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The Awakening

In: English and Literature

Submitted By ashley20144
Words 667
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Edna Pontillier is the main character in the novel The Awakening which was written by Kate Chopin. She is a character that readers can both identify and sympathize with at times, and yet her actions and traits might make readers to see her as an unsympathetic character at other times, and even in my case, find her to be extremely selfish and unlikeable. Readers may sympathize with her because after all she lived in a time where women were regarded as nothing but mere objects and did not have the rights that women do nowadays. However, she can also be viewed as a selfish woman and a bad mother because she decides to fall in love with another man even though she is married, and because she decides to neglect her children.
As I first started reading this novel, I found it quite easy to sympathize with Edna. Chopin starts off the novel with introducing Edna and explains that she is "married to a wealthy and attentive husband, the mother of two healthy children” and “from all appearances [she] has everything to make a woman happy.” Soon after reading more of this novel I realized that statement could not be any further from the truth. In fact, I realized that not only is Edna not happy, instead she is truly miserable. She happens to be married to someone who looks at her the same way that he would regard “a valuable piece of personal property.” She is not attracted to him and is stuck at home doing chores because that is what society expected of a woman back then. I could easily sympathize with Edna because surely I would stand up and rebel if I were in her situation as well.
Although I started off the novel with being able to sympathize with her, after reading more of the story I started to see how selfish she really was and that made it harder and harder for me to be able to relate with her. An example of why I think she is selfish would be the way she treats her children. I remember one night when Leonce asked her to check on one of the kids because he thought the poor child might have a fever; instead of getting up and doing so like any good mother would, she simply tells him that the child appeared to be healthy when she last checked on him. Her response definitely takes her husband by surprise, and therefore he criticizes her for her "habitual neglect of the children." I also did not like the way she treated her husband because I found Leonce to be a likeable character. In my opinion, he is attentive and tries to be affectionate with her, and he definitely does not deserve to be neglected and cheated on.
I also am not particularly fond of her character because she chooses to take her life and abandon everyone that needed her. Not for a second did she give a second thought to how her death would affect her family or what would happen to her children. All she could possibly think about was the fact that Robert left her and that she could never be truly free as long as her children are with her. Edna could not deal with the “nothingness” that seemed to be taking over her life and did not want to be defined as ““someone's daughter, someone's wife, someone's mother, [or] someone's mistress.” For these reasons she decided to take her own life and commit suicide instead of living her life and continuing to fight.
In conclusion, Edna’s character can be somewhat viewed as a sympathetic character because she was after all living at a time were women were not regarded as equals to men; however, I think she could have behaved differently. In an attempt to find herself, she ends up cheating on her husband, sending her children away, bringing shame on her family, and even killing herself.

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