Kate Chopin is famous for the feminist direction of her literature. She wrote many works about women’s suffering being dependent on men. She described different destinies of women. Some of them were courageous enough to achieve the liberty, the other ones were afraid of their own thoughts, several succeeded, and another failed. All these female characters had one problem and one wish. They did not have any rights to decide for their lives, and they all dreamt about freedom.
The novel The Awakening is not an exception. The main character Edna Pontellier has a hidden wish to become free. Once, in the pension, she reveals her desire. She starts a new life. However, she has one problem that the man with whom she felt the freedom is not interested in the relationships. She drowns to avoid the bad fame or return.
This story totally concerns the women’s position in that period. It was the beginning of the liberalization. The main character has a tendency to stop her former life, but she needs a push. She gets it from her friend Mademoiselle Reisz. It is the awakening. Actually, all actions of Edna reflect to the events of that time period. She does not liberate her life at once. Everything begins gradually (Dürr 3). Firstly, she allows herself to feel free with Robert. Later, she becomes an artist and rent a separate apartment, although she fails in her intentions. The feminism was also not the sudden happening, but the gradual long-term process. Even though, Edna is the main character and the novel is the retelling of her life story, she is not the only one who has meaning in the discussion of the women’s life. In addition to her description, the friends of Edna are also the representatives of women during the emancipation wave. Mademoiselle Reisz is a spectacular example of an independent woman. Her brutal and offensive behavior is the sign of the male features in her character. She is the one who successfully reached the aim of the other women. She is still mademoiselle, but she is happy in her life. Her image shows that, in this time, some women have already changed their point of view on their lives. Moreover, she is evidence of the successful result, unlike Edna’s ending. The last, but not the least is the life position of Madame Ratignolle, the other friend of Edna. She is the true “mother-women” and likes to live like that. Her image is the example of the rest of the women who still enjoy the old standards in the rights allocation between men and women. The constancy and stability of her life is a calm shelter for the women non-fighters. Nothing special happens during the novel, and, probably, after the ending. Unlike her friends, Edna turns into the wrong direction. She could live happily, but is not prepared for the cruelness of life. The reason of her mistaken expectations was the lack of life experience. After the realization of the broken heart and dream, she found her place in the water.
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In the novel, an important role plays the art. This sphere is the symbol of freedom and independence because all artists are different from the other people and do not follow the standard ideas. Mademoiselle Reisz is a pianist. The playing piano is expressive, so it symbolizes the radicalism of her position. Edna becomes an artist. This is calm and romantic creativity. This means that she is not the total feminist. She seems to be on the border. This statement proves the fact of her worries about her son. Her naivety is in the fact that she waits the serious relationships with Robert. This means that, although, she made a huge step forward her liberty, she still tends to turn back to the married life in the future. The true unfeminist woman Madame Ratignolle does not have a tendency to arts. This is because she does not strive to change anything and think outside the box.
The novel describes three women’s characters that are the symbols of the feminism wave. Kate Chopin shows examples of the woman who stays at the same place, the women who succeeded in the liberalization and the one who “did not survive” (Valkeakari 200). The author depicts them to show the hardness of the women’s emancipation and the problems, which could appear during this process. The novel is the story of the entire female world on the example of three particular women.