Illuminating Scene in The AwakeningNovelist Edith Whorton states that a novelist “must rely on what may be called the illuminating incident to reveal and emphasize the inner meaning” of the book. In the novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the illuminating episode is when Edna has an epiphany after swimming out into the sea. She comes to the realization that she can speak freely and share her emotions openly as she finds it liberating. This moment functions as a casement that reveals the overall meaning of the work as a whole that women should feel free to practice individuality over conformity and sexuality over repression. Edna’s epiphany in the sea serves as a casement that opens the meaning of the work because this is when she first comes to the awareness that she should not conform to Victorian Society. Edna no longer feels the pressure to obey her husbands every demand as an ungovernable feeling came upon her while she was swimming.
The water symbolized her freedom and escape of societal norms. Chopin’s use of similes to describe her metamorphosis like an overconfident child who first learns to walk illuminates her newfound power and desire for sexual satisfaction and freedom. This is significant because this was not expected of women during this era who were traditionally the mother-wives that took care of their children and obeyed their husbands. The episode is necessary as it enables Chopin to later uncover that women should act upon feelings of individuality and sexuality. Edna’s discovery of feelings of empowerment after she enters the sea allows Chopin to reveal that women should not conform to society and feel repressed. Her new sense of power can be seen in the scene as she becomes reckless and swims out father than any women had swum before.
After the swim, Edna had gained confidence in her solitude that translated into her life immediately when she refuses to get into the marriage bed even after Leonces demands. She even talks back to him, telling Leonce to never speak to her like that again. This illustrates Edna’s newfound sense of individuality. She no longer feels owned by her husband and is free to do as she pleases. The moment also foreshadows the ending of the book where Edna dies physically but is also rebirthed. Edna’s growth in freedom of expression enables Chopin to illustrate that women should not feel pressured to conform to society.
This incident furthermore allowed Chopin to reveal that women have the power to resist repression and should not be forced to hold back sexual feelings towards other men. Edna’s illuminating moment in the sea functioned as a casement which enabled Chopin to reveal that women should act upon feelings of individuality and sexuality and should not let society govern their lives. If this moment did not occur, Chopin would not have been able to reveal her purpose as Edna would never have discovered her repressed feelings.
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The Awakening: Edna
This is a look at "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. When you first look
at the life of Edna you think there is not much to discuss. Edna is a married
woman who at first seems vaguely satisfied with her life--"she grew fond of her
husband, realizing with some unaccountable satisfaction that no trace of passion
or excessive and fictitious warmth colored her affection, thereby threatening
its dissolution." (Chopin, 558).
Edna doesn't know what she wants from life. It is evident from the way
she tries to change her life to make it better, that she wants her own happiness.
She refuses to stay home on Tuesdays, which she is expected to do to satisfy
the social conventions of the time. She spends more time on her art. She goes
to races and parties all the time. All of this doesn't seem to help her
maintain happiness all the time.
There were days when she was very happy without knowing why. She was
happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the
sunlight, the color, the odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern
day. There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why, when it did
not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be dead or alive; when life
appeared to her like a grotesque
Pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable
annihilation. (Chopin, 588)
Edna struggled to make her life more fulfilling. Edna wanted what?
Passion, excitement? She states to the Doctor, "But I don't want anything but
my own way. That is wanting a good deal, of course, when you have to trample
upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of others--but no matter--still, I
shouldn't want to trample upon the little lives." (Chopin, 629).
In the title of "The Awakening" I get the impression of someone waking
up and deciding that their life is not what they want. Edna goes from being
reasonably happy in her life to very unhappy with her life and tries to change
it to make it better. The ways she goes about it are not necessarily the right
ways, but at least she tries to change it to make it better.
The acceptable behaviors of the time in which she lived worked against
her. Edna stays married because divorce was unheard of in those days. She
wants to marry Robert, but he will not because it will disgrace her to leave her
husband. She exceeds the social boundaries of the day by going her own way and
doing what she wants, but she is still bound by the will of others no matter
what she wants. In the time period we are talking about she would have been
ostracized by society if she and Robert were to be together. The only solution
she sees is to commit suicide. That would not happen in this day and time
either, because she would have been able to get a divorce and marry Robert with
no special stigma. Edna could not get what she thought she wanted and ended up
with no responsibilities.
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