The Role Of Feminism In Kate Chopin's The Awakening
The Awakening by Kate Chopin is widely considered one of the earliest feminist novels in American literature. The protagonist, Edna Pontellier, seeks a life away from the social obligations of an 18th century woman. This novel sparked a feminist movement and started a trend of novels written by women about women. Although, feminism as a whole has changed and developed over the years to conform to modern society. As a modern feminist, I did not find
The Awakening to be a feminist novel in this sense.
The biggest reason literary critics regard The Awakening as a feminist novel is because of Edna’s wish to be independent. Throughout the book, Edna tries to escape the social constructs she has been placed in. This does not …show more content…
Edna’s decision to abandon her family with no repercussions is similar to men in today’s society. Her inability to nurture her children is a masculine trait,
“She would sometimes forget them” (Chopin 30). The narrator states that “in short, Mrs.
Pontellier was not a mother-woman” (9). In “Reading Beyond Modern Feminism: Kate Chopin’s
The Awakening”, Christina Williams discusses the discomfort Edna feels whenever she visits
Madame Lebrun. This could be because of the fact that Madame Lebrun is a housewife. One visit Edna goes “up in the morning to Madame Lebrun’s room, braving the clatter of the old sewing machine” (44). The sewing machine symbolizes femininity and domesticity, which makes Edna feel uneasy. The fact that Edna is a woman displaying these masculine qualities forces the audience to consider her a “strong woman”. The audience relates this “strong woman” aspect to feminist qualities. Just because a woman doesn’t particularly enjoy feminine things does not automatically make her a feminist.
As Leonce watches Edna return from the beach he refers to her as “a valuable piece of property that has suffered some damage” (4). Leonce’s perception of his wife is an example