Strength in Struggle: Edna Pontellier in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

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Strength in Struggle Many readers see the actions of Edna Pontellier in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening as those of a feminist martyr. Edna not only defies her husband and commits adultery, but chooses death over life in a society that will not grant her gender equality. Although this reading may fit, it is misguided in that it ignores a basic aspect of Chopin’s work, the force that causes Mrs. Mallard’s happiness in “The Story of an Hour” upon the news of her husbands death, “that blind persistence in which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” (Chopin 353). While it is true that when Chopin wrote, women were most likely to be denied the pursuit of individuality, analyzing her work …show more content…
Her ideal marriage is not one of codependence, but mutual independence. In a situation where mutual independence cannot be attained Chopin asserts that remaining single is a superior alternative to marriage. Chopin’s husband reportedly, “adored his wife, admired her independence and intelligence, and "allowed" her unheard of freedom” (Wyatt). Chopin was no doubt aware of what would have been the anomaly of her marriage at the time. This is what made her sympathetic to peers in conventional marriages. Ironically, Chopin did not discover her ambition to write until the death of her husband. The joy that marriage afforded inspired her to adopt the idea that marriage should either be avoided or the stipulations of the union should be laid out beforehand. In her short story, “Wiser Than a God”, Chopin’s opinion that remaining solitary is better than a stifling marriage is clearly laid out. Paula, the main character who is a devoted pianist rejects a marriage proposal on the basis that “…it doesn’t enter into the purpose of my life” (Chopin 46). The title of the story could be no blunter in asserting what Chopin thinks of this decision. “A Point at Issue!” is an early Chopin short story that prescribes the alternative to avoiding marriage to escape a partner’s control. First, the two main characters, Eleanor and Charles, have formed their relationship, “in

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