Kate chopin the awakening

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Thesis: Chopin warns that women must understand the responsibilities of marriage and children before making such a commitment. Edna slowly realizes that once she marries and has children, society defines her as a sign of her husband’s wealth. She feels owned by both Leonce and her children, to whom she has an obligation she cannot break. Yet she desperately wants her freedom and exercises control over her own body.  In the end, Edna’s profoundly disturbing suicide allows Chopin to show the extremes to which women may go to assert their self-ownership.



  1. At first, Edna doesn’t realize her status as Leonce’s property. As Stange points out, Edna is a sign of Leonce’s wealth. Stange analyzes Edna’s wedding rights as signs of wealth. Furthermore, Edna is not aware of her own desires. She is reserved and accustomed to keeping her feelings to herself. She cries when Leonce reprimands her but does not know why.


  1. Edna’s awakening begins with her feelings of desire for Robert. Before her relationship with Robert, she is unaware of her own desires. She marries Leonce without realizing the commitment and lack of passion (32). But when she begins to feel desire for Robert, she becomes aware of herself as physically attracted to someone. In a sense, her body starts to become her own (51).


  1. Edna’s relationships with M. Reisz and Adele show her that she can give herself to her family or she can withhold herself for herself. Adele teaches Edna her value, and Reisz teaches her the price of violating social norms.

As Margit Stange points out, Adele, by her giving of herself, teaches Edna that she has a self to give or withhold (79-80, 93). Mlle. Reisz shows Edna that she can be independent. But Mlle. Reisz is not popular (43, 98). She pays a price for her independence: social isolation. Courageous soul, 106


  1. As Stange points out, Edna asserts her independence when she withholds herself from her social responsibilities, from her husband, and from her children (Tuesdays, 85, 95; Leonce, 109). She sends the children to stay with their grandmother (120). She moves out of Leonce’s house and gives herself to Alcee Arobin (move 132; Alcee, 139, 154, boast? 160; 173. Now she exercises her independence by withholding and giving her body where she chooses.


  1. Edna achieves complete independence and self-awareness when she declares to Robert that she loves him and that she is no longer one of Leonce’s possessions. She gives herself where she chooses (178). However, her children are antagonists in a sense, and she commits suicide in order to free herself from their claim on her as a mother (189). We can either condemn her or emphasize Chopin’s political statement that Edna demonstrates the most extreme form of self-ownership by committing suicide, withholding herself completely from Leonce and the children.





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