Haley Benda Intro to Lit. B4Romanticism is a literary theory that is used in many novels including Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. The main character, Edna, expresses her need for freedom from the ties of life that hold her down and her need for individuality. Edna is so desperate for freedom and individuality, that she feels that the only way to obtain this is to end her own life. Edna has many human limitations.
During this time period that The Awakening is set in, women are very limited by both society and their husbands. Society limits Edna by pressuring her into becoming a ‘mother woman’, which Edna refuses to do. She defies societal rules by taking time for herself, which stunned her husband. Edna tell him, “Nothing. I simply felt like going out, and I went out” (51). Mr. Pontellier was astonished when Edna said that she was out that day, and he made this very clear to her, saying, “Why, my dear, I should think you’d understand by this time that people don’t do such things” (51). Edna is so stuck in her limitations that she needs a way to escape.
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She goes for a swim and was able to swim for the first time, “A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul.” (27). She found her only freedom is somewhere where she is all alone with no assistance from anyone else. Many women give up their identities by becoming a ‘mother women’ to please their husband and families. Edna was not willing to sacrifice her identity for her family: “I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me” (47).
By making this statement to Madame Ratignolle, Edna is clearly stating that nothing is worth more than her own identity and she will do anything to keep it that way, even if that meant death.Edna expresses her need for freedom and individuality many times in the novel. With Edna being stuck with human limitations she often needs to stand up for herself to keep her identity and not giving in to society.
This happens so often in Edna’s life that she has no other option than ending her life. Edna is so driven to have freedom and an individual identity, that the only rational option to her is to commit suicide.