Leonce as the prime Trigger in the Case of Edna Pontellier? s Personal Awakening In “The Awakening”, written by Kate Chopin, Edna Pontellier is the main character, who undergoes an awakening from a dependent woman living to the standards of the society to an independent self-aware individual. Through the regular absence of her husband Leonce Pontellier, Edna cannot speak with him about her thoughts, fears and important scenes in her life.
Therefore she remotes herself mentally and even physically from him. But in how far is Leonce the prime trigger for Edna? Awakening, how did her Awakening happen exactly and is the suicide consequent in her development ? At the beginning of the novel, Chopin? s main character Edna Pontellier lives the life of a typical woman in the 19th century. Society and her successful husband Leonce demand of her to be a caring mother, representative wife and hard-working housewife. But in fact, she is “not a mother-woman” (Chopin 9), because “she would give up the unessential, but she would never sacrifice herself for her children” (Chopin 108).
She tries hard to fulfil her duties and to esteem her husband, but his frequent absence because of his business ruins the marriage, which “was purely an accident” (Chopin 18) anyway. As the Pontelliers? went to Grand Isle for holidays, Edna is left alone once again by her husband, because he is doing his own business. In this time she approaches to the Creole women, “which impressed Mrs. Pontellier most forcibly was their entire absence of prudery.
Their freedom of expression was at first incomprehensible to her, though she had no difficulty in reconciling it with a lofty chastity which in the Creole woman seems to be inborn and unmistakable” (Chopin 10). Her new friends lead her to desire something different, because they represent the life she longs for. “An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish” (Chopin 8).
In the course of the summer, Edna becomes acquainted with Robert Lebrun, who awakens her hidden desires for love, passion, independence and male attention, that she has missed for so long. Enjoying his amiable attendance, she “began to feel like one who awakens gradually out of a dream, a delicious, grotesque, impossible dream, to feel again the realities pressing into her soul” (Chopin 31). Robert and Edna move closer together and she becomes aware of her own sexuality.
Furthermore he starts teaching her, how to swim. Able to swim, Edna is segregating herself from the other women and transforms from an unsatisfied and imprisoned woman to an independent individual. And “as she swam she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself” (Chopin 28). Edna gets into strong inner conflicts, because she asserts that she is to such an extent unsatisfied with her function that she cannot longer obey the expected role.
Therefore Edna neglects her roles and duties and moves after returning to New Orleans out into the pigeon house, where she can enjoy “the feeling of freedom and independence” (Chopin 76). She will not be owned by anyone, especially not by her husband, “I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose” (Chopin 102). From this time Edna dispossess her absolutely from Leonce, physically and mentally, and he cannot longer control her.
Mademoiselle Reisz is an outsider of the society just as Edna and she is seen by the “Grand Isle Community” as “the most disagreeable and unpopular woman”(Chopin 56). Possibly this is the reason, that Edna is so attracted to her. Furthermore Mademoiselle Reisz represents independence and freedom and serves as a sort of muse for Edna. In the course of the novel, she is a sort of leaguer for Edna, because she is the link between Robert and her and advises her how to behave.
Edna Pontellier discovers that she cannot exist in a world where she is considered to live a life against the “norm” and not conform to the rules of society. In the end she controls her life herself and no other person has any influences. She goes into the sea, where she first achieved independence and freedom, when she learnt to swim. By committing suicide Edna frees herself from the social constraints and expectations with an ultimate act of rebellion. The time Edna lived in it was not so common, that men reflected on the needs and worries of their partners or wives.
By neglecting them, men also today run the risk of loosing their love. Women feel unsatisfied and blank and are searching rapidly for a new activity and affirmation, as the reader can see with Edna Pontellier. Today women have other ways out then committing suicide, because there are no such constraints of society anymore and it is more open-minded. In an affectionate and communicative relationship or marriage this would never have happened.