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The Purpose of Awakenings in Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”

In The Awakening, written by Kate Chopin, Edna Pontellier, the main character and protagonist, experiences several awakenings throughout the storyline. In The Awakening specifically, Awakenings are the realization of the true meaning of certain aspects of life, such as independence or reality. However, the meaning might be contrary to the teachings Edna receives in her conformist society. The awakenings cause Edna to be enlightened. The awakenings assist Edna in pulling herself from living in a semi-conscious, uninteresting state to an awakened sense of fulfillment and adventure in those aspects of life. Chopin intends for the awakenings to influence Edna, allowing her to realize her society’s insensible occurrences and traditions. Chopin creates the basis of the story around Edna and the experiences that she gains from attaining those awakenings.

Though some awakenings influence more than others because of their true meaning and relation to society, Edna takes all these awakenings to challenge her un-awakened society. The Awakening portrays a contemporary style of writing, for the time Chopin conceived the book. Chopin expresses her feelings about the traditions of her too flawed society through the protagonist Edna and her actions as an individual in the book. Chopin, in turn, also creates awakenings to advance Edna’s knowledge as a woman, although some of her actions can be deemed immature and sophomoric. Edna alleviates her understanding of awakenings by acting on the awakened meanings of life she gains as she progresses through life. Edna’s awakenings on her journey to enlightenment are the inner thought and expression awakening, the awakening of the individual, the independence awakening, the reality awakening. Chopin intends to allow Edna to shift from a semi-conscious state to an awakened state of aspects of her flawed society to become a true woman and allow Edna to experience life truly.

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The inner thought and expression awakening grant Edna the gift of analyzing aspects of her life and society. Edna can think for herself and express her feelings about her society for the first time. In turn, this allows Edna to view her society from a different, more comprehensive standpoint, showing her the ridiculous traditions and expectations of women in society. As a woman in her society, breaking free of the norms of life as a wife and mother is perceived as unnatural considering the traditional roles women are expected to fulfill. Chopin utilizes the inner thoughts and expression awakening to portray to the reader that society cannot realize the absurd expectations and commonplace culture of women in society. Chopin’s expectations for the learning experience Edna gains from the inner thought and expression awakening is to abide by the fact that the society is going through the motions of life and not trying to analyze their actions as right or wrong. And society believes that since the actions are commonplace that it must be right.

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Chopin’s execution of the inner thought and expression awakening exceeds in being successful considering Edna’s understanding of the awakening to enlighten her to the flaws in society. Chopin established the inner thought and expression awakening by having Edna cry and, for the first time, have Edna question why she is crying. Chopin executes this subtly. Unlike the inner thought and expression awakening, the awakening of the individual was not nearly subtle. The individual awakening allows Edna to become unique and separate herself from the occupations of wife and mother. Edna’s individuality is cruel and compassionate, compulsive and content. Edna became who she knows is her true personality. Chopin intended to make Edna into a true woman and not just a false guise of what a woman should be or act. The individual awakening is vital to Chopin’s formation of The Awakening. Without transforming into an individual, Edna would not have been different from other women in her society. She could not have understood what a woman is in reality and the way she felt in a semi-conscious state.

Chopin’s success with the individual awakening works up to a point. Although Edna breaks free of the traditions of the society in which she lives, the temptation of men continues to dominate her mind. Chopin’s individual awakening for Edna fits directly into the story because it provides a basis for a feminist movement in Edna’s society. Chopin’s first major step to forming The Awakening into a feminist novel is Edna’s independence awakening. The independence awakening allows Edna to experience life from a different viewpoint as a woman because obligations that once weighed her down are now lifted. Edna is free to be a true woman for the first time in her life. She now understands concepts of life that were once unavailable as she lived in an awakened state but could not express herself to the fullest in part because she was not independent. Chopin’s intentions for the independence awakening are for the reader to understand that the typical stereotypes of women in her time are false accusations.

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Chopin proves women can be independent and not need a male figure to look over them; to inform the reader that women and men do not differ in stature and ability. As Chopin continues to write, the main theme of The Awakening reveals itself to the reader. The main the Chopin tries to depict is, in fact, that men and women, in reality, are equal. Chopin is not as successful in portraying her reasons for the independence awakening. Although she is independent, Edna needs men in her life, not for traditional reasons but her desires as a woman. Edna cannot break her desire for men in her life. Chopin’s most apparent symbol in the conception of Edna’s independence in her flawed society is the small house that Edna purchased. The sole factor in portraying Chopin’s own independence in her society and time is Edna’s newfound independence as the existential component of The Awakening is concerned. With all the awakenings and the growth they bring to Edna, the most substantial awakening occurs.

The reality awakening affects Edna in a substantial of ways. The real awakening is the agglomeration of the inner thought and expression awakening, the awakening of the individual, and the independence awakening. With all the teaching Edna learns from the preceding awakenings, Edna realizes that all she has known before her awakening is not reality but a semi-conscious state of life. The reality awakening teaches Edna what the true meaning of life is. Although she awakened to this, Edna does not want to know this, mainly because reality does not permit her to run off with Robert, her lover. Edna despises the concept of reality regardless of the numerous fortunes of enlightenment it brings. The reality awakening pushes Edna so far of the edge she commits suicide. Chopin exposes to the reader that Edna as a woman retains flaws from the semi-conscious life she once lived.

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Edna was far too excited about the new aspects of life, too hyped up on living without limits and living free. Chopin proposes to the reader that reality is cruel and merciless. Chopin’s own awakening causes her to write this book. The execution of Edna’s realization of the reality awakening was no more than shocking. Edna gave her life at the moment she recognized reality and its true meaning. The real awakening is meant to render that living in a dream world may be pleasurable no one, man or woman, escapes reality. The Awakening is at the forefront of books in its genre. The concept of The Awakening is in no way about the flaws of humans but about the faults that society brings upon a person. The book was the start of the changing revolution of women. Though the fact that Chopin stresses is reality is nothing to be misconstrued or challenged. Chopin challenged the traditional concepts of society in her time with this book. This feminist book is more than trying to prove men and women are equal, but The Awakening is a lesson of life.

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The Purpose of Awakenings in Kate Chopin's "The Awakening". (2021, Aug 05). Retrieved August 15, 2022, from