Fight for Chopin’s Freedom

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Updated: Jun 29, 2022
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In society’s all around the world, individuals are forced to conform to intricate systems of social rules. These largely unspoken rules dictate many details of a person’s life. For instance, social constraints are taken into account when deciding what to wear, how to express oneself, and even how to behave. Social restrictions tend to prescribe certain behaviors for different social roles, such as men and women. Living in the 19th century in New Orleans, people of the high society were urged to comply with every single social expectation placed upon them.

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If one refused to do so, they would be looked down upon and ostracized by the rest. In Kate Chopin’s, The Awakening, readers are exposed to a society which religiously abides to implicit social rules. These constant boundaries and restrictions force Edna Pontellier to struggle towards freedom and ultimately break the social norms of her time.

A constant theme in this novel is Edna’s urge to step away from the social expectations placed upon her. In the time period that The Awakening was set in, the nineteenth century, men and women were required to uphold the numerous rules and expectations of the time. Being an independent and curious woman, Edna did not accept society’s shackles, and instead, fought for her freedom. Edna expressed thoughts far behind her time that made her question her overall role in life. Consequently, “At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life- that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions”. Edna’s inner questioning of her marriage and societal expectations, incorporated with her outer conformity to society represent the overall tension that move Edna to break away from social norms. Although Edna’s mindset seems to be quite inappropriate for an affluent woman of the time, readers are encouraged to sympathize with Edna’s situation. All her life, Edna has been grown up to become a mother-woman who is forced to serve her children and slave off to her husband without any form of individuality.

Edna does not want this, so she retains parts of herself as a self serving woman in hopes that it will one day overpower her responsibilities as a wife and mother. Throughout the novel, the inner Edna begins to dominate the outer Edna, and the protagonist finally begins to act with the independence that she has always desired. Near the end of the novel, Edna proclaims, “I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose”. By this point, Edna has claimed absolute control over herself and refuses to answer to any of society’s constraints. By rejecting the thought of herself as a possession, Edna displays herself to be a strong and relentless woman. Through this quotation, Edna abandons the societal conventions that place a woman’s ownership in the hands of a man. Edna realizes that being a woman does not make her weaker, and she, in fact, must have equal rights as her male counterparts. By abandoning society’s oppressive constraints, Edna Pontellier proves herself as a worthy woman and forces herself away from the idea that women are inferior to men.

In The Awakening, Kate Chopin revolves her plot around the concept of breaking barriers for women like Edna. All her life, Edna was forced to conform to the idea that she will belong to a man and have a specific role in the hierarchy of life. Edna, as a strong-willed and curious woman, questions these beliefs and acts against them. All throughout the novel, Edna takes steps that lead to her spiritual awakening. By ignoring the conventions of society, Edna relieves herself from the shackles that society forced her in. Instead, she liberates herself and expands on herself as an individual. Overall, Chopin comments on the theme of social norms through Edna Pontellier, who completely abandons them.

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Fight For Chopin's Freedom. (2022, Jun 26). Retrieved from