The expectations that society had for Edna Pontellier had an impact on how she viewed herself and her role in society. In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening Edna lived her life in a way that she wanted to despite the judgements that she received from others. Her responsibilities as a mother did not stop her from pursuing the lifestyle that she desired. During Edna’s journey to discover herself, she is in a constant struggle between inner and outer Edna.Society expected women like Edna to be reserved and follow the lead of their husbands but Edna knew that she was not the typical Creole wife. She became independent and did not play the role that everyone expected her to. Edna stated, “You have been a very, very foolish boy, wasting your time dreaming of impossible things when you speak of Mr.Pontellier setting me free! I’m 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). Edna gives Robert the title of a boy to emasculate and offend him for treating her like Leonce’s property. If she were to leave her husband and go with Robert he initially would be her new property. But she’d also be seen as damaged goods because she’d have a new partner and that isn’t accepted in society’s rules.
After her realization of this she began doing the things that the inner Edna restricted her from doing like painting, having an affair, and not doing her part as a mother.Leonce viewed Edna as one of his possessions and many problems were formed because Edna did not see herself as his property. After witnessing the birth of Madame Ratignolle child, Doctor Mandelet walks Edna home and they begin talking about her husband leaving in March for a business trip. Edna acknowledges,”Perhaps no, I am not going. I’m not going to be forced into doing things. I don’t want to go abroad. I want to be let alone. Nobody has any right except children, perhaps and even then, it seems to me or it did seem.
She felt that her speech was voicing the incoherency of her thoughts, and stopped abruptly”(116). Outer Edna was always submissive and obedient but inner her bottled up her emotions and was voiceless. Edna starts to feel conflicted about her own beliefs and her role in society. When she talks to Doctor Mandelet her inner voice starts to come out and tries to dominate her outer self.
as she developed an understanding of her own thoughts and views.Edna’s father believed that it is the woman’s responsibility to take care of the children and look after the house while the husband is away making money to support the family. Edna however didn’t agree with the gender roles and took matters into her own hands. Edna states, “I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life to my children; but I would not give myself” (52). Inner Edna would rather give up her luxuries and her husband’s money but she contemplates weather or not if she’ll give herself. Outer Edna says that she’ll give herself for her children because that’s what society expects her to do but in reality she won’t give herself for anyone. She later moves out of the family house and buys herself a pigeon-house. Clearly, the expectations that society had for Edna did not stop her from living her life the way she wanted to.
Edna throughout the novel starts to grow and find herself. Part of her finding herself she decides she wants to do what she wants and not what she is expected. While talking to Doctor Mandelet she decides she isn’t going abroad with her husband for his trip.
Edna states, “The years that are gone seem like dreams if one might go on sleeping and dreaming but to wake up and find oh! Well! Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life”(116-7). Edna begins to value her being awake and pursuing what she wants to do even though it causes her suffering. She begins to questions whether the suffering is worth it in the long run.Edna was raised by her parents who had certain expectations for how a woman should act and her role when it came to raising children.
When Edna’s father comes over to persuade Edna to go to her sister’s wedding but as he’s visiting he gives Mr. Pontellier advice to crack down on her because she wasn’t acting the way a woman should. “Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions” (18). From a very young age Edna is taught to be quiet and reserved rather than sharing her thoughts or showing her emotions.
While growing up, you can start to see that the struggle between her inner and outer self is a recurring problem for her.Edna did whatever she wanted to do despite the judgments she received from others. She found herself by doing what she desired rather than doing what society expected of her.
Although she had responsibilities as a mother, this did not stop her from pursuing a lifestyle that she wanted. The expectations that society had for Edna had an impact on her love life and her family. This became overwhelming for Edna and resulted in her taking her own life.