Feminism in the Novel Awakening by Kate Chopin
First of all, it is necessary to define what feminism is. In general, feminism is a belief that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men (Tyson). Let us examine how feminism is depicted in the novel Awakening by Kate Chopin.
Kate Chopin is a famous American author of short stories and novels. She was also a representative of feminism. The novel Awakening tells about three different women, with different characters and lives. Awakening tackles a lot of important issues, for example, marriage, motherhood, love and passion, independence, and freedom and restraint. The author was a woman who struggled against stereotypes. This novel is a cry from the heart; it is a confession of the writer. Most probably the writer is a prototype of one of the characters. She lived in those times when women should be good wives and should not have their own opinion.
We can compare Kate Chopin’s novels with Simone de Beauvoir’s novels. For example, Les Belles Images is a confession of the author who is tired of her life. In reality, she had a good life: She had the work that she loved, two beautiful daughters, a good husband, and a lover. Unfortunately, this was not enough for her to be happy. During the whole story, the main character was trying to change herself. She was not able to find support from her husband. This novel is very similar to Awakening. There is also one common topic in the novels, which is feminism. This tendency shows us how difficult it is to be a woman, especially how difficult it was in those times.
At first, let us consider the title of the novel Awakening. The author wanted to emphasize that the main idea of the story is awakening to freedom. The main character Edna begins to awaken the world around her; she begins to feel and enjoy freedom. Edna reconsidered her social role in life. A new life of love and passion was awakening in her.
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There are three female characters. Each of these women is special. The novel is based on contradictions. In the novel, we can see the ideal of the Victorian woman and the woman who wants to live without any limitations, who does not want to belong to anyone.
One of the main characters is Edna. She was “rather handsome than beautiful.” She is a strong and courageous woman. She is an artist. Her life is pretty successful: She has a good and rich husband, two amazing sons, and a big house. What else does a woman need for a happy life?
At the beginning of the novel, the author shows us that the character’s life is normal and it seems that she is okay with that. Edna likes her life, however, for a long time she has been unaware of her own feelings and ambitions. During the whole novel, she is changing and her independence is revealed. She struggled against stereotypes, and she wanted to create the world of her own. She was trying to find herself in that world, the world that depended on society.
In her teens, she was a dreamer and a romantic girl. She realized that her marriage was the beginning of stable and responsible life and the end of passion. Before meeting Robert, she was like a green and yellow parrot and she wanted to get free to escape from her “cage.” She started to push away her husband and her former friends to spend some time alone. Edna decided to move from her husband to a smaller house and her sons were at the grandmother’s. She did not want to be a “mother-woman.” Edna is the opposite of the Victorian woman, as Victorian women used to take care of their children and were devoted to their husbands.
Edna’s true ambitions and feelings were revealed after her meeting with Robert, to be more precise, after Robert had moved to Mexico. She began to understand the taste of freedom, music, art, and sexual satisfaction. She started to see and feel a new world around her. Although her behavior was unacceptable, she had several happy moments. However, her freedom was egoistic, especially to her children.
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Robert managed to reveal only part of her. When he said that he wanted her to be his wife, she refused this “offer.” The author shows us that the woman did not want to belong to anybody, even to her own children.
At the end of the novel, Edna committed suicide. Was this decision made because of the desire to be absolutely free or escape from the routine life and problems? It was a real awakening to her female capabilities and independence. She did not want her life to focus on cooking, cleaning, and child-caring. It was her attempt to become “un-womaned.”
The second main character is Adele, Edna’s best friend. She was an example of the Victorian woman; she was a “mother-woman.” Also, Adele was a devoted wife and a good mother. Her life was usual. Adele was taking care of her children, performed her domestic duties and was happy. She was the opposite of Edna. Adele is a static character. There were no changes in her feelings or life. Thus, Adele represents an ideal wife of those days.
Finally, another important character is Mademoiselle Reisz. She is an old woman who helps and inspires Edna to her great awakening. Mademoiselle Reisz is the woman that Edna could be. She was independent of her husband and children. She had a life that Edna wished to have. Also, mademoiselle Reisz is a woman of love and art; she is ruled by her art and passion. Mademoiselle Reisz showed Edna how art could change a woman. Finally, for Edna, she is an ideal woman with a perfect life.
After describing the main characters, it can be concluded that the most strong-willed and brightest character is Edna. Her awakening shows us the rebirth of a woman. Escaping from the cage, she began to feel freedom.
During the whole novel, it is possible to notice and the main character had a rather difficult life. She thought about her life. She thought about her marriage. Also, she tried to understand what it meant to be happy. Edna tried to find her role in society; she wanted to understand how to be a real woman. At the end of the novel, she escaped from the whole world, the world that she could not exist in.
Edna’s can be considered a prototype of a modern woman. Kate Chopin wrote an amazing novel about our life at the present moment. There are no Victorian women anymore, but there are women like Edna. Women do not want to cook and clean, they want to develop spiritually, and they want to be free and independent. Today is the era of feminism.
The novel is a manifesto for women’s freedom and independence. When the novel was published, the public did not want to accept it. They could not accept that the woman could have her own individuality, desires, and needs. However, this novel also shows Adele’s character who reveals how a woman can be tender, how she can love her husband and children. She was a real “mother woman” and she was happy with her life. This novel shows that every woman has the right to choose her own way of life.