective” wings to fly about in search of the independent soul she once threw away at the altar.
In the meantime, “if one of the little Pontellier boys took a tumble whilst at play, he was not apt to rush crying to his mother’s arms for comfort; he would more likely pick himself up, wipe the water out of his eyes, and the sand out of his mouth, and go on playing.” (P. 9) The love between Edna and her children existed, but it resembled more of the love between the members of an extended family in the 1990s. “Sometimes [she’d] gather them passionately in her heart; she would sometimes forget them, and their absence was a sort of relief.” (P. 24) Around her, Edna could see the devoted Creole mothers flocking about their precious children. These women frowned upon Edna’s laissez faire attitude toward her children. None of the other women could relate to Edna’s declaration, “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.” (P.
25) Edna made the decision to have a family when she was young, naive, and unaware of what she truly wanted. That summer, she awakened from her slumber and frantically began to search for the gateway to her dreams. As for her children, “they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul.” (P. 152) Raising a family prevailed in the nineteenth century and women who tried to pursue a career or a hobby were shunned by society. Edna throughout her life listened to everyone else but herself.
She accepted her assigned role in society and stashed away her passions, dreams, and desires to the deepest part of her soul. For many years she lived hidden beneath a facade, but the Edna who craved independence and romance began to emerge that summer. “In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her.” (P. 17) Edna was no longer “devotedly” walking down the typical woman’s path, but rather, she was exploring the opportunities around her. “Sometimes I feel this summer as if I were walking through the green meadow again; idly, aimlessly, unthinking and unguided.” (P.
22) She awakened to a whole new worlda world in which she had the courage and the independence to stray from her structural life. Painting used to be a mindless activity for her, but the hobby and the talent began to flourish before her very eyes. She was doing something she loved something she could express her innermost feelings with, something that fulfilled her much more than being a mother ever did. It began to consume her soul. “Edna cried a little that night after Arobin left her. It was only on phase of the multitudinous emotions, which had assailed her.
There was with her an overwhelming feeling of irresponsibility. There was her husbands reproach looking at her from the external thing around her, which he had provided for her external existence. There Roberts reproach making itself felt by a quicker, fiercer, more over powering love, which had awakened within her toward him.. There was a dull pang of regret because it was not the kiss of love which inflamed her, because it was not love which had held this cup of life to her lips.” (140) According to Jen Tho …