The Awakening Character Analysis

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Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening tells the tragic story of Edna Pontellier, a young woman from New Orleans who struggles with her individuality in a time where women were expected to fit the tradition of homemaker and mother. Her best friend, Adele Ratignolle, fits this mold perfectly and many critics consider her to be the ideal woman. Chopin writes these two characters as foil characters to show that women should be able to embrace their individuality in the same ways as men and should not be expected to fit the conventional mold that society expects of women.
One difference between Edna and Adele would be the way their male counterparts view them. Most people consider Adele the ideal woman- even Mr. Pontellier. Chopin writes that Adele
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She states “Her marriage to Leonce Pontellier was purely an accident” (Chopin 23). Contrary to this, Adele truly loves Mr. Ratignolle and he adores her as well. Chopin writes “If ever the fusion of two human beings into one has been accomplished on this sphere it was surely in their union” (73). While the Ratignolles understand each other, only once in the novel do Edna and her husband seem to communicate effectively. After Edna gets sunburned, they look at her hands. She remembers her rings, and he hands them to her as if he understands. William Davis, in his article “Female Self-Sacrifice in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening: Conflict and Context,” writes “The opening chapter of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening offers the novel’s first- and possibly only- instance of successful, positive communication between protagonist Edna Pontellier and her husband Leonce” (563). Chopin poses these two examples of marriage as reciprocals to show the ideal, traditional woman as opposed to one who defies tradition in favor of individuality. She shows these opposite viewpoints to increase her argument that while convention may work for some individuals, others will want to embrace their individuality and may, in their quest to discover themselves, make choices that contradict

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