Gender Roles In Kate Chopin's The Awakening

In the beginning of the nineteenth century, both men and women had certain “roles” to play in society. A woman was meant to be a dainty, fragile woman who depended on her husband. She was to follow the “cult of domesticity”. Her job was to raise the children, keep her husband happy, and make sure the house was clean at all times. A woman during this time should be pure and devote herself to one man, her husband. The ideal husband had a job, provided for the family, took charge of the household and owned all of his property. He always made sure his wife and children were taken care of. All of this began to change in the late nineteenth century. The late nineteenth century marked the beginning of the first wave of feminism. During the first …show more content…
They were no longer the quiet, “ladylike” wives their husbands grew to love. They were far more independent and questioned their husbands a lot more. They also began to put their needs in front of their children’s more often. It is no surprise that Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, which is set in the late nineteenth century, is a feminist novel. The protagonist, Edna Pontellier is a woman ahead of her time. She is the ideal nineteenth century feminist. Throughout the novel, Edna challenges gender roles, explores and discovers her sexuality and gains independence. Throughout the novel, Edna continuously breaks traditional gender roles. The first gender role she breaks is the role of women and motherhood. Right at the beginning, the reader gets a sense of who Edna is. Mr. Pontellier is not satisfied with his wife’s neglect of the children. Edna’s maternal instincts do not come naturally; in fact, she is “not a mother-woman” (Chopin 16). As described later on the same page, a “mother-woman” is a woman who follows the “cult of domesticity”. A wife described as a “mother-woman” is protective and loving towards their children. Mother-women are also said to worship their husbands and children. Edna is quite the opposite

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